Great Stuff — A Belly Full of Greeks

Found on Pastor Donavon Riley’s blog, The First Premise; a post originally by Rev. William Cwirla:


Commenting on the intrusion of what “church growth methodology” into the churches of the Lutheran Confessions, the sainted Kenneth Korby once remarked, “That’s a Trojan horse with a belly full of Greeks whose interest in the city is not the same as that of her free citizens.” (If you don’t understand the allusion, shut off your iPod, knock off your text messaging, and make haste to the library and read Virgil’s Aeneid before your brain turns to mush.)

Contemporary, Evangelical worship, what I call “Contempogelical” worship, is revival worship, the revival tent come to the stadium, turning the church into a concert venue. The intent is to manipulate the audience (aka congregation) into a certain mood, whether praise frenzy or prayerful somberness. Participation is individualistic – waving hands, rhythmic dancing, simplistic refrains. The focal point is the lead singer of the “praise band”, usually a drop-dead gorgeous female (aka Praise Babe) with a lilting soprano voice wearing a look of virginal innocence combined with a teasing come hither seductiveness. The songs fall into either of two categories – power chord praise songs that extol God in His majesty and glory or pop-ballad love songs, extolling Jesus as lover and friend. Guys put up with the latter category only because they think the Praise Babe is singing to them.

Revival always has a strong sexual component to it. During the “great religious awakenings” of 19th century America, it was noted with some degree of alarm that unwed pregnancies increased dramatically after the revival left town. The predatory boys knew to hang out at the fringes of the revival meetings knowing that the girls were ripe for the picking. It doesn’t take a libido-driven imagination to catch the same sexual undercurrent in a lot of contempogelical worship.

Which brings me to the Trojan horse with its belly-load of Greeks. The ruse, of course, is that the horse, appearing to be a gracious gift and token of friendship, turns out to be a hollow sabotage full of soldiers. Contempogelical worship comes from contemporary Evangelicalism, especially the stadium revivals such as the Harvest Crusade in southern California. Calvary Chapel more or less invented this form in the late sixties and early seventies to reach out to the young Baby Boomers on the beach and the “Jesus people” hippies. The theology is Arminian (not Armenian, those are the folks who make rugs), “decision theology,” wherein salvation is potentially yours and actually becomes yours when you decide to accept Jesus into your heart. The heart is where the action is, and the heart is where contempogelical worship is focuseed.

Adolescent hearts are particularly tender hearted. Teenagers deal with complex emotions and clumsily-handled relationships. Their hearts are easily broken and easily manipulated. They are prone to crushes, to follow the advice of celebrities, and to “idolize” people who portray coolness, such as ministers who can rhyme hip-hop or youth workers who can break concrete blocks with their heads or sultry lead singers backed by guys with lots of cool electronic gear. Don’t think for a hot second that Evangelicals don’t know this. This is their stock in trade. The idea is to grab the emotional attention of the adolescent in order to get them to make that saving decision, to pray that “sinner’s prayer,” to give their hearts to Jesus and commit their lives to Him. Never mind Baptism, never mind being dead in sin, never mind by grace through faith. It’s all about you, which is precisely where the devil, the world, and your own sinful flesh want your attention. On you and what’s going on with your insides.

The use of contempogelical worship in the interest of “relevance” and “growth” in the Lutheran churches is a Trojan horse. This is especially the case when contempogelical musicians are invited to play for worship at a Lutheran event. This is not the same as having a Catholic guest organist or a Jewish violinist in a liturgical service. There the musicians do not speak; they play their instruments according to the strict notations of the music. In contempogelical worship, the “lead worshipper” is also a “worship leader,” often interpreting the song, exhorting the audience to “put your hands up and praise the Lord with me,” giving personal “testimonies” to “how I gave my life to Jesus and how you should too,” and leading the audience in prayer, “Please pray with me, ‘Father God, I just want to lift up…..’”

We need always to remember that in Arminian, “decision theology,” submission to the “ordinance” of Baptism is the evidence you give to God and the world that you’ve decided to follow Jesus and to let Him into your heart. Evangelicals do not believe that people who have not made this decision and had this personal experience are actually saved. Yes, you heard me correctly. Lutherans, Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Orthodox, etc. are not “saved,” in the eyes of Evangelicals, who are on an evangelistic mission (i.e., crusade) to save them from the clutches of “Catholicism,” which is for them the highway to hell.

I get the call once a year from the recruiter for the Harvest Crusade, a local stadium revival event that happens every August in southern California. They invite all the local pastors to bring their members to their crusade event. Though they boast about how “we have all kinds of Christians gathered here in one place,” the message is quite clear: accept Jesus into your hearts the Evangelical way or you’re not saved.

My point is this. Evangelical speakers, praise leaders, and preachers are not there at a Lutheran event to “celebrate what we all have in common as Christians,” any more than a Lutheran speaking to a bunch of Baptists is interested in talking about how at least we agree that Baptism requires water. They are there to convert, to shape primary theology, to use the tools of music and cultural relevance to get you to open your hearts to Jesus and experience salvation as a personal, internal, emotional event, which they believe you must have in order to be saved. And when we, as Lutherans, invite Evangelicals to lead our worship or speak to our youth groups and conferences, we are inviting a Trojan horse with a belly load of Arminians whose interest in our youth is not the same as our own.

Permit me a personal testimony of my own. I served as foreman on a jury a few years ago. There was a fellow juror who instantly befriended me, knowing that I was a minister. We would eat lunch together most days and talk about our faith. He told me his “faith story,” the familiar narrative about growing up in a marginally Christian home, getting involved in drinking, drugs, etc, and then at some low point in his life surrendering to Jesus and inviting Jesus to dwell in his heart. He was sincere and very pious; his story was quite moving.

He asked me how I became a Christian. I told him that I was baptized when I was five weeks old and raised by godly, Christian parents who taught me about Jesus and brought me to church, and that I do not have a single conscious day when I did not know that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and my Lord, Savior, and Redeemer. In fact, I am thankful for that, because I shudder to think how my life would have come out through high school and college without the Word and the Spirit having their way with me.

My friend looked at me in disbelief and said, “But it’s not supposed to work that way.” And I said to him, “But it did. Deal with it.” He could not comprehend a believer who never consciously invited Jesus into his heart yet always knew Jesus.

I went on to say, “I’m thankful for both our stories. Your story reminds me that the Word of God has power to work faith in the hardened, unbelieving heart and that it makes a difference in your life. My story reminds you that faith and salvation are a free gift of God’s grace and not the result of some decision that we made. When you prayed to God for salvation, that was faith at work before you uttered your first word of prayer, and when I remember my Baptism, I am committing my life anew to Jesus who has always been committed to me.”

You could tell this was a “theologically challenging” moment for him. As a Lutheran, I could receive his faith story at face value as the work of the Spirit who works “when and where He pleases in those who hear the Gospel.” But as an Evangelical, he had a hard time receiving my story in the same way.

And therein lies the point: That cute praise babe, that hip-hop rhyming pastor, that muscled sports idol, that power chord praise song and lilting Jesus love song have more in mind than simply sharing a personal story of faith. They want to shape your story to be the like their story, otherwise you aren’t actually saved. In other words, they want you to become in your hearts Evangelicals.

As they say, “Beware Greeks bearing gifts.”

by Rev. William Cwirla, “A Belly Full of Greeks”

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