This is where some churches have now stooped to:

For some decades now I had a standard line about the decaying church surrendering to the surrounding culture, especially on things like homosexuality. I would often say this: ‘We might as well just give it all up and turn our churches into discos’ – or words to that effect.

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I of course had in mind selling off empty church buildings. I did not think for a moment that folks might start taking my words to heart. I certainly did not think folks would do this to churches while they were still considered to be churches! But that now seems to be happening, and I guess nothing should surprise us anymore.

Churches used as discos? Yes, you heard me right. A friend in the UK just sent me this news item from the BBC, featuring this headline: “Canterbury disco: ‘Parties can get more people to visit church’.” The piece opens with these words:

When you think of a church or cathedral, the thing that might come to mind is it being a place and time for self-reflection. But lately there have been a series of silent discos taking place in cathedrals and historic buildings around the UK and Europe. “I love the idea of people dancing on a Saturday night and praying on a Sunday morning. I think we can do both,” the Reverend Jessica Fellows tells BBC Newsbeat.

 

The “disco-loving” vicar is a self-proclaimed Harry Styles fan who uses her church to organise silent discos as well as beer and carols events. “The more the merrier. We need people to come in and have fun – it’s not all boring and serious,” she says. She hopes these events can result in greater interest in religion, at a time of less interest.

 

In the 2021 census for England and Wales, a third of people under the age of 35 identified as Christian, compared to just under half of those under 35 in 2011. Church of England figures also suggest dwindling congregation numbers, with 2022 having an average weekly attendance of 654,000 people – up from 2021 but down from 854,000 people in 2019.

Oh dear. Discos to get more people in. Now why didn’t the disciples and those in the early church do things like that? Oh yeah, that’s right: they did not need to. They simply relied on faithfully preaching the gospel and trusting the Holy Spirit to do his work. So they didn’t do anything to ‘get people in.’

But so many leaders in our churches today are so spiritually dead and morally bankrupt that they actually believe that strobe lights, smoke machines and ‘party, party, party’ is what we must now rely on to get folks in and build up the church. Good grief.

The article goes on to say this:

The Reverend Michael Darkins from Hythe, just down the road from Canterbury, has put on concerts at his church as well as Warhammer game nights. “We’ve got this beautiful 11th century church… we’re known locally for our collection of 1,200 skulls in the crypt – so it’s the perfect aesthetic for that. Anything that helps people feel comfortable and welcome in these spaces is going to have a positive effect.”

So let me see if I got this straight: anything that helps draw in the masses has gotta be a good thing. Hmm… I would imagine having gambling machines in the churches could well draw a crowd. You would likely get big numbers showing up if they had strip shows. Indeed, imagine what great attendance you would get if you offered public hangings. The sky is the limit here.

Thankfully not everyone thinks church disco parties are the way forward:

But there has been criticism about churches and cathedrals opening up to host these events. Almost 2,000 people  signed a petition against the silent discos being held at cathedrals like Canterbury. Petition organiser Cajetan Skowronski told BBC South East he was sceptical the events will get younger people into church. “It will not bring young people closer to Christ, rather it will send the message that Christ and his church, and all the truth, beauty and goodness it has to offer, are unimportant. That entertainment deserves our attention more than God.”

Praise God for a bit of sanity, and for a small remnant of real-deal Christians still being there and speaking out. When Christianity degenerates into mindless entertainment – all in the hopes of reviving the church and getting more folks along – then you know you have hit rock bottom. In this case my earlier advice does indeed stand: just sell off your churches and turn them into discos.

Sadly we have been warned by great men of God in the past about the dangers of swapping entertainment for worship, holiness, and the presence of Almighty God. Consider the words of some saints from various periods who would be utterly disgusted by what is happening here:

“A message pleasant to deliver? No, far from it! A message likely to be popular with the hearers? No, the very reverse! But a message sorely needed and criminally neglected. Did the Lord Jesus preach a sermon in the temple on the love of God while its sacred precincts were being made a den of thieves? Yet this is what thousands of those who posed as His servants have been doing for the last two or three generations. With flaming eye and scourge in hand, the Redeemer drove out, from His Father’s house, the traffickers who defiled it. And those who were His true servants denounced the entertainments, socials, and other worldly devices employed by the churches to ‘hold the young people.’ Those who were the true servants of Christ refused to use carnal methods for adding numbers of nominal professors to their membership. Those who were the true servants of Christ proclaimed the unchanging demands of a holy God, insisted on the enforcing of a scriptural discipline, and resigned their pastorates when their flocks rebelled.” A. W. Pink

“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 attend a meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments.” A. W. Tozer

The church “appears to have decided that if she cannot conquer the great god Entertainment she may as well join forces with him and make what use she can of his powers. So today we have astonishing spectacle of millions of dollars being poured into the unholy job of providing earthly entertainment for the so-called sons of heaven. Religious entertainment is in many places rapidly crowding out the serious things of God. Many churches these days have become little more than poor theatres where fifth-rate “producers” peddle their shoddy wares with the full approval of evangelical leaders who can even quote a holy text in defense of their delinquency. And hardly a man dares raise his voice against.” A. W. Tozer

“In a world where everything revolves around self – protect yourself, promote yourself, preserve yourself, entertain yourself, comfort yourself, take care of yourself – Jesus said, ‘Slay yourself’.” David Platt

“What I have seen in the past 10 years of traveling – performing at a church one day and a casino the next – is that a lot of people in the church want to be entertained, and people in casinos want to be ministered to. That’s hard to understand, but I see a hunger in the world that I don’t see in the church.” Ricky Skaggs, Christian musician

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The Coincidence - a novel by Gabriel Moens

Bill Muehlenberg teaches ethics, apologetics and theology at several Melbourne Bible Colleges. His independent blog, Culture Watch, has over 5,000 articles commenting on the major cultural, social and political issues of the day. Bill's podcast is exclusively produced for Good Sauce readers and fans.

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