Is fear fun?
I vividly recall when The Exorcist hit the movie screen. Watching scenes where a young girl became possessed by demonic spirits seemed outrageous and in far left-field. Of course, nothing like that could happen in real life. It’s only at the movies where the producers are paid millions of dollars to scare you out of your wits. But I paid a price for feeding my fun-loving fear because I was scared of the dark and had to sleep with a light on for weeks after seeing that movie.
My fascination with “fun fear” began when I was a kid. As soon as I could read and browse in bookstores, I discovered that there was more than just The Bobbsey Twins series. The Nancy Drew Mysteries developed my love of suspense, which I feed to this day. As a fan of everything Agatha Christie, I will always love the “who-dunnit” mysteries.
But as a kid, my interest was drawn to the books with the ghosts and haunted houses on the cover. The author? None other than the wonderful master of horror and suspense, Alfred Hitchcock.
Could it get even better? You bet it did. Alfred Hitchcock Presents became my weekly TV haunt. I have no idea why, but it aired quite late at night, around ten. I lay under the covers in my dark bedroom, clutching my pillow and hiding my face in it at the spookiest parts. As I turned off the TV at eleven, I took all that fear with me into my sleep. Needless to say, my dreams were not peaceful, and some nights I had nightmares.
Back in the ‘60’s, Christians weren’t as spiritually knowledgeable as today. Then, we flirted with fear which seemed thrilling, fun, and pretty tame. No one realized at that time how real the world of the enemy is, except for missionaries in third world countries where Satan worship prevailed. These missionaries would visit our church once or twice a year, and when they spoke at a Sunday service, we would hear all kinds of true stories that would make our hair stand up. Our solace was in the fact that America was a Christian nation, and Satanic activity was thereby limited from manifesting here.
Well, for a while, anyway.
Then, as I’ve already mentioned, The Exorcist was born on the big screen, and our innocence began to fade. As illegal drugs made the scene, free love in all its forms manifested. Rebellion and flower children blossomed. The Ten Commandments and prayer were removed from public schools as rock bands with hellish music pounded their anti-Christ message into teens. Wholesome movies and TV shows were sidelined. Now TV shows became less moral and movie producers experimented with racier visions within inane storylines rated R and X.
Did they make mega-bucks doing that? You know it.
Like a lullaby sung over a sleepy giant, this great Christian nation was lulled to sleep. Churches began to dwindle as their members became fascinated with the pleasures of the world, and ministries worried about their financial future. How could they once again pack their churches and financial statements to capacity? Thus, they re-invented and molded themselves to attract modern-day society.
How so? Here are some of the ploys:
Make the church a welcoming, comfortable place—more like a club where you are encouraged to pay your monthly dues in the offering plate, or better yet, online. Lure with rock band music containing Christian lyrics, and feature a coffee bar or restaurant on the premises. (I understand some are now even serving wine and beer.)
Do away with the true gospel, watering it down so that there’s no cross to convict, no call to repentance, and no mention of the word “sin.” Replace those terms with psychology, and help people reason away their guilt. Tell them, “After all, if God is a loving God, how could He send anyone to hell?”
No roaring sermons—just pleasant ear-tickling stories to entertain and keep everyone coming back next week. Have lots of fun group activities for athletics and hobbies, or study books that sound religious, but really have no gospel message.
Give everyone a job in the church, so they feel included and important. Tell them “it’s all about you” instead of being all about Jesus.
Instead of milk and meat, feed the flock gobs of cotton candy—and remember the good news: sugar is addictive!
Now for the present moment. Our innocent, precious children are weaned onto their first series of books as soon as they have learned to read. The title of the most popular one, in my opinion? Why, Harry Potter, naturally! The world of witches and spells teach them fear, rebellion, and the ABC’s of Satanic worship. Right away their minds are receptive to witchcraft and closed to Christianity. (Some good parents and Christians alike scoff at the warnings that Harry Potter could in any way be dangerous.)
Additionally, some children watch their parents abuse alcohol and drugs, to name just a few bad examples (by now, keep in mind, the ‘60’s generation has produced one to two future generations). In short, our children’s influences are set for a lifetime.
I remember hearing nuns say, “Let me train a child until he’s five, and by then he will be a Catholic his whole life.” Reminds me of the verse, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6, NASB). So, these early childhood years matter very much.
How about public school curricula? They now endorse soft education, meaning there is no discipline, no character training, lax patriotism, and little, if any, true learning. The consequences are lots of kids stoned on drugs, disrespect, laziness, and time wasted on technology (which is only a robotic substitute teacher). No wonder American education, no longer able to boast being number one in the world, has, in 2014, plummeted to 36th out of 60 nations. What a staggering educational failure we have become!
So, what is the church’s role in this present age, and what are God’s expectations?
The answer may surprise you, as it did me. In studying the book of Revelation, the beginning of John’s letter is to the seven churches. In my Bible studies that span over four decades, I used to think those letters were just for that day and time, or that there have been seven dispensational ages, one message for each church, and the last is for our present day.
I clearly see in my present study through Bible Study Fellowship that these messages are eternally pertinent for today, no matter the age or year. There is no perfect church, of course, outside of heaven’s—and we have to die to get there. On the earth, all of our churches have some commendations, but there is always something that needs to be corrected.
I plan to take each church and examine what Christ said to each one through John. Let’s agree to establish our hope in God and let Him establish our future.
“For I know the plans I have for you, for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, NASB).
What we may learn about ourselves could be startling. Please join me on this fascinating journey.
Our first stop? Ephesus.