The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Preaching or performing?

with 30 comments

Some friends and I go out most weeks in Crawley to seek to bring the good news to the people of this town. Today we were few in number, and it wasn’t easy. Despite going for the “Minister from Del Monte” look, Jon Baigent (below) is finding it slow going. It may console Jon for you to know that when I preached, people didn’t just walk past, they actually moved away.

It was a beautiful day, but it was hard work.

I had one tricky non-conversation with an atheist who was angry with me after I had done nothing more than offer her a tract. I had one excellent conversation with two ladies who wanted new bodies to replace their worn ones, and I was able to offer them one.

Of course, part of the difficulty, with the more and the less polite, may have been this, a few yards down the path:

Yes, it’s interpretive gospel dance. I know it’s a little tricky to see, but the lady in white right in the centre is engaged in a variety of slinky moves with a variety of partners symbolising – I believe – a variety of things. Was this an improvement on the flag demonstration? Difficult to say.

I know what I will keep doing, and not just because I don’t have a full complement of gospel dance moves fully worked out yet.

PS Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, a British uberblogger has warmly commended this as a great example of what to do for an Easter celebration:

Did anybody else spot the apostle Paul three rows from the front? Calvin was there having taken the opportunity to break out his little-used dayglo magisterial robe. I think I saw Whitefield somewhere in the middle throwing some shapes. Spurgeon, troubled by gout, was only able to watch from the side, otherwise he doubtless would have been hurling himself into the mix.

Tragedy is the word that springs to mind, and that’s not a recommendation for a backing track with more of a disco feel. I am stopping writing this now before some of the things I am tempted to say spill from my keyboard.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 23 April 2011 at 20:12

Posted in Missiology and evangelism

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30 Responses

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  1. Well Jeremy, who drew the bigger crowd? God can use even this. Perhaps this young lady is showing her love for Christ in the only way she knows how. I know some preachers who ‘perform’ in the pulpit, prancing around and waving their hands. Why is this worse? She is using her God-given beauty and talent in the service of her Lord. Look and Mary Magdalene. Look at the lady washing Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiping them with her hair. Did Jesus condemn her? No, he condemned the pharisees, the religious leaders, who hadn’t bothered to wash his feet. What about Mary the sister of Lazurus who sat at his feet and heard his word? She anointed his feet with expensive ointment. Of course, men didn’t like that! But Jesus DID. At the tomb, what happened? Women saw the empty tomb and were the first to see the risen Christ. They obeyed the command to go and see the disciples but the disciples didn’t believe them! Peter and John went to see for themselves, and seeing the empty tomb and the grave clothes lying there, they believed that Jesus had risen – having totally forgotten that he’d told them it was going to happen! They left Mary Magdalene weeping by the sepulchure. She still believed someone had stolen her Lord’s body! Heartbroke, wanting to show her devotion by honouring His body, she was blinded by tears when a man came up to her. She thought he was the gardener. But then he said her name, and that was enough!

    As for ‘Easter’, perhaps you should do some research into where that word comes from.

    Sarah Field

    Monday 25 April 2011 at 03:17

    • “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:14

      The measure of success isn’t the size of the crowd that is drawn, but rather how much true repentance and saving faith was wrought by the Holy Spirit in those who heard the message.

      I believe that you have your application of scripture to these situations is rather backwards. Those who seek to “dress up” the plain Gospel to be more “attractive” to unbelievers are like the Pharisees, Martha, and all the others that you pointed out who ended up on the wrong side of the story. They put their own ideas of what was important for salvation in front of what Christ declared as important for salvation. Are these dancers emphasizing the crucial elements of the Gospel? Will they compel onlookers to see their sin and need of salvation? I sincerely doubt it…

      All of those in the Bible who saw the glorified Christ fell to their faces on the ground in fearful, humble worship, not gyrate suggestively to techno music.

      Watch a the Voice of the Martyrs videos on Christians in China, and there you will see massive demonstrations of the truest worship that is probably possible this side of heaven. Next to the Chinese Christians’ worship, these dances are clearly vapid and meaningless. True worship consists of a broken and contrite heart, crying out to God for mercy and forgiveness.


      Monday 25 April 2011 at 04:39

      • Sarah Field

        Monday 25 April 2011 at 22:12

      • How would you treat a converted prostitute? Would her expressions of worship be wrong if they weren’t just the singing of traditional hymns? How else would you allow her to express devotion to Christ? She’s not allowed to ‘teach or have authority over men’ (according to the old King James Version, which admittedly was translated by misguided men), she has to ‘be silent in church’ and ‘see that she reverence her husband.’ I recommend Sharon James’ book ‘God’s design for Women.’

        Sarah Field

        Monday 25 April 2011 at 22:22

        • I think that this discussion is fast heading in an unhelpful direction, as well as wandering off the topic. I hereby draw it to a close.

          Jeremy Walker

          Monday 25 April 2011 at 22:31

    • Well, well; phew; and, yoicks! Where to begin? I trust you will allow me to deal with your comments as they arise, rather than bundle them all together?

      Some thoughts:

      The size of the crowd or the ability to draw one is not the issue. I am sure that someone having a fight, sitting in a bath full of baked beans, or taking their clothes off, for example, would probably have drawn an even bigger crowd (unless the last instance were me, in which case there mere announcement of the event would set a record for the emptying of the square).
      The issue is not about the beauty and talent of the people in question, but about God’s appointed means for the spreading of the gospel. In that sense, neither is the issue about God’s ability to use whatever or whomever he will for his glory (a mercy for any of us), but about his declarations to bless what he commands.

      I am not sure if the prancing, hand-waving preacher is meant to be an allusion to my preaching style. I presume not, but – in case – I gladly confess to the charge of seeking to communicate the truth of the gospel with my whole self in the act of preaching, but utterly repudiate any likeness to a dance performance (as anyone who has seen me preach, or indeed seen me [full stop], might readily attest). There is – or ought to be – nothing of performance in the pulpit, in that sense. You are trying to compare two things of utterly different order.

      I acknowledge that all the people you have cited are in the Bible, but – beyond that – I fail to see the relevance of those citations to the question. They don’t have a great deal to do with worship, and certainly have very little to do with the matter of the proclamation of the gospel.

      I am afraid that you find me sadly ignorant on the true etymology of Easter. Perhaps you would be kind enough to enlighten us with the fruits of your own research, and demonstrate the relevance of the answer?

      To add some further points:

      “For ‘whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.’ How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!’ But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our report?’ So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10.13-17).

      God sent men to preach the good news in order for the gospel to advance. It was by that means that Christ was placarded before people as crucified (Gal 3.1). If I may offer the paraphrase that never was of 2 Timothy 2.1-2:

      “Timothy, my dancing days are over. To be honest, things got a little tricky after the first or second beating when the joints began to stiffen up. It’s time for me to hang up the sequinned disco boots. You will need to find a group of supple fellows, ideally those with a taste for tighter trousers and pastel shades, and form them into an interpretive dance collective. If there are any with real talent, get them into shape and commission them as a sort of breakout troupe to cover the bridge – trust me, Tim, they’ll still be doing this in Houston two thousand years from now – and make sure that when they too begin to look like dancing dads, they’re ready to go all Louis Spence with the next generation.”

      Is that really it? I didn’t pluck the examples of Paul, Calvin, Whitefield and Spurgeon from thin air. I could have mentioned others, like Hus, Latimer, Knox and others, who spent themselves declaring the good news as faithful ambassadors of Jesus Christ, preaching the good news to be spiritually comprehended by sinners in whom the Spirit of the Christ was powerfully at work to open their blind eyes. Christ did not send Paul and those to whom he passed the gospel baton to open the eyes of the Gentiles by busting some moves, but by speaking the truth concerning the crucified and risen Jesus.

      Jeremy Walker

      Monday 25 April 2011 at 16:25

      • Think of the crowds Jesus pulled. He did some pretty sensational things, wouldn’t you say? And so did His disciples – just look at the Day of Pentecost.

        Sarah Field

        Monday 25 April 2011 at 22:11

        • Again, the point is not the crowds, or lack of them (and, indeed, if you look at the pictures, you will see that the dancing does not draw more crowds, it simply has a larger number of people walking past). By the same token, you could point to the way Jesus died – utterly deserted by all – and say that this is a paradigm for ministry.

          The point is what is right, not what is immediately popular.

          Jeremy Walker

          Monday 25 April 2011 at 22:20

  2. PS King David of Israel, a “man after God’s own heart.” A polygamist, adulterer, murderer. He danced naked before the Lord, and his wife despised him for it. So it’s not just women who can be like this. It all depends on your personality, genes, history and God-given talent.

    Sarah Field

    Monday 25 April 2011 at 03:21

    • Again, it is from the Bible, but doesn’t really speak to this issue, not least because David had no command from the Lord to institute his dancing as part of the public worship of God nor as a means of overcoming the Philistines (I suppose that there is a slim chance that Goliath would have died laughing, but I still think the sling stone the better bet), and – even if he had received such a command – no such command is given in the New Testament.

      It is absolutely not to do with “your personality, genes, history and God-given talent” but with the will of God made known to his church. No amount of personality, degree of genetic predisposition, length of history or weight of talent allows one to abandon God’s Word no ignore his explicit statements with regard to the progress of his kingdom.

      Jeremy Walker

      Monday 25 April 2011 at 16:31

      • You’ll have to explain the link between David’s dancing and killing Goliath. I don’t understand.

        Sarah Field

        Monday 25 April 2011 at 22:09

        • My point is that either as worship or warfare there was no mandate from God for ordaining David’s dancing as a regular and required way of proceeding. To claim David’s dancing as justification for doing the same (and often, by implication, much else that we might like to do) is simply not legitimate.

          Jeremy Walker

          Monday 25 April 2011 at 22:14

          • Worship is to involve our whole lives, the giving of self as a living sacrifice to God, which is our reasonable service. This includes warfare.

            Sarah Field

            Monday 25 April 2011 at 22:27

  3. God has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, to give liberty to the captives, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord… Our God makes the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the dumb to sing, the lame to walk, the prisoner to break free of his chains!

    Jeremy, LISTEN

    Sarah Field

    Monday 25 April 2011 at 03:27

    • To what? Honestly, I should be grateful if you would explain how this passage undoes God’s plain commands regarding the proclamation of the gospel.

      Jeremy Walker

      Monday 25 April 2011 at 16:33

      • Ok… Jesus was set apart by His Father and sent to tell poor people the good news, to set free those in chains (eg the man possessed by the legion of demons), to make the blind see (eg Bartimeaus) the dumb speak (eg the nobleman’s son with the deaf and dumb demons). “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but those who are sick do. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” In Ephesians 2 we see what we were, and what we have been made by God’s grace. In Ezekiel 37/38 we see how God can make dry bones live.

        Sarah Field

        Monday 25 April 2011 at 22:07

        • Fine, so Jesus came to preach . . . not to dance?

          Jeremy Walker

          Monday 25 April 2011 at 22:20

          • My point is, preaching – proclaiming a message – can be done through music, drama and dance as well as reading and quoting Puritan books.

            Sarah Field

            Monday 25 April 2011 at 22:26

            • I disagree, and not just because you are trying to set up a false dichotomy.

              Jeremy Walker

              Monday 25 April 2011 at 22:28

  4. PS Keep up the good work, and thank you for sharing that lovely video clip.

    Sarah Field

    Monday 25 April 2011 at 03:31

  5. PPS Let’s face it, your brother Dan performs constantly! And he’s a bigger influence in British society that you are. You in your small corner, and I in mine.

    Sarah Field

    Monday 25 April 2011 at 03:33

    • I have nothing but esteem for my extremely professional and very talented brother. He has gifts and graces that I manifestly lack. In trying to make sense of your contention, two things spring to mind, both of which render the comparison rather pointless. Firstly, to attempt to make a comparison between his work and the work of preaching the gospel is to try to compare apples and oranges, or chalk and cheese. Secondly, while comparing my brother to the dancer may in some way move into the realm of comparing citrus fruits (although I would suggest that there is a lot of difference still between the lime and the lemon), the dancer is trying to get herself into the apple category by her intentions. So, whichever way you look at it, your comparison carries us nowhere, especially when we ask to what end one seeks to attain and employ ‘influence,’ and what is the value of having it?

      Jeremy Walker

      Monday 25 April 2011 at 16:51

      • You and your brother are both followers of Christ, and have essentially the same goal in life – to bring glory to God.

        Sarah Field

        Monday 25 April 2011 at 22:00

  6. First of all, commendations to you Jeremy & your brethren for persevering in proclaiming the whole gospel in public despite the rocky spiritual soil & confused “religious expression” around you.

    As for the interpretive dance(s), it made me sad. How many gullible souls will be deluded into a false hope of salvation by the hollow “gospel” on parade there? Also, I fear that the vast majority of the viewers of that spectacle will watch it for all the wrong reasons, either feeding their lusts or confirming their presumptions about the apparent shallowness of most “christianity”. The one minor redeeming factor of the whole spectacle was that some needy people got new shoes. I wish that they had just donated the shoes without the publicity stunt…


    Monday 25 April 2011 at 04:16

    • “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Mt 6.1).

      I sense that you would agree that this verse at least suggests that a 2000-strong dance-off, subsequently posted on YouTube, drawing attention to the fact that you have given some footgear to the deserving poor, may be slightly misguided?

      Thanks muchly for the encouragement.

      Jeremy Walker

      Monday 25 April 2011 at 16:57

      • Heartily agreed. Thanks for adding the Biblical support for that concern.


        Tuesday 26 April 2011 at 02:30

  7. It is my belief that you have been indoctrinated by chauvinist American theologians. Do you believe that “ALL scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable..?” Or that there are ways of sharing the gospel other than preaching a traditional sermon? examples – ‘friendship evangelism’ (to spell it out, telling your friends about Jesus), social work in the community (done by mums every week through their church parent/toddler groups etc).

    Sarah Field

    Monday 25 April 2011 at 21:58

    • And you are very free to believe it, Sarah. However, I would not for one moment suggest that “preaching a traditional sermon” is the only way to spread the good news (as anyone who hears me regularly would attest). But I would also contend that the God-ordained means for the spread of good news involves the plain communication of truth by means of words, backed up and enhanced and commended by holiness of life.

      Jeremy Walker

      Monday 25 April 2011 at 22:27

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