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Are you not entertained?
H. A. Ironside’s words for churches in the entertainment business.
I’m always intrigued when pastors and theologians from bygone eras offer analysis of the church at large from their own day that sounds like it was ripped off of tomorrow’s blogosphere. It’s a demonstration, perhaps, that even though society and culture changes with the ages, sinners really don’t. Sinners sin, always have. And since the church is made up of sinners, that means broken situations will always occur. What has affected the church in past days still rears its ugly head, from time to time, in the present, with the grace and truth of Christ remaining the most urgent message to which the church could devote itself. Unfortunately, as long as the church has existed, there have been those who’ve looked to use it to their own ends. Whether that be profit or platforming, ecclesiastical self-serving isn’t an invention of modernity but a sour fruit of a sin-riddled heart. Take, for instance, this stinging polemical paragraph from H. A. Ironside:
The Church of God has gone into the entertainment business! People must be amused, and as the Church needs the people’s money, the church must, perforce, supply the demand and meet the craving! How else are godless hypocrites to be held together? How otherwise can the throngs of unconverted youths and maidens be attracted to the “services”? So the picture show and the entertainment, in the form of a musicale (sacred, perhaps!) and minstrel show, take the place of the gospel address in the solemn worship of God. And thus Christless souls are lulled to sleep and made to feel religious while gratifying every carnal desire under the sanction of the sham called the Church! (217)
If the church of the early-to-mid-1900s was thought to be inundated by the “entertainment business,” I shudder to think of what those same theologians would think about the church in 2022. I guess it’s true what Solomon says, that “there is no new thing under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). But, by the same token, just like there’s no new thing under sun and no new scandal that can surprise our Lord Jesus, there’s no new message our world needs other than the one that brings salvations to men’s souls. And that’s the message of Jesus’s death and resurrection. “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). St. Peter declares this, by the way, in the face of multitudinous threats made against him and his brethren for the very message they were determined to speak (Acts 4:1–12).
May we not become enamored by the modern notions of meeting the cravings of our congregants by itching their ears with our preaching (2 Tim. 4:3). Rather, may we be entirely resolved to preach the name of Jesus, come what may.
Grace and peace to you, my friends.
H. A. Ironside, Addresses on the First and Second Epistles of Timothy (New York: Loizeaux Bros., 1951).