06 January 2010

Peanut-butter Passion

by Phil Johnson

'm a passionate person. People who know me will affirm that. I think Christians ought to be passionate about truth, passionate in our love for God and for one another, and (above all) passionate about the glory of God.

But raw passion is not the point. Passion is valid and edifies only when it's the right kind of passion, based on legitimate affections for the right things. I'm concerned about the unbridled passions frequently turned loose by people whose only religious affections were cultivated in evangelical youth groups. (And if I can speak freely: that includes a lot of of our so-called young, restless, and Reformed frends.) Everything seems to unleash stadium-style passions. I've even seen people scream, whistle, stomp, and cheer at baptisms, as if they were celebrating a touchdown. Many Christians glorify passion for passion's sake—as if raw passion per se were something praiseworthy and deeply spiritual. It's not. And this has become a serious problem in today's post-pentecostal, post-evangelical, anything-goes era.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that so many Christians imitate all the world's passions. Christian leaders invent gimmicks to try to win worldly people by appealing to their worldly passions. All of us devote energy and emotion to things that are not even worthy of our attention. And then we bring our addiction to raw passion into our corporate gatherings. We do things to stir artificial passions—which is a form of false worship, no better than idolatry, really.

Our passions should not need to be artificially stirred up by spiritual cheerleaders and team chants. We shouldn't have to be worked into an emotional state by melodrama and musical manipulation. If we can get pumped to a fever pitch by some preacher's antics rather than by the truth of the biblical message, then whatever we are feeling isn't even a legitimate passion in the first place.

And sometimes it gets even worse than that.

Someone a few months ago sent me this article about a youth leader who likes to provoke his students to a state of screaming enthusiasm with gross-out games. (Warning: the article itself and the other links in the following paragraph are extremely gross. Home-school moms might want to look away.) The article describes how this youth leader had a teenager with hairy armpits smear gobs of peanut butter on his underarms; then the youth pastor asked for volunteers to lick it clean and swallow the peanut butter. The youth leader uses skits like that to "shock and astound." (Those are his exact words.) He told that secular reporter that he does things like that all the time to get the students excited, so that they will talk about the church. He says he wants to start "a buzz that [will] go viral, [so] that teens [will] text and Twitter about [it]." And notice what the youth leader said about his strategy: "The idea is to get students here to meet our Savior. They are getting all this crazy stuff out there in the world all the time. We are trying to show them that God is cooler."

You may think that's an extreme, one-of-a-kind example, but that type of thing is far more common than you think. It illustrates rather vividly the foolishness of trying to stir artificial passions by making God seem "cool" rather than simply uplifting His glory and letting the grandeur and majesty of our God move people's hearts to more legitimate expressions of deep passion.

That sort of artificial enthusiasm actually hinders (and in some cases totally nullifies) the message we're supposed to be proclaiming. With so many churches merely trying to entertain people, or lull them into a state of self-satisfaction, or simply gross them out, it's no wonder the world is not being won to Christ but actually becoming steadily more hostile to Christianity.

Phil's signature


DJP said...

First! Yayyyyyyyyyyyyyy!

oh... was that inappropriate?

Caleb Kolstad said...

Amen #2

Aaron said...

Artifical passion is also fleeting. Eventually, the drummed up passion will fade. Instead of having a passion stirred constantly by the Holy Spirit, the participant will have a feeling of emptiness which will motivate him or her to seek a new high somewhere else.

Jugulum said...

"The idea is to get students here to meet our Savior. They are getting all this crazy stuff out there in the world all the time. We are trying to show them that God is cooler."

I believe the first sentence. The last one probably isn't what he meant to say, but it points to the problem with his method.

So, what... They're trying to teach kids that God is "cool" like gross/shocking things are "cool"? They're trying to say that God is attractive because God has the same traits that make things popular in pop-culture?

His first sentence got it right--he's using anything & everything to get kids in the door, so that he can go on & teach them about God. But he inadvertently pointed to the problem with his method. His method itself teaches kids something about God--the wrong thing. Namely, that the reason to be passionate for Him is that God is just like the latest gross/funny/shocking youtube video.

Jason and Jodee said...

A very wise professor of mine once said of youth ministry, "Whatever you do to get them in the door is what you're going to have to do to keep them in the door." Kids are smart. Bait-and-switch ministry is a sham and my old "on fire for Christ" high school youth group is a vivid testimony to that as most of them have turned to the world. So much for "silly games for Jesus."

Larry Geiger said...

I'm certainly not going to that site to see what those folks are doing. I'm a little sad that you even described the armpit thing. Yuck.

terriergal said...

Larry - there was another video spoken of where they melted chocolate in (clean) baby diapers and tied the kids' hands behind their back and made them eat the chocolate. Just so you know.

But of course, those who would point out the nasty things people are doing in the name of Christ are accused of capitalizing on shock value or something like that. Curiouser and curiouser...

Phil Johnson said...

Larry Geiger: "I'm a little sad that you even described the armpit thing."

Yeah, I don't like it much either, but what really irritates me is that until a secular newspaper in Jacksonville wrote about it, it wasn't already a scandal among believers who were fully aware of what was going on.

And as the links show, this is a widespread and systemic problem, actively promoted by publishers and "experts" who write material for evangelical youth groups.

It's about time serious-minded evangelicals (if the species isn't totally extinct) got worked up about how carnal and idiotic the evangelical movement has become. That's not going to happen if we make a pact not even to mention that such things are happening.

olan strickland said...

Viral indeed! Worse than H1N1! I'd rather have H1N1!

Mark B. Hanson said...

I'll put this one in my "Stupid Christian Tricks" file, just like the "gargle and spit" act from a decade or so ago.

Rileysowner said...

Good post. That article is wrong in so many ways. That approach does nothing productive. Even the claim near the end, "Pastor Wyatt doesn’t agree. “Whatever we’re doing, it’s working. We saved 35 young people that night. That’s 35 teenagers saved from drugs, saved from abortion, saved from premarital sex. There are life transformations happening here, and it’s incredible." make me wonder how they think this leads to salvation, not to mention, their view that "we saved" these teens.

donsands said...

It boils down to theology dosen't it.

At the very end of the article the Pastor Wyatt says that 35 souls were saved from heel. He said, "We saved 35 young people from drugs abortion etc., and that they are changed forever." [Paraphrased]

God will do anything to have people accept him.

Excellent post about passion.

I have a passion for the Baltimore Ravens. It's just there.
I also have a passion for the truth, because the Lord has changed my heart, and opened my eyes to the Holy Scriptres, and to the true God, and the true Jesus Christ, not the god the world makes up, or even most of the Churches make up.

If something like this peanut butter thing can be okay, then all other milder things the church youth does will seem godly.

"(And if I can speak freely: that includes a lot of of our so-called young, restless, and Reformed frends.)" -Phil
That's very sad indeed, but probably true.

It's a shame the Church has been so dumbed down from the Scriptures.

Becky Schell said...

Larry, if he hadn't described it, you wouldn't have had a clue what he was talking about. I went to the video for about three seconds, which was enough time to get the idea...and an upset stomach (must be the former homeschool-mom residuals).

Amen from me as well, Phil. That is the passion of the world, not the depth of passion that comes from God's living Word.

The Blainemonster said...

So many times I've sat in services - youth, adult, otherwise - and was just slackjawed at the unabashed cheerleading going on from the pulpit. As if enthusiasm was the point. I've seen preachers and people categorize a lousy sermon as "great" or "wonderful" because the preaching was exciting. When did a state of excitement and loud spitting preaching become the standard for a "great service?"

People "amen" sermons simply because the preacher has reached some crescendo in his speaking tone, not because he's said ANYTHING worthwhile. It's sad. And-and-DOH!-I can't think of a superlative form of "frustrating" that fits right now!

PS - I have no doubt you've all seen this before: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLGLBVSpBzY

Aaron said...

When did a state of excitement and loud spitting preaching become the standard for a "great service?"

I thought that was the entire point of being a pentacostal....

Tom said...

"Can I get an AMEN?!?!?"

I love it when preachers pander to the congregation and when the congregation doesn't respond, they stop their sermon until the decibel level of the amen is loud enough to meet their approval.

Adam Pohlman said...

Instead of preaching the simple Gospel so God can change their hearts (thereby changing their understanding of what is "cool" or "fun" or "exciting") we so often in our evangelism efforts try to simply refocus someone's idolatrous search for "cool" in God's direction.

What is "cooler" than a wicked, God-hater like me, being transformed into an heir to the kingdom of God?

Unknown said...

I love the GUTS tag...if indeed you are referencing the Nickelodeon show that I am getting all nostalgic about as I type.

Wow! Thanks for putting your finger on the phrase I was looking for amidst all the "pumping up the crowd" I have seen in various youth group/young congregations/Campus Crusade meetings I have been a part of throughout my young Christian life. artificial passion seems to hit the nail on the head IMO.

Thankfully the closest thing I experienced to a peanut-butter episode was a high school pretending as if he were writhing in Hell, running throughout the youth group room screaming...point being, all these stunts are reflections of the poor root theologies of evangelism and obedience to the great commission when it comes down to it...at the best. At the worst...well I don't know what that may be...

Great post once again Phil. This short reflection deserves space in whatever popular Christian medium is in the hands of the youth (myself included at 21 yrs.) today.

Guess I gotta get them young whippersnappers readin the Pyromaniacs blog!

Kim said...

About five years ago, our church allowed a summer intern to organize a "Fear Factor" element for one of the events during the week long day camp for teens. The game involved touching animal organs and eating various disgusting concoctions, one of which involved shellfish.

We were furious and we complained. There were only two sets of parents (one of them being us) who even raised an objection. Nothing like that has happened since, but not once was it ever admitted that perhaps the whole exercise was a little ridiculous. Parents of teens everywhere buy into the notion that this is the kind of activity that is needed to address kids "where they are." I have a daughter who is now 20 years old who has said to me now, in hindsight, those things were a waste of time.

J♥Yce Burrows said...

Flashing back to Spurgeon's Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats and fuddy-duddy sticking it out with H.B. Reese concerning peanut butter and chocolate. Not too long ago I was a problem parent for finding Komodo dragon kissing, jello dunking, kiddo with python portraits, etc. + Jesus corrupt.

Thanks for good way standing and engaging.

SandMan said...


I work alongside our youth pastor at my church. I agree with your premise whole-heartedly. "Pumping up the crowd" and the like are disdainful. I would even go a step farther and say that I get uncomfortable when it seems that the youth are coming for the rock band music. Our music is truly worshipful, and I am not trying to open a discussion about music styles here. I just think that using things, even good things, as a draw for youth to come is suspicious, at best.

Now, having said all of that, we do play some games... not nearly as crude or disgusting as what you describe... but stuff that teens think is fun. One thing I am thinking about is shots of hot sauce until the last person remains. I would never suggest doing this in another Sunday School class (our 30 somethings married w/ kids class, for example).

I think there is space for age appropriate activities that are fun, and may seem frivilous to me when I am with my peers. Do we do it to "draw" kids in? No. Does it draw them? Maybe. And, we are not trying save them from social problems with a social gospel. We just spent 4 years expositorially teaching through Romans, and now we are moving through James.

Again, I am not trying to negate your premise... I just could not help but think that some of the folks who believe we should just "line 'em up and preach at 'em" (to paraphrase)have never actually worked with youth. You have to get a little dirty (figuratively and literally) sometimes.

Halcyon said...


Pastor Josh Turner's plan: "...to get students talking about Celebration
Church and about the Wednesday night service."

What exactly did they "talk" about in the end? Check it:
"Pastor Josh Turner didn’t recall the peanut butter stunt when asked, but it was the first thing several teenagers remembered when asked about that night."


TEEN A: "That church? I think they're known for peanut butter."
TEEN B: "Don't you mean the gospel?"
TEEN A: "No, I'm pretty sure it was peanut butter."

John said...

It doesn't take this kind of gimmik to stir false passions. I am *aware* of a fundamentalist youth group that stirred artificial passion for "the ministry". Every single one of the youth felt "God's call" to "go to the [mission] field." Not only did none go, but the majority are in jail and/or addicts. But they sure filled out a lot of decision cards.

NoLongerBlind said...

One question:

Chunky or creamy?

(word verif. squmsad)

DJP said...

Oh my gosh, for some reason NLB's question has nauseated me like the original post didn't. Ohh... guckblah!

Bobby Grow said...

My seminary prof used to yell and use four letters and throw a white-board eraser at the wall. Does that count as "peanut-butter passion?"

I think the Evangelical Church is out of control, and that many youth pastors have been misguided into thinking they are "social directors," instead of youth PASTORS. The scary thing, is that they will still be held to a stricter judgement (as will those who shaped them).

Phil Johnson said...


Yup. The Jack-Hyles-style fundies are some of the very worst at this sort of thing. The bus contests of the 1960s were the vanguard of the whole mess.

Jim Pemberton said...

It's amazing to me how many church programs trying to be "relevant" do some of the most irrelevant things. All things must be properly contextualized:

I wouldn't say that licking peanut butter out of someone's armpit is particularly appropriate in most circumstances. However, it's amoral in and of itself.

Something that our youth like to do at camp as a matter of fellowship together, not for any spiritual lesson, is to have a cricket-spitting contest to see who can spit a cricket the farthest. They recently introduced this game to the adults at large at a recent church-wide campout. The "gross factor" is certainly a key element of the competition as well as part of the fun.

But we don't use it to introduce teaching of any sort. If anyone of us learns anything, it's that when we find ourselves on mission in a remote part of the world, it's possible to say, "well, if I can spit a cricket maybe I can eat this grub, these mealworms, or some other questionable cuisine. As much as we are involved with missions, this is a scenario more likely than not to play out.

Anonymous said...


Excellent post (though I don't have a problem with a little hooting and hollering at a baptism, its a joyous event). Its interesting to see and read about what people will do to try and get attendance up. Who sits around and says to themselves..."hmm, we need to get kids to be excited about these meetings, what can we do?...I know we have somebody put peanut butter on their armpits and have other people lick it off!!! Thats a great idea!!!"

That rates a 11 out of 10 on my weird o meter.

Wendy said...

Well, that was revolting. But peanut butter churches or not, what caught my eye even more was that only one parent (I think?...maybe 1 in each article) was offended. How sad! Have those parents relegated church to babysitters - even for teenagers?? Did they even pause for a minute when the answer to "How was your service?" was Peanut Butter!...or did they even ask in the first place??
What would happen if those parents demanded the "excitement" that comes from the privilege of hearing the Truth from teachers whose only motive is to glorify God...which would support what they were teaching in their homes??

I'm sorry, I suppose that was a tangent; feel free to delete.

Kay said...

A youth pastor at our old church was best known for his toilet humour while preaching. This very fact should have set alarm bells ringing for him, but he just thought it was hilarious. Truly a sad state of affairs.

mike said...

he said:
"The idea is to get students here to meet our Savior. They are getting all this crazy stuff out there in the world all the time. We are trying to show them that God is cooler."

the thing is, I almost question if the man who claims to be guiding others isn't lost himself.
I often wonder after seeing this stuff and hearing about churches playing "highway to Hell" on Easter Sunday then telling people to "come on down and meet Jesus", really know Him.
often the gospel isn't preached because it isn't trusted, like the "blind guides" of Matthew 23.

To be reborn, we must first die. Short cuts are so common, that many of the teachers do not truly seem to know or trust Savior.

I am of course speaking generally, and not attempting to judge the hearts of individuals.

However, the fruit on many of those vines is a bit putrid.

Phil said...

I don't think it goes far enough, I mean if we are trying to regenerate people through worldly methods why aren't we using more pornography?
I'm sure it will work much better than this half baked gross games idea to get eyes glued in.
Lots of passion being untapped there.
It would solve the problem of churches being predominately filled with women too!

mike said...

thankfully i was followed by a voice that made me sound loving and measured and full of grace,

thanks Phil

verif word "splaute"
sound effect from lead in graphic

Rachael Starke said...

Wow. So glad I waited to read this until after lunch. :)

I loathe the gross-out approach to youth ministry and pastors being bouncy cheerleaders for God as much as the next person. When the content of your ministry is lacking, it makes sense that your going to need lots of artifical pumping up for people to be glad they're there.

But, at the same time, I wonder if we in the Reformed camp (not the tattooed, headbanging Reformed camp, mind you :) ) take things a little too far the other way. When our hymns and spiritual songs are full of the gospel, and the preaching has declared both the law and the gospel and lifted up Christ, and our faces, voices and postures register very little, that says much to a watching world too. I think we'd be moving in the right direction if we shed fewer tears and applauded less at the end of a closely fought football game, where we're celebrating a bunch of guys in tight pants getting a ball over a linemore times than another bunch of guys in tight pants,

and shed more tears, and beamed big smiles, sang really loudly, and even applauded now and then, in response to a reminder that God Himself has defeated sin and death and Hell and won our eternal salvation for us.

There's too much exuberant language in the Bible whenever it describes the nature of our praise to make me think Heaven is going to be a quiet, serious place. Perfectly ordered? Yes. All hearts and attitudes purified of sinful selfward thoughts and judgement of others? Yes, praise God. But I don't think it's going to be quiet or solemn,

or involve condiments where condiments should never, ever be!!

Anonymous said...

Even adults do this to some degree. There is resistence even in our adult study groups to get into the meat of the word. They would rather offer financial advice and "mens fraternity" classes then dig into the deep treasures of the word.

Trying to change some of that, well see what happens.

Its the same root problem though, focus and priority, especially at a worship service.

Craig and Heather said...

Love the rotten fruit :P

I just noticed you and Dan had equal number of comments so thought I'd break the tie.

Actually, I do think it's pretty appalling that so many youth oriented church groups seem to be trying to reel in kids by primarily feeding the desire to stroke the desires of our flesh.

That kind of seems counterproductive, maybe, sort of...but that's just my opinion, of course.


olan strickland said...

NoLongerBlind: One question:

Chunky or creamy?

LOL! Chunky of course. No youth pastor in his right mind would smooth down the peanut-butter too much. That would violate the verse that talks about walking in craftiness and smoothing down the peanut-butter.

Beyond Zaphon said...

John Owen stated something like "Pour out your emotions and passion into the mold of sound doctrine."
No doubt Owen would agree that sound doctrine is what is lacking in much of the American Church today.
Beware of church people wildly emoting when you discern they have a dearth of good teaching.

Suzanne said...

Isn't there a whole genre of contemporary Christian worship music called Passion Music? What IS that?

mike said...

Maybe the reason we can’t figure out how to present our good news, (or good advice, practical tips, tomfoolery, skullduggery, or personal antidotes) is that we can’t really figure out what it is ourselves. My co-worker just told me a heartwarming story of how her son agreed that since God has provided them a home and sustenance, He is worthy to be praised. (But what if He had not?)
Our personal theologies, unending love of our sins, and fierce independence, mixed with good old American success motivation, have produced a mess that even its own mother may not love.
What even is our goal, what is the end game?
Hell avoidance? Prosperity (by any definition)? Personal bodyguard? Changed lives? Guilt dismissal? Rescuing the earth and cosmos from itself? Right standing before a Holy God? Transformed communities? Standing against social decay?
Each product on the market today has a custom marketing plan, and sadly we are becoming just another shill fighting for market share.
How does "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (Romans 12:2) fit into all this?
How can we ever truly believe that we can teach someone about a crucified savior and repentant faith, when they have peanut butter and Armando’s armpit hairs all over their face, and it was our idea?

Aric said...

“Many Christians glorify passion for passion's sake—as if raw passion per se were something praiseworthy and deeply spiritual.

Amen! At the risk of revealing my ISTJ inner self, I think that often the emphasis on passion, for passion’s sake, puts a lot of pressure on us, eh, less expressive types, which can really wound (unintentionally). I cannot speak for introverts* everywhere, but I recall many youth rallies/services where I worried because I could seem to muster up the correct amount of “passion.”

Now, on the other hand, as Rachel said above, I can (and should) “shed more tears, and beamed big smiles, sang really loudly, and even applauded now and then, in response to a reminder that God Himself has defeated sin and death and Hell and won our eternal salvation for us.

*By introvert I mean that I process internally and recharge by solo reflection; not that I am unable to interact with other humans (although that probably rings hollow being typed on a blog)

Brad Williams said...

When the glory of God filled the temple, and the voices of the angels shouting Holy! Holy! Holy! shook the foundation of that place, I seriously doubt that Isaiah thought that he should smear peanut butter on his armpits to lure people in to share in this vision of God.

I am so very sad that we have come to a place where we believe that armpit licking is a better draw than God's displayed majesty. Truly I am. Woe is me.

Jim Pemberton said...

Let not your heart be troubled, Aric. With the understanding that we need to communicate on the world's terms we I's must feign some level of exuberance to convey our passion to all those E's out there. But it must be understood that I's are no less passionate in general than E's. The culture formed by E's simply confuse passion with exuberance. In the context of this post I would say that the kids would sense the difference at the end of it and see that the passion is really a weak desperation.

Patrick Eklektos said...

Like you said, "passion can be a good thing" but for whom is that passion and where is it going? I believe the central issue is really Christ, or lack of whom in these messages. Quite simply, do these youth ministries bring glory to Christ? I think not and I think that goes for any practice or activity within the Church that does not completely focus on Christ. Do these things really bring glory to Christ? Will these kids one day look back and say, I was saved watching kids eat peanut butter from my youth minister's... well, you know. My question to these fickle ministers is this, where is Christ glorified?

Soli Deo Gloria

Anonymous said...

We've had some of this kind of stuff in our church as well, nothing quite so disgusting as peanut-butter pit-licking though. We did have some large holes in the walls of our fellowship hall after some out-of-control frozen turkey bowling a year or two ago which I think caused some to stop and think a bit.

Talking with my 20-something son now, he looks back at those yoot groop days as being useless and contributing nothing to his spiritual formation. In his case actually delaying it.

Whozep68 said...

I must confess: Two years ago at a High School Camp, I let a kid lick PB from my hairy armpit. It accomplished exactly what it was suppose to do: gross every one out (including me).

I thought it was fine because that type of thing won me over. As I was coming to Christ, I ate ice cream off a youth leader's stomach (wrapped in saran wrap) ten years ago. It did get my attention and God did use it to soften my hard at the time. As I continued to run in these circles, I realized it did deconstruct my prior stereotype of boring Christians slightly but not as much as my relationships with authentic Gospel loving Christians.

Today: I don't think Teens are asking that question (is it cool) as much as the 80's and 90's. Games are not problematic per se but just not useful any more. Most importantly, they keep us from actually doing Titus 2! The relationships are what everyone remembers any way.

Many of today's pastors/parents grew up in the "youth group" age so they expect what they had while failing to actually to engage kids. While evangelism is important, these methods aren't allowing us to keep the current generation or reach out.

To sum up: I was one of these guys and I have since repent realizing both biblically and practically in the long run didn't work. Biblical teaching was the only thing that has sustained me.s

philness said...

Yep. One of many perfectly legal breading grounds for Satan to prolong and frustrate the sanctification process.

CR said...

Rachael: But, at the same time, I wonder if we in the Reformed camp (not the tattooed, headbanging Reformed camp, mind you :) ) take things a little too far the other way. snip snip

Amen Rachael. That happens when people put form or personal preferences over truth.

CR said...

Dan: I thought it was fine because that type of thing won me over. As I was coming to Christ, I ate ice cream off a youth leader's stomach (wrapped in saran wrap) ten years ago. It did get my attention and God did use it to soften my hard at the time. As I continued to run in these circles, I realized it did deconstruct my prior stereotype of boring Christians slightly but not as much as my relationships with authentic Gospel loving Christians. snip snip

To sum up: I was one of these guys and I have since repent realizing both biblically and practically in the long run didn't work. Biblical teaching was the only thing that has sustained me.

See, Dan, I think more of your sum up comment is when your real repentance happened. I'm not denying that eating ice cream off your youth leader was quite an experience and I know you want to believe that God used that to soften your heart. But I fail to see how.

The Lord has described quite clearly how He deals in saving people. He starts with the mind and moves on to the heart. Then what else is involved in saving faith: Conviction, repentance, godly sorrow, fear of God and desire for deliverance from sin and Hell. Those are just a few of things. Nothing which licking PB from armpits and eating ice cream from someone's stomach can accomplish.

You see, the man who is born-again doesn't need to be revved up with licking PB or ice-cream to come to God. The natural man, perhaps has to be, but not the man who is born-again. That's why I'm not to big on altar calls. You don't need induce him. When a person is born-again and convicted by the Spirit of God he'll seek help. Because he's so miserable and frightened and it's why I believe you don't need to call for immediate decisions. Once a person is convicted by the Spirit he's going to seek God, we don't have to force him to and neither do we have to use gimmicks or shock and awe like licking PB and eating ice-cream.

CR said...

PJ: Many Christians glorify passion for passion's sake—as if raw passion per se were something praiseworthy and deeply spiritual.

If you're talking about Christians who know how salvation works and believe that the gospel is power unto salvation, then it may be an issue of temperament.

Our culture is breeding these type of people. So, you have these folks who have a habitual inclination towards this kind of stuff. As we know, salvation doesn't change our temperament. Whatever temperament we had before salvation is the same temperament we have after salvation. What drastically changes (or should change) is that we are not ruled by our temperament. And it looks like many of these folks have not learned how to control their temperament or passions. We all have our own temperaments whether it's sensitiveness, irritability, nervousness, shyness, introspection, etc. All of us have to work on it to not be ruled by it.

PJ:Christian leaders invent gimmicks to try to win worldly people by appealing to their worldly passions.

This group is a little bit easier to diagnosis. They don't understand how salvation works or if they do, then they don't really believe the gospel has the power unto salvation so they invent these other ways.

Connie said...

Appreciate your thoughts on this. "Passion" has become misused, over-used, and misunderstood within the church. Reminds me of Pavlov's dog--I fear much of the Church today has become conditioned (culturally) to respond in a particular way in certain situations/events.

Solameanie said...

I'm not typically a violent person, but I can imagine someone delivering a military-style blanket party to youth pastors who pull stunts like this.

But then, the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

Anonymous said...

I'm very passionate when it comes to the Church using gimmicks for work that is of the Holy Spirit.

Pastor Jason said...

I couldn't agree more. One of my most difficult churches to ever be a youth pastor at was a church where I was preceded by a guy who did the peanut butter arm pit challenge... and the drink a gallon of milk quickly challenge... and all sorts of gross out games. He devoted 20 minutes a week to a segment he called Fear Factor church style (real original eh?). 20 MINUTES! I'm just taking a stab in the dark here, insert sarcasm, but I think that 20 min could have been better spent in the service by preaching the Word and in his prep time maybe less time figuring out how to top his latest stunt and more time pleading with God for a deeper understanding of Scripture!

Austin Duncan said it last year's Shepherd's conference. "What you attract them with, you have to keep them with." How true! So make the attraction the solid teaching of the Word of God. Teach them to burn for Christ and develop in the true disciples a passion for the supremacy of His Glory in all things!

Sadly, many parents don't want their kids discipled... they want them entertained... and churches have become infected with the false notion that if their are lots of youth showing up, it must be a successful program...

great article guys

donsands said...

"..the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God."

Be angry and sin not.

"And he [Jesus] entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he [Lord Jesus] WOULD NOT ALLOW anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”"

I think the Church needs a little bit of anger; righteous anger, not self-righteous anger.

Caleb Kolstad said...

I don't think Phil's objection is so much the crazy games themselves but the point the guy tried to make from them and why he did them...Notice the youth pastor's quote here.

"The idea is to get students here to meet our Savior. They are getting all this crazy stuff out there in the world all the time. We are trying to show them that God is cooler."

When I attended Grace Community Church (Sun Valley) they played some crazy games (Iron Gut anyone) on some Wed. nights and during the game time at Camps. The focus of Wed. nights however was on discipleship and evangelism and the camps and midweek meetings were always Word (45 minute sermons) and Christ-centered.

Tim Bushong said...

One of the best things that we ever did for our children was to NOT allow them to attend our church's youth group. The prevailing "18-forever" mentality was clear and palpable, and even when attendance was encouraged from the pulpit we just couldn't get behind it. Now our oldest is almost 20 and, although still immature in some areas, is solid in his worldview and less prone to doctrinal or cultural goofiness than a lot of his youth-group enculturated friends.
FWIW. I know there can be really good youth-specific ministries- but remember that the whole idea of youth-specific ministry came from the para-church movements of the 40's and 50's, and are now considered by many to be a permanant part of our ecclesiology.

Julius Mickel said...

Good post, I suppose that the balance to avoiding extremes on either end of what is termed 'passion' would be close examination by the person and the ministry.
False passion and good passion can arise in the best of circumstances, so each person must ask themselves where their passion is coming from and why, for instance even a classic hymn soaked in good theology and sung acapella can produce in some a false passion.
As to MINISTRIES, they would do well to seek to be FAITHFUL and not to be FAMOUS, FUN, or FASHIONABLE. Sometimes we can harshly judge the tempermants of others when they differ from us, I for one don't 'like' (preference) the 'can I get an amen?', however I know some really solid teachers who say that.
The gimmicks of the day only reveal that many churches simply don't see any beauty in Christ (I would say the gospel, but Christ IS the gospel).

Unknown said...

I think the first problem with youth groups (and churches as a whole for that matter) today is that their main focus is to get people in the door. They want to get them in the door and then share the Gospel. Why does sharing the Gospel always have to include having them on campus? Why can't we go out into the communities and build relationships and share Jesus with people right there in the middle of their lives. Jesus didn't require people to be in the synagogues to minister to them and teach. He met them in the middle of their lives. We're too program driven and often think that it's the cleverness of our program that will win people to Christ. I hear over and over again that 98% of evangelism in churches today happens on church campuses and not out in the community. I think that's the biggest shame. We're quick to give an alter call in the comfort zone of a cleverly crafted service and think we're evangelizing but slow to go into the middle of people's messed up lives to share Jesus.