I dreamed that I was at a church camp with kids of all ages. As I was walking down a tunnel with an gray-haired older lady, she asked me, “Why are you not doing ministry? I thought you were in good standing.” “The message,” I said. “What do you mean?” I said, “The message that is required of ministers today confines to the themes to God’s love, mercy, and grace:–you can’t just preach the New Testament.” She looked baffled by that. I meant to say ministers can’t preach on repentance from sin, Hell, or living a holy life. But I knew she would be offended at that, so I didn’t open up to her.
Then we came to a porch outside a community center. All the kids lined up for the youth pastor and his assistant; I inwardly knew the assistant represented myself–if I had gone the seeker-sensitive ministry route (an alternate future), and had not stubbornly stood my ground for the Gospel, with a recent ministry opportunity in real life that had been opening up for me. I–or, the assistant, was clipping his toenails. Gross.
Then the pastor came out. He was a “cool dude” everyone could relate to. He said, “Hey man,” to the assistant in a cool, suave manner. I could see that they were really trying to form a sense of community, but to what end? The salvation of these precious children from sin and Hell? No…just the temporary benefits of a family-friendly environment; a quasi-communist utopian vision; something totally humanistic. I’m so glad I am a man of another sort.
1. The church camp represents youth ministry.
2. The old lady represents old ladies in American churches; especially curious or spiritually-minded ones; or those influential on church boards. Could be a good woman; could be a Jezebel spirit that controls and manipulates pastors; could represent the softening or feminizing of the modern American understanding of pastoral ministry. Very little of it has that much of a masculine spirit.
3. Plainly, the Holy Spirit was creating this dialogue, uninitiated by myself, in the dream:–to let me know that there is a black-and-white way to view the seeker-sensitive ministry model, which waters-down the Gospel, and preaches only soft things. There really is no middle ground, because the Bible is the Bible; you either preach it or you don’t. “The Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
4. Other than it being just gross, I can’t imagine why I would be clipping my toenails in public. I can tell by examining the attitude of the ministry assistant, that he was careless or reckless. The souls of the children were not being watched, as it says a minister should do (Hebrews 13:17). Thank you God for delivering me from a reckless spirit in ministry. Reckless is defined as “utterly unconcerned about the consequences of some action.”
5. A pastor’s job is defined in 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus. None of that requires him to come off as a “cool dude” everyone can relate to; none of that requires him to form a family-friendly, utopian, communist community where the Scriptures are not preached in their full weight and seriousness, to people of all ages. These people think that because children are present, that somehow, the theology of the Bible should be watered-down, or tailored. No, it should not! Look at how the Puritans catechized their children in Dr. Watts’s Plain and Easy Catechisms for Children. Sin, repentance, and Hell are spoken of without any watering down. And these are for 7-year olds and up. Just because there are “children” in your church, doesn’t mean you have to preach sermons that are childish. PREACH THE BIBLE, PASTOR!
6. “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13). John wrote to believers—”These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God.” It is worthy of note that all the epistles are so written. They are not letters to everybody, they are letters to those who are called to be saints. It ought to strike some of you with awe when you open the Bible and think how large a part of it is not directed at you. You may read it, and God’s Holy Spirit may graciously bless it to you, but it is not directed to you. You are reading another man’s letter: thank God that you are permitted to read it, but long to be numbered with those to whom it is directed. Thank God much more if any part of it should be used of the Holy Ghost for your salvation. The fact that the Holy Spirit speaks to the churches and to believers in Christ should make you bow the knee and cry to God to put you among the children, that this Book may become your Book from beginning to end, that you may read its precious promises as made to you. This solemn thought may not have struck some of you: let it impress you now.
We do not wonder that certain men do not receive the epistles, for they were not written to them. Why should they cavil (object/find fault) at words which are addressed to men of another sort from themselves? Yet we do not marvel, for we knew it would be so. Here is a will, and you begin to read it; but you do not find it interesting: it is full of words and terms which you do not take the trouble to understand, because they have no relation to yourself; but should you, in reading that will, come upon a clause in which an estate is left to you, I warrant you that the nature of the whole document will seem changed to you. You will be anxious now to understand the terms, and to make sure of the clauses, and you will even wish to remember every word of the clause which refers to yourself. O dear friends, may you read the Testament of our Lord Jesus Christ as a testament of love to yourselves, and then you will prize it beyond all the writings of the sages. [Charles Spurgeon, “The Blessing of Full Assurance”]
Gilley, Gary. This Little Church Went to Market. Ch. 6: “A Church Losing Its Message”; Ch. 8: “A Church That Misunderstands Worship: How Shall We Then Preach?”; Ch. 10: “The Gospel According to Warren”; Appendix: “Repentance.”
MacArthur, John. Ashamed of the Gospel.