Graham Allen, host of the Dear America Podcast over at Blaze Media, had the lead singer John Cooper of Skillet. They had a fascinating conversation, ultimately describing the phenomenon I call the Popularity Gospel. It began with Graham Allen explaining how he believes the 501c3 is the worst thing to happen to the church because it neutered congregations. It got deeper when Cooper states that on Christian tours he would state that Jesus is “everything or nothing” which stirred offense among people who wanted to party for Jesus. He goes onto explain:
What I think that has happened over this last 20 years is that the church has been trying to make young people happy by in my view, not speaking truth and not speaking out about issues that the Bible seems to be pretty clear about, right, because they’re like, “We don’t want to be too offensive. And I mean, it’s every single week there’s a new article that comes out from millennials saying, “This is why we’re leaving the church. They never listen to our ideas, and we’re all gone. So I think the church’s response to that has been we don’t need to be so black-and-white about truth and [instead] love people. And so a lot of churches in my view have boiled it down to this: love God with all of your heart and love people, and that’s all that really matter. But if you don’t teach what it means to love God, then people just attribute their own ideas of love to what Jesus is into, you know? They go, “Well, this is what love means to me, and I know God is love, so therefore Jesus must be into X, Y, or Z.” Right? And so what really was hard for me is that I go on tour with a lot of Christian artist, some are amazing and love God, and I really respect them. Some of them, I’m like, “I am not sure that you’re saved.” We talked about the Lord and I’m like, “yeah, I don’t think that you are, but you’re the worship pastor for the tour.” It’s kinda weird right? And I found myself talking and I would try to talk to younger people about what the Word says on the road sometimes. They just don’t want to hear it. And I started noticing there’s this bizarre trend of people that are like “I’m totally into Jesus, I just don’t really believe in the Bible.” And so I just started going, “Okay, this is a new thing.” This is a new thing we’re seeing in society.
Graham Allen points out the inconsistency of this worldview. John Cooper continues:
To me, it is the spawn of post-modernism, of how post-modernism has taken over. Now we’re seeing academia, of course, social media culture… Now that is coming into the church too. Like, “Yeah, God is love, and we can all have different ideas of what that means. And I just thought, you know what, if this costs me fans, I don’t even care. This is too much, and the church is not doing her job.” I just though I’m gonna write something, might cost me fans. I don’t really care. But the amazing thing that happened was that I wrote something. Then it’s like the sleeping majority of Christians in America were like, “Hey, I’ve been thinking that too. We’ve been talking about it at dinner.
Graham Allen expresses that this is what he’s observed and talked to with his pastor as well. John Cooper gets it. He understands the problem that I’ve coined as the Popularity Gospel. The systematic dumbing down of Christianity to chase after the young people who are leaving the church has created an environment in many churches where they come for the entertainment value rather than the deeper spiritual needs of discipleship. But Jesus is everything or nothing. There is no middle ground where Jesus’ teachings are valuable.
The dumbing down of Christianity by the Popularity Gospel directly leads to the belief that the Bible is not authoritative (for anything other than positive quotes.) And if the Bible is not authoritative, then the Bible is also not inerrant, for the Bible claims to be authoritative.
But the Popularity Gospel is built on a throne of lies. The phenomenon of young people turning away from God isn’t new. The Bible cannot be made politically correct, inoffensive, without removing the core truth from it. And the Bible is both inerrant and authoritative. It is the source of knowledge and wisdom as it relates to knowing God and knowing what God’s love is and therefore how to love your neighbor in a godly way.
Too many leaders and musicians that lead Christians do not understand Christianity, Marty Sampson for example. But John Cooper articulates the significance of the resurrection and what it should mean to us.
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