After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. …
Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.
Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated the covenant I ordained for their ancestors and has not listened to me, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord and walk in it as their ancestors did.” The Lord had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua.
– Judges 2:10-11, 18-23
“It is now common practice in most evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, a maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction. It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God. One can only conclude that god’s professed children are bored with Him, for they must be wooed to meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments.
“This has influenced the whole pattern of church life, and even brought into being a new type of church architecture, designed to house the golden calf.
“So we have the strange anomaly of orthodoxy in creed and heterodoxy in practice. The striped-candy technique has been so fully integrated into our present religious thinking that it is simply taken for granted. Its victims never dream that it is not a part of the teachings of Christ and His apostles.”
– A. W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God
Uh, oh! Our church, where we presently attend, had a major addition added in 2005. When I first saw the “Great Room”, characterized as a multi-purpose room, I did not like it. There were basketball goals at either end. I prayed that this room would be more for worship, but I have heard people outside the church call our church “the gym, with a church attached”. The church does a great job with UPWARD basketball as an outreach to the community. About a third of the boys and girls that attend are unchurched, and about another third come from other churches. The children and the parents are exposed to concepts of the Christian life each week (being courteous, obedient, playing fair, etc. – each characterized as being more like Jesus). For a couple of minutes, here and there, there is worship in the midst of the basketball, but within another generation or so, will the church fall into the same rut as the Israelites?
To read Judges 2, it only took one generation to get to a people who had never heard of the great wonders of God. Let’s take inventory. Joshua was told to level the place. Take no prisoners. But Joshua had already screwed up by Joshua 9. The Gibeonites deceived him, saying that they were from far away. When he learned that they were neighbors, next on the list for total destruction, he could do nothing. He had already sworn an oath to protect them. Joshua then got old and tired. He let the different clans clear their own land. Some did a fair job, others hardly tried. In various places, the excuse of iron chariots got in the way. If they had enough faith, the Angel Army could melt the iron chariots and destroy the enemy, but there was a lack of faith. But in the time of Deborah (Judges 4), they defeated Sisera’s army, an army with iron chariots. There was a lack of faith and a tremendous lack of faithfulness in that they did not teach their children what God had done.
But look further in Judges 2:20-23. God let this happen. In Genesis 3, God told Adam and Eve not to eat from one tree, but they did. God let the tree remain in the garden. In Job 1-2, God allowed Satan to take away everything except Job’s life, but Job stayed true to God. He complained, but he never turned from his faith. God allowed this test of faith as well. Then we come to the end of Joshua and the beginning of Judges, and the Scripture says that God leaves the remnants of Canaanites here and there as a test of faith. The Israelites fail miserably. Read Exodus and Numbers. That generation complained constantly until they all perished in the wilderness. “We were better off as slaves in Egypt. Waah, Waah, Waah.” Then we have a generation, just one, that has faith in God. They walk up to the inhabitants of the Promised Land. They say, “Boo!” And the inhabitants die of fright. It might not be that bad, but at times in the book of Joshua, it is that bad.
There are references to one Israelite chasing a thousand at various times in the book of Joshua. It reminded me of a joke that followed the Six-Day War. “Picture this scene: You see one Israeli soldier… Chasing five hundred Arab soldiers across the desert… And as the Arabs was fading in the distance, you hear the Israeli yelling, ‘You’re lucky my husband wasn’t here!’ Sounds like Deborah of Judges 4, doesn’t it? Yes, it is an old joke, but the description parallels the level of dominance that the Israelites had with God’s help in the time of Joshua. Yet, the ‘greatest generation’ of Israelites got tired and bored before the job was over.
And God used that as another test of faith.
I have just finished a series of Bible Study lessons on “Earthly Blessings”. All those blessings could become curses if they knit us into the fabric of this world. Satan tempted the Israelites with the 90% completed job of a land flowing with milk and honey. They could fight another day or two and completely destroy all of the nations that God had commanded them to destroy. But the thought of the easy life was too great a temptation.
Within one generation, they had forgotten God. I wonder if a stick of striped candy would work as an enticement to get them to come to worship? They were having too much fun worshipping the false gods in their community.
As for the Tozer quote, you could write it off as an angry old man that sees change and does not like it. Likening “Great Rooms” as the part of the church designed to worship the golden calf is a little too much. But is it? Are we that much better than the Israelites? Will it take us two or three generations before the church-goers join the outsiders in referring to the church as a gym with a church attached? When we get to that point, will it not be the place where the golden calf is worshipped?
Let’s look at the worship service. Each service is followed by a fellowship time with coffee and lemonade and cookies (or cake for special occasions). I don’t see striped candy. The people that come to church do not come just for the fellowship afterwards. … Not yet.
Our church’s Evangelism team has movies, in the Great Room, to attract people from outside the church membership. The movies are Christian themed movies. The idea is that it provides a conversation starter. The church is not to the point where that becomes the worship service.
I am not picking on one church. There are parallels to other churches, most churches of this day. Tozer was prophetic in that we would get to the point where the striped-candy techniques will become so much a part of our worship that the coming generations will think that Jesus and the Apostles ordained it.
Do I like change? No. I was born about the time Tozer died, but old traditions die hard in rural Mississippi. I may have seen glimpses of the worship that Tozer was comfortable with. I have seen modern worship services, and I am uncomfortable there.
But others are comfortable with the ear-splitting loud music. They are comfortable with the seeming lack of an order of worship, but Tozer’s church had that quality. I say “seeming” lack of order. Everything is programmed into the computer to be projected onto the screens. There will not be a change at the last minute. (Where can I find an IT guy when I need one?!) Someone behind the scenes has set an order of worship, but in many modern churches, this order is not shared with the participants as to provide a freeform ambiance during the worship.
In either setting, contemporary or traditional, the ‘setting’ can become the golden calf. A special room is not needed. We can worship our form of worship instead of worshipping God. To stick to the theme of Faith, we can have faith in a denomination, faith in a form of worship that makes us feel good, and faith in ‘feeling good’. If those things become our god, we lose sight of the God that the worship had been originally designed to glorify.
Why do you go to church? Do you go there for the music, for the time with close friends, for the coffee, or for the striped-candy? OR do you go to worship the God of the Universe?
In some ways, this could have been the next chapter in a Bible Study on earthly blessings that can get in the way of having faith in God. We can be blessed, or cursed, with Striped Candy Religion.
Let us seek the true Jesus, regardless of our form of worship.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.