The Modern Evangelical Churches: Enthusiasm & Orthodoxy

I wonder at times, how God views and assess the 21st-century evangelical church services.

It has become clear to me that the attempt of contemporary churches to excite the people with ecstatic look actually done the reversal effect; a more a dying and decaying dead worship.

Worship has become a spectator-sports mentality to attract consumers with the light show, with the smoke machine, with the cool hips-worship guy to keep the crowd coming and the show going. This grieves the Spirit of God and we ought to weep over it as well.

Worship is so much more than what is sung or played in church on Sunday morning. It is the theme of Scripture, the theme of eternity, and the theme of redemptive history. It is an act of responding to the God of the universe in His glorious attribute, which the Bible teaches and instructs His people in daily living to live for His glory alone.

 “God is spirit, and his worshipers much worship in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).

William Temple (Archbishop of Canterbury in the early 1940s) defined worship:

“To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God”

The two ways of worship the Samaritan woman was familiar were both unacceptable;

1. Spirit

2. Truth

John McArthur wrote a book titled The Ultimately Priority that mentions, “The Father seeks both enthusiasm and orthodoxy, Spirit and Truth”. [1]

You can’t fault their enthusiasm, but far too often it is merely zeal without knowledge (Rom. 10:1-3). People seek at times to the extreme attempt to worship apart from the truth.


1) Spirit / Enthusiasm 

During the First Great Awakening (1725-1750) theologians battled over this very truth.

Jonathan Edwards preached a famous sermon called, “A Divine and Supernatural Light” dated in August 1733 which was preached in Northampton.

The essence of the thesis was doctrinal soundness. “That there is such a thing as a spiritual and divine light, immediately imparted to the soul by God, of a different nature from any that is obtained by natural means.” (page 1)

Edwards returns to the common source of your, “Soul.” The question perhaps is, who is he after? Who does he have in mind as he speaks on this very topic? He is after Charles Chancy.

During the time of Enlightenment period (Rationalist) was the true religion.  Enlightenment at its core is rational in nature. Therefore, by definition, it is grounded only on intellect (natural means).

Charles Chancy (1705 – 1787) an American Congregational clergy from Boston was speaking of Christianity as a mere philosophical exercise of human reasoning alone. As an intellectual, he was disturbed and disliked the revivalist preaching such as George Whitefield as he viewed as a mere emotionalism of false conversion.

When Jesus speaks to Peter, “Who do you say I am?” Peter says, “Blessed are you, for flesh and blood has not revealed it, but my Father has”. Jesus then says, “You did not reason to this conclusion! He is the Son of God!” (Matt. 16:13-20). How did Peter know that? God revealed to him by SUPERNATURAL MEANS!

There is ultimately only one major hindrance to worshipping in spirit = Self. What do we do in giving ourselves as to Christ? Reason (excuses) and that is too selfish and self-indulgent.

If religion has supernatural illumination, what can happen? Revival (Great Awakening). If Christianity is merely just natural, then revival is expected. These are miraculous work of God.

God can make revivals happen to the soul whenever and whenever he wants. God illuminates within the soul of believers and ignites the fire. He doesn’t use the word, “mind” here, but instead, “soul”.


2) Truth / Orthodoxy

Awakening is not just the impression made upon imagination: Worship is not merely an emotional exercise with God – words or musical sounds that induce certain feelings.

This is not the mere sense of experience. God doesn’t give new ideas! It’s all contained in His inerrant eternal Word of God.

James Davenport (1716 – 1757) was a clergyman during the First Great Awakening that brought controversial actions. He would burn books and burned even his pants in the fire during Sunday morning services. Why did he burn his pants? Cause he could tell from just Spirit that was within him. He wants to say what is normative (Bible).

Davenport justified his statement by saying, “I was so filled with the Holy Spirit”, he could tell whether people were regenerate or not.

This is a blaspheme! Scripturally speaking, people cannot tell by mere visual contact whether a person is saved or not. Religious feeling, this is what it means? No

The Corinthians church had gone to the extreme of enthusiastic, mindless activity. They liked to speak in ecstatic languages and have showy demonstrations that were remnants of their pagan background. They were setting content and truth aside for the sake of external, unintelligible, emotional experiences. Paul rebukes them in 1 Corinthians 14.


To Glorify God with Enthusiasm & Orthodoxy

As God looks to His people and despises dead worship. As Matthew Henry said it well, that “the sacrifice of the wicked is really an abomination to God.” As believers, these Words of scripture ought to place a sense of reverence and fear within our heart;

“I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them” (Amos 5:21–22).

However, God has given us an instruction and also a good example of how we ought to respond to the Holy King and the Righteous Ruler.

When the Word of God dominates your life, your praise is regulated, and your worship is conformed to the divine standard. (Colossians 3:16) The church must worship to be true in form and function with deep conviction for Holy adoration to the Triune God through Jesus.

Edward used an excellent analogy with Honey;

When you are aware of all that is good and all that is within, made by bees, come from the hive (intellect). However, not till you taste it and experience the goodness of it all (Psalm 34:8).

Chancy is wrong because it is something that you must experience. You have no idea where the goodness of the honey has come from unless you’ve experienced from the inside out. How could one truly come to an understanding of what honey is just mere speculation and experimentation? You must experience & knowledge altogether.

Worship also must be emotion regulated by understanding, enthusiasm directed by the Word of God.



[1]John F. MacArthur Jr, Worship: The Ultimate Priority, Reprint edition (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2012), 154.

0 thoughts on “The Modern Evangelical Churches: Enthusiasm & Orthodoxy”

  1. I’m confused. Why do you assume certain forms of worship are wrong or that light shows and use of certain instruments grieve the heart of God? You seem to be saying a church with contemporary worship music can not also be orthodox in it’s teaching.

    “Worship is so much more than what is sung or played in church on Sunday morning. It is the theme of Scripture, the theme of eternity, and the theme of redemptive history. It is an act of responding to the God of the universe in His glorious attribute, which the Bible teaches and instructs His people in daily living to live for His glory alone.”

    Absolutely and amen! But, it’s not necessarily an either/or question. Again, what does the form of the worship service have to do with whether the worship is genuine?

    “The church must worship to be true in form and function with deep conviction for Holy adoration to the Triune God through Jesus.”

    And this can happen in churches with many different forms of corporate worship.

    • @wildswanderer

      Thank you for your comment.

      I would be confused if I were in your shoes as well. I think though I understand where you are coming from.

      I am not against contemporary worship style. I grew majority of my life in the country of Japan and I don’t think the worship style of songs in Japan is less than the worship style in the USA either.

      However, as I mentioned at the very beginning, I do wonder how God does assess the 21st-century evangelical church services. What I am against is with majority (not all) of style of worship style is used to hook people in. The contemporary church movement is the idea that church has become a kind of a spectator sports experience: you go to watch what happens. Churches are staffed very largely by paid professionals financed by the spectators. Very little and sometimes nothing is asked of those people except occasionally to give some money so that the system can continue the production. We are in a narcissistic, self-absorbed, self-centered society.

      “Hey, welcome to our church!” they say. “We want you to be part of our awesome church that is better than the church next door. Here’s your cup of coffee and a donut. Let’s get this party started! We have the crazy light show, smoke machine, cool hipster worship guy up front, and preach only a 20-minute sermon. And FYI: we really won’t ask much of you if you join. All we want is that you show up once a week for a one-hour service so we can tell the higher-ups that we had these many people in a building and tap on our back so we feel good about ourselves!”

      Self-indulgence marks the culture in general. People are basically uninterested in anything that doesn’t accrue to their own benefit. Churches have accommodated them in this thinking, and so churches have become locations where certain forms of religious entertainment are displayed for people who in many cases sit in a dark room and watch the event take place.

      Therefore, I am persuaded that the church today has many more consumers than committed participants. Our tendency toward ecclesiastical consumerism has seriously weakened the church. For most of us, the church is merely an event we attend or an organization we belong to. The passive culture of the modern evangelical church must be forsaken for the ministry model God has so wisely ordained. This is the kind of culture that we have. We have a couch-potato culture on one hand and a fitness culture on the other. In both cases, the idea is to give away your life to satisfy yourself, rather than someone else. These kinds of disciples are nearly useless to Christ and His work. We have a bunch of spiritually obese Christians who need to go out and begin to make disciples.


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