I do love my coffee. From the beginning, recoiling after my first taste of espresso in 2000 up to today, enjoying the subtleties of a well-crafted latte - yes, I enjoy coffee in whatever form it may come in. At least to a point.
That's why I was so surprised while perusing the coffee aisle at the local grocery store yesterday. You know the aisle I'm talking about, the one whose aroma beckons you to come all the way from the meat cooler. As usual I was lured over to aisle 6, only this time to actually make a purchase. I scanned the shelf for my usual favorite when all of a sudden - BAM! I was struck. I staggered backward. My eyes went cross.
Right there among the giants of the coffee industry was one little white bag with that oh so familiar logo. A logo which, much like the aroma of the coffee aisle conjures up memories as well.
Yes, White Castle. Folks, we have another one that has jumped on the bandwagon. First it was Starbucks. Not to be outdone, Dunkin Donuts came on the scene. Hey, maybe - I like donunts, donuts go well with coffee. Maybe a donut manufacturer can produce a good coffee (not so much). Then came McDonalds. Their coffee actually isn't that bad.
But now, White Castle. Wow. Nothing hits the spot after a gut wrenching wrestling match with a 30-pack of sliders like a hot cup of White Castle joe. And now you too can enjoy this same experience at home with your very own bag of White Castle brew.
Tell me where to buy the shock absorbers that are supporting the coffee bandwagon. Who's gonna jump on next? Quikie Lube Full Service Oil Change Whole Bean Coffee?
You know, it's not just the coffee industry that jumps on board, trying to make a buck and getting in on the market while it's hot. We Christians do it too. How many versions of the so and so study Bible are out there? There's the Every Man's Battle for teenagers, kids, infants, twins, married men, divorced men, mid-life crisis men, and on and on. How different can the message really be? Same message, different packaging.
Some of the methods we use to 'preach the gospel' are just about as slippery and greasy as a White Castle meal - and the after effects are just as bad. We have the annual revival. True revival, historically has been brought on by God. Looking at the two awakenings in U.S. history in the mid-1700s and early 1800s we find churches with pastors who were faithfully preaching the gospel, doing evangelism, and discipling believers. Nothing changed expect that the Holy Spirit began to move in a greater way, calling hundreds more to Christ than previously.
Then some people began to discover that certain appeals to the emotions resulted in a greater number of professors of faith. Before long, 'revival' was more like a circus. Rather than being brought on by God, it rolled into town on a wagon driven by a man. Many of those who fell under emotional conviction and made a profession of faith were never heard from again. It was out of this scene that the 'alter call' or 'walking the aisle' came to be.
The thinking was that if someone was willing to walk the aisle or come forward they must be under conviction of sin. They must be converted. So appeals began to be made during the alter call or 'invitation.' More hymns were sang, more people were urged to come forward. And more did.
This 'alter call' or 'invitation' or 'walking the aisle' became a bandwagon. It seemed to work. So everyone jumped on. This style of preaching did not exist before 1800. Today I have seen extreme emotional appeal occur during a church service, someone comes forward, and the person is immediately given full assurance of their being saved. 'Brother, once saved, always saved. Ten-thousand angels are rejoicing for you in Heaven right now. Welcome to the family.' And then the person is never discipled. They fall back into their sinful lifestyle. It seems that the enemy has come and plucked away the seed of faith. Yet their name is on the member list and their number reported to the local convention who keeps track of these kinds of things.
Yet this style of preaching goes on. And to be honest, it leaves as bad a taste in my mouth as the bitterest coffee.
Don't jump on the bandwagon, using the latest method guaranteed to get results. And don't mask you doing just that with the veneer of faithful preaching and just 'letting the Holy Spirit work.' Rather, be original. Be like the Apostle Paul. Teach what he taught.
Titus 3:4-7 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
I am saying call people to repentance. Urge them to trust Jesus. But do it through a faithful teaching of the Scriptures. Include verse 5 (he saved us not because of our works) but don't leave out verse 8 (that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works).
I have seen at various times at 'revivals' smoke machines, magicians, comedians, Hosea the Prophet, dramas, letters from Hell, yelling, and countless verses of Just as I Am during the invitation. Be careful pastors. Be careful not to inadvertently jump on the bandwagon. Be faithful to teach all the scriptures. And live them out by discipling those who receive Christ. Don't abandon them after the alter call. If you do, you can be most assured that the Evil One will not abandon them.
Please, invest in your people and let the aroma of Christ be rich and full, robust. Don't settle for White Castle ministry.