I have been blogging a discernment series on what was taught at the Passion 2013 conference held in Atlanta this January. There was a star studded Christian lineup of speakers and singers at the conference. Unfortunately, that did not guarantee that the Word was handled correctly. Much was taught that was heretical. What was not overtly heretical was implicitly denigrating of preaching, the bible, and church as an organization. I had done an examination of the lead singer for Jesus Culture in part 1, and looked at what Louie Giglio said in part 2. Those links are below. All was balanced against what the bible says.
In this part I’ll present a bare bones synopsis of what Judah Smith said, and then conclude lower down.
Judah Smith talked with the kids at Passion 2013. It is all the rage these days to pooh-pooh doctrine. To mock religion. William Young did it in The Shack, writing,
–the dusty old King James Bible
–church attendance is “religious conditioning”
–“Images of family devotions from his childhood came spilling into his mind, not exactly good memories
–“God’s voice had been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellect”
The cumulative effect of these subtle denigrations of what Jesus holds dear have an effect. In this piece, Smith is talking about Genesis 1, “Let us make man in our image.” He denigrated traditional Christianity, too. He said–
“For those of you who are not scholars, you are wondering who’s “Us” and who’s “Our”? God, I know this is awkward, but who are you talking to? I suppose you could create an alter-ego, but really, who are you talking to, God? … For those of you who are so scholarly and have been around church forever, you say, [he makes his voice a sing-song nasal so the mocking quality would become evident] “Clearly that is a a reference to the triune Godhead.” For the rest of us that watch NFL games and have a real life, it’s a bit [garbled].”
There are several messages here just in this short snippet, and none have anything to do with proper biblical understanding or preaching. Smith taught 60,000 kids that–
–If you’ve ‘been around church forever’ you’re not a respected elder. You’re outdated deadwood.
–Proper study is not to be desired or you risk being branded a “scholar”. In my day they were called disciples.
–Studying the bible and going to church means you don’t have a ‘real life’.
–It is cool to mock the brethren
He also said,
–Without community our world will not see God
–Trusting leadership is not easy (reminds me of the secular revolutionary mantra from hippie 1960s ‘don’t trust anyone over 30’)
–Going to a local place where people know you is not easy (he rarely says “church”)
–Jesus is building something. He is not just here just to individually save people.
Parents, is that what you want your child learning? That leaders are hard to trust and church isn’t real life? That is what these people are teaching. Before sending your child off to a conference that calls itself Christian, look into the people who are going to be filling your child’s mind. Those who claim Jesus may not be all that sterling of a role model as you would want.
Overall, I took away that what was taught to the young adults at Passion 2013 was that visions are normal and to be expected. If you’re not having visions and hearing God’s voice speaking to you personally, something is wrong with you. Topically addressing the scripture in a skeleton context while filling the rest of the time with personal anecdotes and description of ecstatic experience is a sermon. What we experience in ecstatic mode is to be preferred to diligent study of the word. In other words, the bible is OK, but visions are better. The world’s social ills can be fixed with zeal and money. Plus, fixing the world’s social ills with zeal and money should be the purpose of my life. A real faith includes volume, excitement, drama, and surfing from one high encounter with God to the next.
You might remember I talked about the time when David Platt’s book Radical came out. Christians all over the place got on the bandwagon and decided that their plain-jane faith was unremarkable and they needed an adrenaline shot of daring and a radical change to prove to God that they’re really a Christian who means it. Let’s contrast the fancy lights and high volume indoctrinaton of charismatic faith preached at Passion 2013 with this-
An Unremarkable Faith
By Tommy Clayton, Tuesday, January 04, 2011
Meet Larry, a thirty-six year old Science teacher. Larry married Cathy 12 years ago. They love each other and enjoy raising their two sons. Larry’s life wouldn’t hold out much interest to the average citizen. His Facebook account doesn’t draw many friends and nobody ever leaves a comment on his blog. In fact, most people would summarize Larry’s life with one word—boring. But not Larry. Teaching osmosis to junior high students, playing Uno with his kids, and working in the yard with Cathy is paradise to him. But the real love of his life is Jesus. Larry’s a Christian. He’s been walking with the Lord for more than 20 years.
Larry’s Christian friends all employ the same word to describe their companion—faithful. He’s faithful to his local church where he’s been teaching Sunday School for nearly a decade. He’s never ignored a legitimate financial need within the body of Christ. He gives sacrificially, but secretly. Larry devotes himself to his wife and family, lovingly shepherding them through every season of life with the Scriptures. He’s faithful to his job and fellow colleagues. He’s managed to share Christ with nearly every junior-high teacher at Oakwood Academy. And although they mock Larry behind his back, all the teachers respect him. It won’t shock you to know Larry pays his taxes and never misses an opportunity to serve his community. Larry’s life commends the gospel. He’s faithful, but he’s unremarkable. Or, is he?
If you’re bored with Larry’s Christianity, it’s probably because you’ve been influenced by a very different idea of the Christian life. Larry’s not radical, or wild at heart—not in the sense of taking careless risks, jeopardizing the stability of his family, or pursuing a life of adventure. You could say Larry is quite content with his station in life, a station given him by God. He aspires to live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. Sound familiar?
There’s a stubborn and influential voice within evangelicalism that seems to despise simple yet unremarkable faithfulness. Pastor Tom Lyon acknowledges that when he writes, “The value of a humble and unassuming life seems to have been eclipsed by this upwardly mobile ‘dare to be a Daniel’ brand of Christianity which elevates ambition above maturity and has seated the stable but unremarkable believer in coach class. Something is wrong here.”
Lyon went on to describe what he called the unremarkable Christian: “His aspirations, his thirst for notoriety, his estimate of greatness have all been changed. His horizon has come closer to home. He finds in the Bible no call to be outstanding. He is not without ambition, but his dreams have nothing to do with rising above his fellows. Unless pressed, he prefers anonymity to attention. He is steady. Steadied by grace. And one of the most amazing things about grace is how it works this even disposition.”
That’s not an endorsement for ministerial mediocrity or a call to settle for small, lifeless pursuits. On the contrary, it’s is a plea for excellence—but excellence according to Scripture. A humble, Spirit-filled pursuit of greatness should characterize every Christian’s efforts in ministry, but remember that greatness in God’s kingdom is unappealing to the world, unremarkable. How does the world view your life? John MacArthur writes:
“Christians are to be known for their quiet demeanor, not for making disturbances. Unbelievers should see us as quiet, loyal, diligent, virtuous people…To promote a tranquil and quiet life, believers must pursue godliness and dignity…Godliness can refer to a proper attitude; dignity to proper behavior. Thus believers are to be marked by a commitment to morality; holy motives must result in holy behavior. Both contribute to the tranquility and quietness of our lives.”
Here’s a thought to ponder as you go your way. Had you befriended Larry, how might you react to his faithful, yet unremarkable life? Would you advise him to venture out further, take a radical risk for the kingdom and leave behind the quiet, mundane confinements of his Norman Rockwell life? Or would you commend Larry for how he’s living, giving God glory for such a faithful yet unremarkable Christian? Remember, the handful of so-called radical, risk-taking Christians stand on the backs of men like Larry. They are only able to take their risks because the Larry’s of this world won’t, and Larry wouldn’t have it any other way.
Who wants a boring faith like that when you can have a vision and tell it to adoring crowds and dance in the footlights? Who wants to study the word, attend church, and serve when you can stamp out sex trafficking in your lifetime or reach an entire generation to bring fame to Jesus? Which brand of Christianity do you want your child to embrace? The vision casting kundalini-dancing, tromping the world kind of faith that eschews doctrine as dry and church as old hat? Or the faithful, dignified, pure, quiet kind of faith that Jesus brought us- and died for?
Don’t hesitate in your answer, because just as the debt clock swings inexorably upward every second, so does the count of another youth lost to satan. Every second that goes by where that good kind of faith is not taught- or corrected- is a second where the tentacles of hyper-Charismatic ecstasy and cultural ambition will remain in your child like a poison. And just like the kids in secular world were taught in 1960- don’t trust anyone over 30, the Christian youth of today are being taught, don’t trust any pastor over 30. These youth of today will be the pastors of tomorrow. Uncorrected, this trend will doom our faith to a dwindled few, unless we pray battle prayer, and contend for these kids, bringing them back to a knowledge of what TRUE passion for Christ really is.