Chapter 32: "Conferences?""Concerts?"
NOW don’t you dare read this chapter without reading all that precedes it — you will really miss my meaning if you don’t understand the “why’s” and the alternatives! But once again the key question is: “Is Jesus truly the Head, or not?”
Let’s let Him be. No more “flesh on parade” with minimal accountability. That’s how so many big‑name traveling music and preaching folks have gotten into serious trouble. It is His CHURCH (“Ekklesia,” “community”) — not talented or even dedicated individuals, that the gates of Hell cannot prevail against. It is His CHURCH (“community”) that is the “Pillar and Foundation of Truth.” It is His CHURCH that “makes known the manifold wisdom of God to the principalities and powers.” “Christ in YOU (plural) — the Hope of GLORY!”
Instead of “concert” posters with mere men’s names and faces advertised, and the horror of “autograph” signing, we had better consider returning to God’s Way (as the Church returns to really being the Church)! A gift being expressed extra‑locally should likely begin this way: the gifted one offers his life, his service as a “doulos” (a slave, a normal Christian), in the little practical things (Luke 16:10‑12) to the church in his city of which he is a part. He becomes known as one “of good report;” he is emanating the Life of Jesus and bearing His Fruit. Through the course of normal life, that church invites the churches in other surrounding communities to gather with them at times. And if this tested “of good report” brother has gifts (music or otherwise) to share with the Body of Christ at large, he’ll do that, just as the others do! If that gift is such that it would be an encouragement to the church in far‑reaching lands, no doubt he will be sent out by the church (see Acts 13:1‑4) along with other gifted men. There will be an accountability and brotherhood there that will challenge the pride and temptations that will eventually gain a foothold otherwise.
“See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But admonish (encourage, warn) one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
The land is strewn with dead (or dying) men still singing songs and gathering crowds — though their lives are filled with pornography, materialism, temper, conceit and other unthinkable sin. (This is really happening amongst well‑known musicians.) Christian music vendors around the world sing the same songs in the same order with the same intros, intermingling songs with the same rehashed touching stories and now‑canned spiritual remarks…city after city.
I’m hopeful that not all are that way. And it usually didn’t start out that way.
In the beginning, it was a man who wanted to express his gift to God and his brothers and sisters, and the “church” of which he was a part couldn’t build or utilize that gift due to its improper foundation. He was forgotten or ridiculed or quenched. He was then encouraged by his friends to “give it a whirl” in the music industry; to have his own “ministry.” (Can you imagine “Jesus of Nazareth Ministries” on the side of the fishing boat that Jesus crossed the Galilee in? Or a “radio ministry” introduced by the equivalent of, “Heeere’s Jesus!” Or “Saul of Tarsus Ministries,” with a neat logo, emblazoned on calling cards that Paul distributed?)
At one time, an honest, humble man offered to his Family the prayers and praises and encouragements that God had placed on his heart. But somehow, slowly, it had become a performance and a way to make a living. He wasn’t a brother who would encourage in song anymore, but “a singing artist.”
He used to say before singing a particular song:
“Please listen to the words of this song — you need to join me in this prayer to our Father!”
Now, in a not-necessarily-all-that-subtle expression of spiritual lethargy and “performance,” before singing the same song, it’s
“I wrote this song back before my hair was gray!” (“Audience” laughs.)
Hardness of heart and worldly conformity will set in, even in the most committed, when the “gift” they bear is not overflowing from the Life of the local church. It doesn’t need to be this way! Erosion will occur when God’s Ways are lost in the shuffle, or ignored, and the “ministry” becomes an independent entity that “uses” the local church or an advisory board as a figure‑head substitute for daily accountability to God’s People in His Church. A man, or woman, in such a disjointed, individualistic situation will often encounter much trauma as their marriages and children suffer needlessly. They will find themselves going to hear “sermons” in order to find inspiration for new songs, rather than to have their lives changed. All of this is unnecessarily tragic. There’s a better way!
Instead of a “concert” in a city headlining a mere man, what if, as in the first century, a team of men with Ephesians 4:11 gifts were traveling together from city to city as God directed. In the midst of those men was one with possibly a gift of music that was clearly (as with the others travelling with him with different gifts) to be a gift to the whole Body of Christ, rather than a “local Church” gift only. All of those men, upon arriving in a city, offer their gifts in the context of the daily fabric of the local, visible church that is in that city.
Instead of the usual concert poster, in the context of Life that poster could read:
God’s People, in the Power of the Holy Spirit,
will likely be gathering en masse at the Eagle Creek Pavilion
next Thursday evening after dinner.
As usual, we will together see how God leads us to Celebrate His Goodness!
And some trustworthy gifted men of God from Bucharest
and Miami, bearers of Light, Righteousness, Love,
and Gifts from Heaven in their various forms,
will be joining us, Lord willing.
Possibly God will use them in our midst as well.
Be sure and spread the word amongst the gatherings of
Believers of which you are a part between now and then,
and, of course, amongst the un‑Believers you know as well!
Oh, the integrity and security of such a thing! In our 20th-century worldly ways, if a “star” stayed up watching pornography and indulged his or her flesh in the hotel suite the night before a concert, who would know? And, (Thank you, P.T.) “The Show Must Go On!” What concerts do you know of (once the name has hit the charts) that have been canceled because the man or woman knew that he or she was out of fellowship with the Spirit and it would be hypocritical to pretend?
The momentum behind our worldly way to have religion and “ministry” is tremendous. “The auditorium is already rented!” “The television contract won’t allow us to back out…we’d better just get our act together and go on.” “But I have a contract with this publisher to write two more books in the next year….”
These, and a myriad of other dilemmas, would never force us to run ahead of God (disobey Him) if we had not so mangled the church and the expression of gifts in the church. We have boldly intermixed worldly and music‑vending showbiz principles with the Divine. That’s not good! Let’s bag the old and embrace God’s Way — it’s far better.
What about “Conferences?” Workshops, Lectureships, Seminars, Revival Meetings, Gospel Meetings…? Is it possible for Believers from different cities to gather? Of course! The more the better!
Then how would something like that work?
You’re probably assuming by now that it won’t be a few “stars” chosen a year in advance, flown into town (often First Class), set up at the Hyatt Regency, and asked to deliver a speech or two on some predetermined cleverly-titled subject. They then, to continue the far too accurate description of the norm, climb on their winged horses and gallop out of town, not to be seen again until the next extravaganza. (Meanwhile, who are they really? Is their life the “demonstration of the Spirit’s Power?” You won’t ever know. And if not, what does it matter what they say?) Could that be Jesus’ way? Is that what Peter, John, Paul, and other men of God who knew Jesus did? Certainly not. And that is one strong reason why conference attenders by the thousands never really manifest the holiness, love, and power of God in their own lives, no matter how many conferences or workshops they pilgrimage to. Year after year spiritual poverty rampages their personal lives, families, and churches. Why?
What is wrong with the mode of religious activities today that includes christian “experts,” “stars,” and “special guest speakers and performers?” This is a little hard to express, but bear with me for a moment. God never promised to transform lives through things that are projected from a stage to an “audience.” Jesus, the Rosetta Stone, the Translation Key of the Father’s Heart, wasn’t like that.
God’s way to transform lives is this:
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”
“You are manifestly an epistle of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.”
“But we [Paul, Silas, Timothy] were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we heralded to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would have a walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”
The Good News of Jesus and His Body on earth was, and is, brought in the context of LIFE, not in speeches or performances. Paul likened himself to a mother, a brother, and a father. Did your mother set the family in rows and columns and deliver speeches to you? Families aren’t grown up in a classroom test tube. They walk together. “Consider that field over there….”
That’s how our Lord lived with them…and changed them. “It is the same now.”
“For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.”
“Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out.”
John 1:4, 14
“The Life became the Light of men…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory.”
The gifts of God aren’t delivered from behind a pulpit or from a stage. They are “in our midst.” Their “lives” bring the Light. They express themselves “among us” — not as traveling speech‑givers and heroes of profundity.
So what are the alternatives? How can we tap the gifts in the Body of Christ on a multi‑city level? Again, my desire is to provoke you to pursue the Head, Jesus Himself — not to run after gimmicks, new or old. For that reason, and because I’m still learning myself, I’m not going to give you much. But here’s a thought to carefully pray about, as a seed for the future, when God does pour forth His Light and Splendor:
Dear Saints. Some tested, fruitful men will be in our city for however long God directs. These men have kicked in satan’s teeth in cities all over the globe.
Spread the word amongst the different gatherings you
are in through the next week that the whole church will
be together daily (for as much as you can get there for), beginning next Thursday…for who knows how long!
No doubt many of you will see the
manifestations of Godliness in the
highways and byways and from house to house
as these men are in our midst to show us
God’s Love and washbasin. Seek “equipping” (Eph.4:11‑17)!
The “Dome” is reserved for us,
beginning at eight in the morning each day.
Come having considered how you might
“spur one another on to love and good works.”
Bring your gifts to the streets and the gatherings,
and these brothers, as God directs, will bring theirs.
Let’s celebrate Jesus together and see what happens!
100 As in the televangelism circuit, it is common knowledge in the christian music “industry” that many powerful songs written and “performed” in the last decade have been written by those practicing immorality in various forms. Even the tape and CD covers of many of the most popular christian artists are embellished with photographs taken by a man known (by the artists themselves) to be an occultic guru. Personally ask your favorite artist if he is not aware of, or even utilizing such ungodly men to promote their music. “Brothers, it ought not be so!” By His Grace, it can all be turned around! Back