Sunday, November 07, 2004

Emotional Abuse

Reading the messages on a group-list of pastors recently, I came across this post.

“Tonight my wife and I are going to a Sandi Patti concert and tomorrow night we will have ‘The Nations of the World Children’s Choir’ coming to our church.”

My immediate thought was, “Do people still pay money to go see Sandi Patti?” Why not? I’d still pay, though not much, to hear Fats Domino sing or go to a Clint Black or Eagles concert (I have a very eclectic taste in music). Patti does, or did, have a wonderful voice, but I couldn’t see my wife dragging me to a concert hall filled with arm waving women for two hours.

My second thought was, “This pastor is high on emotion.” Two nights of bawling for Jesus is just a bit much. Uplifting, no doubt, but I would think emotionally and physically draining.

I am not against emotion as it’s a part of who we are as God’s creation. However, today’s church has become addicted to emotion to the detriment of having reason and a sound mind. In Christianity today if the worship service doesn’t grab you emotionally the pastor’s sermon has little chance of reaching the soul of the congregation, or so goes the theory. I concede that good singing can make up for bad preaching, but it’s also possible that good preaching can be overshadowed by the performance that precedes it.

I am especially incensed by the “Nations of the World Children’s Choir.” I have no idea who they are sponsored by as there are many such road shows touring the states these days. They go by different names, “African Children’s Choir,” “Romanian Orphans Choir” etc., and they are brought into churches for one express purpose, to raise money by raising emotions.

My brother’s church had such a choir last year at their mission’s conference. He said it was pitiful as the kids “all stood up like trained little monkey’s.” At the conclusion of their performance one little orphan came to the microphone and said in his broken English (which is a sure wallet opener), “I love Jesus, and I love you, too.” At that point they all jumped off stage and went throughout the congregation giving people hugs. The church was awash with sobs and, of course, at that poignant moment, the leader makes his pitch for supporting missions.

There is something unseemly about any person who emotionally manipulates people to support a cause, even a worthy one. It’s even more despicable when the shepherd of the flock fleeces his own sheep by exploiting kids from developing countries. Certainly the Church isn’t the only culprit in emotional manipulation. The Red Cross, United Nations and the Peace Corps, all work from an emotional position to raise funds. It just seems to me, and you can call me heartless if you’d like, that the Church shouldn’t have to stoop to emotional tactics to do what they should do for sake of the Gospel.

In an ideal world, you could argue, we all should do what’s right and not have to be tricked into doing right. But people don’t give to missions because it’s right, they give out of what they can see and feel. No doubt those who have these children’s choirs have raised a lot of money for the kingdom (though I’d love to see what percentage of the money raised actually goes overseas), but do the end always justify the means? Have missions now just become the art of raising funds based on who can touch the heart? Have pastors become so frustrated by the lack of commitment by their people to the Great Commission that they must manipulate them to do what they should be doing anyway? It will take someone with a great deal more wisdom than I have to answer these questions. I want my heart to be in the right place, but I will guard it against those who want to coerce it for their cause.