"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ."
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
I will never forget the morning that I received wonderful, scriptural advice from an older pastor and dear friend. It was not only good advice, but a loving rebuke as well, one that I desperately needed. For some reason, he and I were the only ones in our carpool on that Tuesday morning headed to the Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary campus in Memphis, Tenn. As I was unusually quiet, Bro. Mike asked me if I was feeling alright. When I assured him that I was fine, he asked about my family, and I told him that everyone was feeling well.
"Bro. Charles," he said, "if you and your family are all doing good, how about the church? I can tell that something is bothering you. Is everything okay at the church?"
"Well, to be totally honest, I'm very disappointed in what happened at the church. I had challenged our church to break a numerical goal of having 100 in Sunday School for three consecutive Sundays, and I would preach the morning sermon off of the roof. We had over 100 in the previous two Sundays, but this past Sunday, we fell just short." (Just to give some context, when I first arrived at this church, we ran around twenty in Sunday School. Within eighteen months, we were averaging 80-85, but had seemed to hit an invisible ceiling that I desperately wanted to break through. I had seen a pastor's photo preaching from the roof of his church when his congregation succeeded in hitting a numerical goal in our state paper several weeks before, and I thought that would be good challenge with an unforgettable result. Not only could I get my photo in the Mississippi Baptist Record, but I could also submit it to the New Albany Gazette as well. Then everyone would know that New Oak Grove Baptist Church in Union County, Mississippi was led by a real man of God! LOL)
After a few moments of thoughtful silence, my friend replied, "Bro. Charles, quit pouting about not preaching from the roof, and get in God's pulpit and preach the truth." As I heard these words, I began to feel my face flush with anger. In my mind I thought, "You say one more word to me, Mike Sledge, and I'll grab your steering wheel, jerk this car over to the shoulder of the road, and whip your butt in this highway ditch!" That's what I thought, I'm very ashamed to admit, but the words never came out of my mouth. We were both silent for the rest of the commute.
Arriving on campus, I was so frustrated that I skipped my eight o'clock class and went to the prayer chapel. It was in this little room that God broke my heart. He broke my heart over my inner response of intense anger at my friend, and He broke my heart over the ridiculous challenge that I proposed to my people, as it was nothing more than a vain attempt to have a spotlight shining on me because our church accomplished some numerical goal.
Since this idea didn't originate with me, I'm sure that many others have performed similar, stupid stunts. Let's gather a big crowd, or collect a big offering, and I'll preach from the roof; or I'll swallow live goldfish; or I'll eat a habanero pepper; or I'll let the children throw pies in my face; or we'll rent a dunking tank and the deacons, the staff, and I will take turns being dunked in water. Hallelujah - God most certainly will be impressed with us! Don't you think so?
Now let's be honest, too many times we focus upon the trivial and foolish when we vainly attempt to perform the assignments that God has given us. As He has placed upon my heart a renewed vision of countless souls around the world, across our nation, and in our communities hurting, suffering, and dying, He has also renewed my burden over the reality of so many of our churches playing stupid games. I recently posted via social media about one of our larger churches in America beginning their worship service with their husband-and-wife pastoral team coming out on the platform dressed as Woody the Sheriff and Bo-Peep from the Toy Story movies. She tried to sound as if she had a southern accent. It was hellish. As I attempted to continue to watch it, my heart seethed. Why the shenanigans? Why the foolishness? Why display such childish stupidity in the name of Jesus? WHAT'S WRONG WITH US? People are going to HELL, people, wake up already and let's be THE CHURCH!! The Bible says that we "are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light, who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation." (1 Peter 2:9-12)
I've had enough of the pie throwing, roof preaching, goldfish swallowing, pepper eating, water dunking, and prancing around on stage like cartoon characters church services. Where are the displays of personal and corporate HUMILITY, BROKENESS, REPENTANCE, and CRYING OUT in utter desperation unto the Lord for REVIVAL and AWAKENING? Where is the true man of God who will "Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins"? (Isaiah 58:1) Oh how we need MEN of God to lead the CHURCH of God to walk the HOLY PATHWAYS of God in order to experience the FULLNESS of God! A-MEN!!
In closing, allow me to return to my seminary days for a moment. A cassette tape was being passed around of a message that the late evangelist/revivalist Vance Havner had preached in a chapel service at a Bible college in Kentucky. I was blessed to listen to the message several times before giving it to a fellow student. I certainly wish I would have thought about making a copy for myself, but I didn't do it. Bro. Havner was preaching on accomplishing God's ministry through the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit. He ended his message with this personal testimony: "I was recently at a church and with a pastor that I had never met before. It was a large imposing edifice that was abuzz with excitement for our opening service of a revival campaign. The pastor escorted me to a chair on the platform and whispered in my ear that he had to exit for a moment in order to fulfill a promise to his people. As everyone was finding a seat, one of the staff members finally approached the pulpit, welcomed everyone in attendance, then happily announced that a numerical goal had been met that morning. And as promised, the pastor and deacons were prepared to celebrate in a way that few would ever forget. As he said those words, the doors opened up in the rear of that large auditorium and the deacons began coming down the aisles throwing confetti into the excited crowd. As they made their way toward the front, another deacon stepped out of the middle doors with a rope, leading a donkey into the building with a clown upon it's back. The clown had a candy bag with him in order to throw sweet treats to the standing and cheering worshippers. As they got closer to me, I was finally able to recognize the face of the pastor. But being of such advanced age and dim of eyesight, I had trouble determining if the pastor was the clown, or the jackass."