Recently there was controversy regarding an iconic winter holiday song, “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. The controversy centered around a particular artist changing the lyrics, which were originally written in 1944. The lyrical change did little if anything to change the original theme of the song: Guy tries to convince the girl he is smitten with, to stay a little longer. When she says she ought to say no, he tries to convince her to stay by saying “Baby it’s cold outside”. You are probably wondering “Mike, what are you get’in at?
A few weeks ago I was working in Fulton County, with Revive Ohio, for three days of evangelism. During Revive Ohio events, churches from the host counties come together to take the gospel into the communities of that county. Teams of 4 bring scripture wristbands, bibles, and discipleship materials to businesses, homes, schools, and the streets; for the purpose of sharing the gospel. A key motivating factor is to unite churches of like-minded faith, in the unity of the Spirit and bond of peace, around the great commission.
My county had a Revive Ohio week that lasted 15 days. We saw about 100 souls dedicate their lives to Jesus, 60 people signup for discipleship, over 20 follow Jesus in baptism in a truck on the streets of our county, and multiple miracles of God’s power. Most of all churches and Christians from all over my county came together for the cause Christ. The unity of the Spirit and bond of peace has continued; now back to Fulton County.
In Fulton County, during my three days, I trafficked through 3 churches that were hosting morning activities and an evening service or a lunch time testimony and training church. All three churches epitomized all that an American Church building could aspire to be. The people were nice and friendly–the environment was climate controlled, with appropriate mood lighting for every place, space, and event–the sanctuary seating was more than comfortable with “essential” lighting, hip painting, and cool decor–the hallways were like over-sized hotel hallways and decorated appropriately.
In particular, the kid’s ministry areas were stunning in their ability to catch the eye and hold the attention of both children and parents. One of the facilities children’s area had a small version of Noah’s ark, with signs with biblical characters for corresponding age groups. Another had what looked to be a giant play yard area (huge) inside. All three had very comfy and cozy coffee bar areas, with premium roasted coffee and cushy couches and chairs.
On the third day I was there, the temperature dropped drastically with a misting rain. After lunch and while praying, before we would hit the streets, we were sitting in one of the comfy coffee areas. While we were departing, even going through the doors, a thought crossed my mind and almost instantly I was convicted… “I’d rather stay in here, where it’s warm, because it’s cold outside“.
CAN FOCUSING ON THE RIGHT DECOR DAMPEN FERVENCY FOR CHRIST?
It does not take a heady theologian to realize that when churches take much time, effort, energy, and money to outfit their buildings, it is in an effort to hold on to the people they have. It is also an attempt at being hip and relevant enough to corral as many outsiders in as we can.
I know, I know, we are convinced we must do this , to be able to give them Jesus and advance the kingdom. I realize we convince ourselves we do this to show those outside God’s love and that we’re not so different.
If you feel I am being sarcastic, you’re right. The reason for my sarcasm is that a ministry mindset which feels it must outfit buildings and ministries to please human sensibilities and cultural standards of relevance (through decor, program, and comfort), does not resemble any biblical frame work.
How does this kind of Kingdom of Comfort, where people are attracted to a one stop shop, cover all the bases model, line up with Luke 9:23…
“Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?”
Or John 16:33
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
How does the desire to to make a cozy space of refuge for American Christians line up with our privilege and calling to suffer with Christ in Philippians 1:29?
“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.”
Or Paul’s prayer in Philippians 3:10?
“that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
This kingdom of comfort mentality, which is nation wide among Christians (in a general sense), is in conflict with the leading of God’s Spirit and squeezes out His plan, purpose, and will. The comfy, cozy, people pleasing DECOR, ENVIRONMENT, AND PROGRAM of many churches dampens fervency of Christ and the great commission.
Consider the conflict it created in me, for a moment, when my flesh wanted warm couches and hot coffee, over sharing the gospel. Now, I admit, I am a work in progress with many deficiencies needing overcome in Christ, but one of them is not fervency. We must not jump to the conclusion that my comments are against mega churches. my comments are for all churches.
This wrong headed mentality and practice exists in a majority of Christians in this land, both pastors and laity alike. It has arisen in a nation of unchecked greed and selfishness, where enough is never enough. It has invaded the church because we have been calling the world into our warm and cozy, rather than reaching the lost out in the cold.
THIS HAPPENED TO ISRAEL
It has been said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. This is never more true than when dealing with the church. I Corinthians 10:11 reveals that what has been written in the word of God, has been written to admonish (gently warn) us not to follow the examples of those who missed God’s heart; namely Israel.
As a whole, even though they experienced periods of terrible turmoil (while God disciplined them), Israel was materially prosperous. This prosperity arose, not because they deserved it, but because God chose to bless and protect them. Israel did not do well to be thankful, but expected it was a birthright of theirs, which led to a nation pursuing comfort rather than God.
(Amos 6:3-6) Woe to you who put far off the day of doom, Who cause the seat of violence to come near; Who lie on beds of ivory, Stretch out on your couches, Eat lambs from the flock And calves from the midst of the stall; Who sing idly to the sound of stringed instruments, And invent for yourselves musical instruments like David; Who drink wine from bowls, And anoint yourselves with the best ointments, But are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.
As we can see, God was not pleased with this loafing and self focused non-sense, which is easily seen in many of our homes and our churches. This mentality and practice led to religious entertainment, rather than encountering the living God.
(Ezekiel 33:30-33) “As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, ‘Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.’ So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them. And when this comes to pass—surely it will come—then they will know that a prophet has been among them.”
Finally this mentality led to pride, arrogance, and the most egregious and abominable sin.
(Ezekiel 16:48-50) “As I live,” says the Lord God, “neither your sister Sodom nor her daughters have done as you and your daughters have done. Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit.
Some may conjecture that these are O.T. passages and do not apply. They would be wrong. I challenge any in conflict with this truth to simply read Revelation 2 and 3, prayerfully. You will find churches that left loving God with all their heart; who ceased loving their neighbor by taking the gospel to them. In the midst of what they left behind, they became infested with methods of seeker sensitivity, pagan practice, sexual immorality, and material wealth, which lead to spiritual blindness.
The point is, our desire to make a comfortable, user friendly, and more palatable environment for those outside our kingdom of comfort, has dulled our spiritual sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Many now see Christian practice as being in a building suited towards “us” and “our preferences”. Our “preferences” do not compel us to risk the possibility of pain or rejection for our faith in Jesus Christ (as we “Go”), but to be catered to and coddled in an environment that pleases us. In these “preferences”, “accepting Jesus”, tithing, and showing up to the building on Sunday (most of the time), are sure signs we are good with God. We need to think again and pursue a biblical reformation of mind!
There are people lost and without God, right next door to us… It’s cold outside.
There are many in bondage to Satan who want freedom, but can’t find a Christian with any faith or power in the Spirit to aid them…It’s cold outside.
There is a generation of young people, who lack any fear and live from one hedonistic high to the next… It’s cold outside.
This is occurring, in large part, because we who are the light of the world have placed our lamp beneath a very cozy bushel we created for ourselves. NOW IT IS COLD INSIDE! Make no mistake, we are largely devoid of the manifest presence and power of the Holy Spirit, because we have stayed inside where it’s warm and cozy for too long.
Please prayerfully consider your light, child of God. Consider how hot and brightly it burns or how it has diminished in intensity (fervency) or may not be burning at all. Consider your needed level of comfort? Consider the last time Jesus’ love was so hot in you, you just had to share Him and His truth with someone.
If the lights stay under the bushel, the cold will eventually completely come in overcoming the warmth, since those who are light and heat to the world are disconnected from the one who is a Consuming Fire. May we once more take the Light and Fire of God into the dark outside, because it is COLD OUTSIDE!