Profits or Prophets?
In 2012 Reuters reported that a study had been performed in which music created between 1955 and 2010 was drawn from the Milllion Song Data Set and digitally analyzed. Their conclusion? “Pop music (is) too loud and (it) all sounds the same.” This summary became the title of the article. “A team led by artificial intelligence specialist Joan Serra at the Spanish National Research Council ran music from the last 50 years through some complex algorithms and found that pop songs have become intrinsically louder and more bland in terms of the chords, melodies and types of sound used. ‘We found evidence of a progressive homogenization of the musical discourse,’ Serra told Reuters. ‘In particular, we obtained numerical indicators that the diversity of transitions between note combinations – roughly speaking chords plus melodies – has consistently diminished in the last 50 years.'”
I wonder if there were a million sermons and Christian songs in a database, and a similar test could be conducted over the last 100 years, what the results would be? If we went on our passage in 2 Timothy 4:2-4 alone we would know the outcome before the team could be assembled or the first algorithm devised. For decades mainstream Christendom has suffered from the same kind of “homogenization” of its music and Biblical discourse that has affected secular music. In general, these things are getting louder and blander by the day.
What is driving this trend? Undoubtedly, its the same thing that’s driving the secular world. In an attempt to maximize sales, record companies look for music that will create the most revenue. It’s not about creating good music, it’s about creating money. This is the consequence of commercialization. Nearly all of our experiences in the Western World are directly affected by profits.
Profits of Prosperity
Modern Christianity is fast in danger of becoming a non-prophet for profit organism. This has been the trade-off. Sometimes you will hear the peace and prosperity merchants using cynical stereotypes to describe who they call “prophets of doom.” This is what happens when Christianity becomes a profit centered enterprise. What does it do to edify the Body? I’ll tell you. Nothing meaningful. It makes me wonder; if Jesus were to show up in the flesh in the 21st Century, what do you think He would do with the money-changer driven “Pop-Christianity” that dominates our times? If He took his leather whip, as He did when moved in zeal for His Father’s House, where would He head to first? The Christian bookstores? The CCM headquarters? How about the political conventions we have in our denominations? What about the Christian Networks that use satellites and TV stations to teach things they ought not for filthy lucre sake? I dare say there wasn’t a single false teacher in the New Testament that could hold a candle to some of the prophets for profit whose names are on the lips of many Christians in our day.
A False Jesus
I realize the standard picture of Jesus is an effeminate man with a lamb in his arms, but I really have to ask — what would He cleanse first if He should prepare His Church for His return? The homogenization of the faith has produced a form of Christianity that bears little resemblance to the New Testament. What is most dreadful of all is that the masses refuse to even ponder this great problem. It is a hard saying, but it’s almost like today, many don’t have time to learn. People will sacrifice for nonsense, but not give ample resources for their own eternity. Sure, books that puff man up sell and those type preachers captivate their audiences. “Your best life now” sells a million copies, but the pour soul writing about genuine repentance, holiness, or an expounding of the wonders of the New Covenant can’t get the time of day. Why? They won’t sell. There is no money in it. No demand.
One of the top selling genres of so-called Christian books is Amish love stories. Really? Sin and compromise always sells, but if we are to move into Christian reality we are going to have to recognize the hour we are living in. I dare say that the time has come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they heap up for themselves teachers; and they turn their ears away from the truth, and are turned aside to fables. For Paul it was the future, but for us it is now. Let the weight of that sink in. Our generation fits this passage like no other.
The challenge we have is that the very people who are homogenizing Christianity and feeding it to the people have made sure that nothing they ever teach will cause alarm. It like people eat and go into some kind of spiritual food coma. They are asleep to the dreadful times we are living in. If they did become alarmed, they are so spiritually malnourished that they wouldn’t have the strength or courage to do anything. Homogenized Christianity for profit has created a generation of Christian refugees traveling life’s road in perpetual weakness and frailty. Moreover, their entire palate is adjusted for the homogenized and bland stuff in such a way that they can’t stand the taste of anything legitimate. It’s like a person who has not eaten solid food for so long that they can’t handle it anymore.
Indeed, this is our times, but there is no need to despair. Paul gave us the solution; Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. When it’s not popular — Preach the word! When the people don’t want to hear it; Be ready in season and out of season. When they call you a prophet of doom; Convince, rebuke, and exhort. But most of all realize that God warned us of this time. We should have been expecting it to come. He knows about it and He warned us. Therefore do all these things with all longsuffering and teaching. Keep teaching the people. Keep showing them what is happening to them. Not everyone will listen, but some will. Even if nobody listens, we have a mandate from God. This is our calling. This is our commission. This is the charge we must keep.