26 February 2006

Another word from Spurgeon about seeker-sensitivity

posted by Phil Johnson

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon

The PyroManiacs devote Monday space to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. This week, in celebration of the Olympic closing ceremonies, we bring you your dose of Spurgeon a little early.

The Evils of the Present Time

Spurgeon during his visit to our warehouseOne great evil of the times is the insatiable craving for amusements. That men should have rest from labour, and that they should enjoy such amusements as refresh both body and mind, nobody wishes to deny. Within suitable bounds, recreation is necessary and profitable; but it never was the business of the Christian Church to supply the world with amusements.

Did Christ found His Church that it might offer to the public tableaux vivants, and living waxworks? A Dissenting congregation, to my own knowledge, commenced a series of special services with a social meeting, and the evening was spent in various silly dissipations; and among other things the assembled friends played at "Musical Chairs"! I do not know whether you understand what that childish game means. Think of ministers of the gospel and officers of a church playing at "Musical Chairs"!

There is a bill extant which states that, next week, there is to be a "Punch and Judy" show in the same place of worship (so-called)! This is to go on side by side with the preaching of Thy bleeding sacrifice, O Christ of God!

No, brethren, let me correct myself; the preaching of Christ usually ceases when these frivolities come in. These things are so opposed in spirit, that one or the other will have to be dropped; and we know which it will be.

What is to be next done in our chapels? To what length of tomfoolery will ministers of the gospel yet go? Amusements beneath the contempt of idiots have been tolerated in our schoolrooms. It has not come to that yet with us, personally; but, brethren, we ourselves have to battle hard against it, for the people are all agog for these vanities, and there are so many societies and institutions more or less remotely connected with our churches that it is difficult for us to keep them all from wandering.

Brethren, we are not here to play away our time, but to win souls for Jesus and eternal bliss. By the solemnities of death, and judgment, and eternity, I beseech you, keep yourselves clear of the follies, the inanities of the day. Remark with interest how "the wisdom of this world" and the follies of it seem to be boon companions, and turn from them both with equal loathing.
C. H. Spurgeon


Kay said...

I thought the UK was ahead of the US in time? Do you post the Monday Spurgeon from the Tardis?

Momo said...

Oh man. I'm still reeling. What would Spurgeon think of modern youth ministry?

Talk about a blast from the past. Ouch.

Forgiven Sinner said...


Mike Ratliff said...

Indicting Post!

Dan B. said...

I know that our church is currently going through the process of huge change in our thinking towards youth ministry--Voddie Baucham came and spoke and said that his church doesn't have anything in the way of a modern youth ministries, but family integrated (children and adults attending) Bible studies.

We are doing a gradual move, to encouraging integrated community group studies, and our junior high/high school ministry has integrated the parents into the activities. It's definitely against the grain of today's church, but the extent to which the youth ministry has become entertainment or merely a place to hang out, Spurgeon's words could not be more right on.

Thanks for the great Spurgeon stuff, Phil.

Standing_Firm said...


reglerjoe said...

C. H. Spurgeon nailed it.

James Spurgeon raises a good question: "What would Spurgeon think of modern youth ministry?"

I know of a church, and I'm sure there are others, with an X-Box in the youth building foyer. I love playing X-box with my kids, but in a church foyer?

Many fundamentalist youth conferences advertise all you can eat pizza, ski trips, xtreme sports, etc. to draw a crowd. My question is to when this becomes wrong. Is there a line we should be drawing? Anyone care to make suggestions?

Keith said...

great post.

a church we left several years ago advertised a "milk chugging contest" for a youth event. participants drank milk until they threw up. the senior pastor's daughter was one of the winners. how's that for a bible study "ice-breaker!"

Matthew Carroll said...

Reminds me of an evangelistic project where I once participated on the leadership team. I was given a plastic Ralph's bag with 4 raw fish and was instructed to take my handful of college youth to the beach and stage a "fish fight", with youth paired up on each others' shoulders wacking one another in the face with the fish.

The point was to draw a crowd so we could then make a gospel presentation, but somehow church or no church, I couldn't bring myself to do it. Instead we "lost" the fish in a dumpster, and went out by twos to meet beach-goers and share Christ.

My colleagues who planned the event figured I was a stick in the mud. I probably am.

Udarnik said...

Right on... resist at all costs. Oh, and if you think the youth specialists know what the youth need... We have had great success with our youth group over the past years and I attribute it directly to holding fast to the Word, while resisting the arguments and the techniques of the TeenMania crowd. Our youth pastor? A 55 year old Dentist! What do they do? They have some fun activities at the beginning, but then about 45 minutes of Bible study and about 20-30 minutes of real prayer. We have a small church of about 120, but our youth group aged 14 - 18 consistently numbers 35 - 45 weekly and we tend to "integrate" during the evening, swelling to about 60 people from infants to geezers, like myself. I see it as God's grace... and the empowering of His Spirit to say "no" to the best intentions of many.


PietyHill Press

4given said...

James Spurgeon: "Modern Youth Ministry" ... the youth ministry at my church is quite amazing. They memorize books of the Bible. Right now they are doing Titus... and then they do quizzing. What is really exciting is getting phone calls for my sons from other youth group boys in which they say it to each other on the phone... I see them sitting in the church foyer practicing together. The youth group recently had a dinner for the church in which they recited the first chapter to us and then sang... It was SO MUCH FUN! And my kids LOVE IT!
Definitely not what I would call a modern youth group... but certainly one that is life changing for my children. The younger children are also committed to scripture memory in the form of songs. This was something we did in our home already anyway. It just makes it more exciting to be a part of a church family that does this too... with such a heart of joy.

Kent Brandenburg said...

It doesn't seem someone has to go the Warren/Hybels/Hyles extreme to violate what Spurgeon was saying. He sees it from an exegetical perspective, which if someone just uses the Bible as a criteria, since it is sufficient, this would do away with the crowd-pleasing pop style music that Christians resisted until worn down by Keswicks and Charismatics. Groups fanned out like they are on a variety show, holding microphones like entertainers with their toweled-off hairdos, right before a message on the holiness of God. Does this sound familiar to anyone?

Kids go to college to become a "youth pastor" and major in game playing. Do kids need someone to show them how to play games? I thought church was about following Christ and the world was about playing games.

Gordon said...

The bottom line is, you keep a crowd the same way you get them. If you draw them through entertainment, you will continually have to come up with new ways to thrill them in order to convince them to stay.

Better to develop within them a hunger for the sincere milk of the Word.

Jacob Hantla said...

The crux of the issue:

"No, brethren, let me correct myself; the preaching of Christ usually ceases when these frivolities come in. These things are so opposed in spirit, that one or the other will have to be dropped; and we know which it will be."

The point certainly is not that we shouldn't have fun. But we must be aware that our primary goal in meeting together is not entertainment. Even more to the point, if in our having fun together we find that "the preaching of Christ usually ceases," warning lights should be flashing in our minds warning us that we have gone astray. I want to begin opening the gym at the church campus from which my church is renting space. My smallgroup often meets together on Friday nights for "game nights," a great opportunity to have inexpensive relationship-building fun with believers and nonbelievers.

Are these things wrong? Should I be spending those times preaching? No, but the point is that if at those times the believers among us, if I, lose sight and act in a manner inconsistent with our/my purpose in life - "the preaching of Christ...to win souls for Jesus and eternal bliss" - then there is something wrong going on in those times. Those times of "frivolity" should be subservient to the end preaching Christ and winning souls. Far too often, however, the end of "having fun" rules the day and "the preaching of Christ usually ceases."
-Jacob (from a post at my blog)

Carla Rolfe said...


I know you've got a busy week ahead of you, and suspect that had something to do with posting Monday's Spurgeon early. However, I must say that seeing the Monday Spurgeon on Sunday afternoon is a bit like having someone hand you your birthday present a day early, then opening it for you! I saw the link on bloglines and scrolled right past it. I'm a schedule-snob and prefer my Monday Spurgeon on Monday. ;)

In any event, this was a great selection. This part here especially struck me:

"What is to be next done in our chapels? To what length of tomfoolery will ministers of the gospel yet go? Amusements beneath the contempt of idiots have been tolerated in our schoolrooms."

Partly because I'm one of those weird people that actually still uses the word tomfoolery, but mostly because of his comment about the amusements beneath the contempt of idiots being tolerated.

How very current of him to speak volumes to the state of modern evangelicism. Why pastors allow this nonsense in their churches is beyond me. I've heard the excuses, reasons and explainations, but they're still nonsense.

And the most bizarre twist to this is, many of these pastors have a high regard for Spurgeon and quote him often. Imagine that.


Momo said...

gordan cloud: The bottom line is, you keep a crowd the same way you get them. If you draw them through entertainment, you will continually have to come up with new ways to thrill them in order to convince them to stay.

Better to develop within them a hunger for the sincere milk of the Word.

I just thought someone ought to post that one again.

donsands said...

"..the inanities of the day"

Seems to be a people-focused problem.
Thanks for another great post from the "prince of preachers"

Brad Williams said...

At the risk of having fish and various other things hurled at me, I must disagree a bit with the idea that if people are drawn with entertainment then you will likely have to keep them with such. This is true only if they are not won to the gospel, which is infinitely more stimulating that fish fights or puppet shows.

While entertainment is not the goal of ministry, neither is boredom and stick-in-the-muddery. When I deliver a sermon, I do my best to expound the truth of the text and present it in such a way that I put the least amount of people to sleep that I can.

Last night, after services, we had the "Great Chili Cook-Off" and I enjoyed it immensely. Our goal was to have fun at that event. We didn't just have it to draw new people; we did it as a family affair. (By the way, I won second place thank you very much.)

My point in all of this is that we shouldn't go nuts every time somebody has a good time at a church wide event. There is a time and a place for everything, including Xbox playing. But just so I am not labeled a total hereitc, I would definitely have chunked the fish in the dumpster as well.

FX Turk said...

I think it's funny that we are willing to do things like work out at the gym and diet even though they are hard, but we are afraid to make church "hard" in the sense that it requires commitment and repetition.

Does Gold's Gym have a seeker-friendly program? I wish they did ...

FX Turk said...



...unregengerate atheist camp scifi fan...

4given said...

Sojourner: "won to the gospel" ????
...red flags.

"put the least amount of people to sleep that I can"
If you are preaching truth, just like say, Jonathan Edwards (Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God), who was apparently quite monotone.. who cares about making it a goal to put the least amount of people to sleep... doing this might cause one to ... compromise what really needs to be preached.

I'm not trying to pick on you Sojourner. For I have MUCH to learn and do fear offending God... more so than making it a goal to not put people to sleep.

Ex Animo,

Jeremy Felden said...

The best youth groups I have seen had a very simple model:

1. When they had a Bible study, they studied the Bible.

2. When they had a fun outing, they had fun.

You'd be surprised how well that works. The fruit of the Spirit do not include the ability to pull a good bait-and-switch.

Brad Williams said...


Won to the Gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit through faithful exposition of Scripture. Is that better?

As for Jonathan Edwards being mono-tone and boring, I have heard the rumors but I cannot confirm or deny it. But just because he may have been boring does not mean that I have to be or should be. Edwards did many things that I would never do, and if he was a snoozer, then that is something I am also resolved not to be if I can help it. Boredom and monotony are not virtues.

I am simply stating that fun does not equal blasphemy, manipulation, compromise, seeker-friendly, or any other label folks like to throw in there. If anyone doubts my sincerity in the seriousness of gospel preaching, all my sermons are on the internet for the world to peruse, for ill or for good. You can be the judge of that.

My point is that when we open this 'entertainment' can of worms, we are going to find this a more wiggly and messy thing than many suspect. We could begin by defining 'entertainment', I suppose.

Castusfumus said...

My idea of exciting is speaking TRUTH at the chili cookoffs or wherever I am. Isn't that the point of being in Christian fellowship? One will talk about his favorite subject naturally, the supernatural are interested in the things from above... Ain't it great!

Darel said...

I agree with the post. Get that out of the way.

A few things to notice, one was that Spurgeon put a disclaimer at the top saying that these things have a proper place and time. The other thing, is that that place is not during worship.

After worship yesterday, I had a great time talking to two of my fellow church-goers about the relative merits of different sports cars. We did not use worship time or bible study time to talk about this. It was frivolous and relaxing and was beneficial to furthering our personal relationships. However, it didn't belong in the sermon or as part of worship.

"That's about all I got to day about that"

Gordon said...

Sojourner, I certainly wasn't trying to imply that we shouldn't enjoy ourselves at church. My point was that many churches are more interested in building a crowd than they are in building a church.

Entertainment has its place, but as CenturiOn pointed out, the Christian life is more about work and warfare than it is about fun and games.

Jesus didn't use a dog and pony show. He ministered to the needs of the multitude and He taught His doctrine. (I'll bet though, that had chili been invented back then, He might have fed that to the five thousand.)

Vicki said...

I so enjoy your posts. Keep speaking the truth!

Rick Potter said...

In many of Spurgeon's sermons it seems to me that the "point" he was trying to make about frivolity was of utmost importance. For instance, consider this one:

The Ship on Fire -- A Voice of Warning -- Gen. 19:17,19

How you and I walked for years, and years, and years, upon the brink of the grave, as utterly unconcerned as though we were to live forever; and when sometimes we were a little impressed by the passing bell, or an open grave, or an earnest sermon, how soon we went back again to our old frivolity, and toyed with the flames of hell as though they were fancy's dream. It is not so now. God has awakened us; but we had never been awakened if the voice which awakes the dead had not cried in our ear, "Escape for thy life." Nay, worse, men are not only asleep, but when they do perceive their danger, they love their sins too well to leave them, even though hell stares them in the face. The best of them cry with Solomon's sluggard, "Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep" Prov 6:10; 24:33. Sinner, how hard it is to bring thee to serious consideration of thy ways.


Bob Edwards said...

You know it seems to me that the common man in Jesus's day would have seen His ministry as quite a show. He taught religion in a way that simple people could understand. But on top of that they got to hear him smack down some of the local politicans and nose in the air religous types. Plus, if they showed up at the right time, they could get free food. And, if they could get to talk to the man himself, they could even get free medical care. What a show!

Of course then He had to go and ruin it by bringing up all that take up your cross and follow me stuff. And even worse that eat my flesh and drink my blood stuff. How offensive that would have been to the Jews. Still some came because of the show, heard, and believed. The rest left shaking their heads.

Point being, it is not doing things that will draw a crowd that is the problem. As long as you give them the truth, including those offensive parts that may cause them to never come back.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hey Centurion, you should try the "think system" that Professor Harold Hill developed to play musical instruments in the Music Man. You don't have to practice to get better, just think the correct notes. You could perfect the think work-out. Or you could just attend the gym in spirit like some people do church.

Kim said...

I'm not a big fan of most youth ministries, although I work with one. I think Spurgeon would probably think there is too much frivolity. But you know what? It isn't just the teenagers who want the frivolity. They have a habit of copying the adults around them.

Matt Gumm said...

Anyone watching this 1897 Met Tab offering?

Momo said...

Hey fatherofeleven, you might take a second look at the gospel accounts. I think you will fin that Jesus never did a miracle to build a crowd. Never. In fact, he hesitated to them at times for fear of bringing a crowd. When he fed the five thousand he chastised the crowd for following merely to be fed. Every single time Jesus had a great crowd he preached a hard message and ran them off. When pressed for miracles for entertainment's sake by herod he quietly and simply refused. Jesus was not a follower of Elmer Towns' church-building philosophies.

IB Dubbya said...

'...it is not doing things that will draw a crowd that is the problem. As long as you give them the truth...'

Father of Eleven: I recommend you check out OldTruth.com.


Rick Potter said...

James Spurgeon wrote in a recent post about the important of preservation/perseverance. Christ has truly awakened some from the dead and called them to a life of stewardship and ministry. Those whom he has awakened, he will preserve and cause to persevere. In our hands He has laid the ministry of reconciliation. We cry out “Be reconciled to God” to all. Just as Jesus once called Lazarus from his tomb, we too are to be calling many from their tombs. Will he not hear our cries for help as we are “faithful” to the Gospel? To be sure, there are mountains of error, idolatry, superstitions and oppression standing in the way of his kingdom (paraphrasing Spurgeon). But our Lord and Savior is sure footed. Every true believer should supplicate the Father to send His saving grace. As Spurgeon has rightly commented “Turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of division.” He has leapt boundaries that are impassable to us:

HCSB Isaiah 64:1,2
1 If only You would tear the heavens open ⌊and⌋ come down, so that mountains would quake at Your presence—2 as fire kindles the brushwood, and fire causes water to boil— to make Your name known to Your enemies, so that nations will tremble at Your presence!
Yes, there are new boundaries that are being erected everyday. May we, as true Pyromaniacs, be found faithful is helping to set the fires which consume the brushwood and boil away all the waters of deceit.


Kay said...


I'm English. You don't need to be a fangirl to know what a Tardis is. You do have to be a fangirl to know what K-9 is, though...

Regarding the post - I read the point as being that the church's business is the gospel, not entertainment.
Focus, it's all about focus.

Having a fellowship dinner and inviting people along to hear a preacher is one thing. Cancelling church and showing a World Cup football(soccer) match and kind of thinking that because it's church, and it's a Sunday, people might 'catch' conversion, is quite another. I was there. It didn't happen.