Show Horses or War Horses?

The headline says it loud and clear: Matt Chandler warns Church is no longer about discipleship but ‘being entertained’

As reported by Christian Post, Pastor Matt Chandler’s 12 May sermon challenged The Village Church’s congregation “to participate in the Body of Christ for the purposes of discipleship and community — not entertainment.”

You and I are so overstimulated, you and I are so overwhelmed with fast-paced, energized entertainment that we have developed a real idealized sense of life with a real low pain tolerance. The Church herself no longer is about discipleship, no longer is about being shaped, no longer is it about being formed. It’s about being entertained in the gathering.

Far too many people, Chandler warned, are interested in the more external elements of ministry — such as impressive light shows and worship bands — instead of actually growing the Kingdom of God.

Matt Chandler warns Church is no longer about discipleship but ‘being entertained’

Revelation? Not exactly. If you have been a Christian for a while, this should not surprise you at all. No, this is definitely not a new observation. We should just be thankful that someone is willing to stick his neck out to say it like it is.

That said, Chandler is not the first pastor to mention this and he most certainly will not be the last. As rightly noted by Leah MarieAnn Klett, the Christian Post reporter, “Pastors and church leaders have long warned of the dangers of the entertainment and amusement-driven church.” Consider these familiar statements from A.W. Tozer:

The church that can’t worship must be entertained. And men who can’t lead a church to worship must provide the entertainment.

Worship is no longer worship when it reflects the culture around us more than the Christ within us.

I wonder if there was ever a time when true spiritual worship was at a lower ebb. To great sections of the church, the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the ‘program.’ This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the public service which now passes for worship among us.

A.W. Tozer

Indeed, the Lord, by His grace, will always send His messengers to warn His people so that these might then be awakened, aligned and assigned for Him. I am very certain that more than a few pastors, leaders, preacher and teachers have been issuing this same warning over and over again. However, since these are not big names the likes of Chandler, they will never be quoted or featured. (This is another consequence of the entertainment-celebrity-influenced-church but that is for another post, another day.)

After receiving the assignment of Archippus Awakening to awaken the saints to know and fulfil their God-given kingdom assignments, I was drawn to learn more about the name, Archippus. Since many names in the Bible have prophetic significance, I wondered if there might be a message contained in this rather obscure name. As I discovered that Archippus is about horses (greek: hippos), the Lord revealed the condition of His Church. When I wrote my first book*, Say To Archippus, I devoted an entire chapter to this, aptly titled, “Enough Horsing Around”. I hope you will read the whole book. But for now, allow me to share a relevant section here:

Show Horses or War Horses

There is a very famous horse show that is staged by the Spanish Riding School of Vienna featuring a breed of horses known as Lipizzaners. These horses are so well trained that they can perform each move and execute each jump with precision, finesse and poise. The most challenging, and the most impressive, are the airs above the ground exercises where the horses can strike poses with both or all legs in the air. It is no wonder then that thousands would flock to watch these talented horses.

So precious are these Lipizzaners that through more than a few wars, instructions were specifically given to ensure their safety and survival. On this point, it is interesting to note that although the principles taught are based on the same ones taught to calvary riders to prepare horses for warfare, these show horses were never deployed in war. It seems that they were worth more in a show than on the battlefield.

Could this be symbolic of the Church today?

We certainly know how to put on a good show week after week: the lights are just right, the band is technically competent, the worship leader looks cool, the speaker delivers an inspiring message, the congregation is stirred, and the service ends right on time! In terms of training, we have more material today than we can ever hope to cover in our lifetime. We are spoilt for choice as we feed on the best there is from the most experienced in virtually every field of ministry. From hearing God to knowing our identity in Christ; from inner healing to deliverance from demons; from spiritual disciplines to spiritual warfare; from the apostolic to the prophetic.

But the question must be asked, “Are we like the show horses of Vienna, so nice to watch and so entertaining? Or are we ready for battle?”

Chapter Four: Enough Horsing Around, Say To Archippus, pp45-46.

Since then, whenever I declare the message of Archippus Awakening, I will share this ‘parable’ of show horses. What is encouraging is that leaders have begun to realise that we have bought into the world’s narrative of entertainment and amusement. Most, if not all, confess a certain tiredness from having to “put up a show” week or week, month after month, year after year.

Although everyone means well, this is taking a toll and robbing us of the time and energy needed for deep and authentic discipling relationships. As I have said many times over: It is one thing to preach and teach about discipleship; it is totally another to really and truly disciple. More easily said than done. Why? Because discipleship requires time; and we just don’t have time. Discipleship also requires commitment, but most just prefer entertainment.

I am thankful that Pastor Matt Chandler has used his platform to warn the Church. I pray that more pastors, teachers and leaders will be willing to lovingly and graciously do the same. Even more, may it not remain just another good message from the pulpit with shares and likes on social media. I pray that church leadership will go one step further to honestly (and brutally) examine how they may have, consciously or unconsciously, propagated an entertainment church culture; and then take steps to realign with Jesus and the ways of His kingdom.

Finally, let us acknowledge that it is all too easy to point a finger at pastors and leaders. Please fight the urge and not yield to that temptation. Instead, we should reflect and honestly check ourselves if we have become consumer Christians expecting to be entertained by our leaders and ministry teams. If so, then we will be the ones who will complain the most and present the greatest resistance when kingdom changes are proposed and implemented. God forbid.

My prayer is that as these warnings are issued and heeded, Archippuses will be awakened to the real condition of their hearts and the condition of the Church, be willing to align with Jesus and all that He stands for and be ready to be assigned for the purposes of His kingdom.

“The horse is made ready for battle, but victory rests with the Lord.” Proverbs 21:31 NIV

*To order SAY TO ARCHIPPUS and ALIGNMENT CHECK, email archippusawakening@gmail.com. Also available at CRU Media and Faithworks.

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