Archibald Brown: “Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats” – An Article From 1889 About Gimmicks in Worship
In 1889, Archibald Brown wrote The Devil’s Mission of Amusement. One excerpt from that book is the article called “Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats”, is often falsely attributed to Charles Spurgeon. Archibald was a contemporary and friend of Spurgeon, and what he said is nevertheless true, wise, and very applicable to the Church today.
“An evil is in the professed camp of the Lord, so gross, so impudent, that the most short-sighted can hardly fail to notice it. It has worked like leaven so that now the whole lump ferments. During the past few years it has developed at an abnormal rate, ever evil. The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing that hinting to the church that part of their mission was to provide entertainment for the people with a view to winning them. From speaking out, the church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day; then she has tolerated them in her borders. Now she has adopted them under the plea of ‘reaching for the masses.’
My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in Scripture as a function of the church. If it is Christian work, why did Christ not speak of it? ‘Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel,’ that is clear enough. So would it have been if He said, ‘And provide amusement for those who do not relish the Gospel.’ No such words are found! Then, ‘He gave some apostles, some prophets, some pastors and teachers -for the work of the ministry.’ Where do entertainers come in? The Holy Ghost is silent concerning them. Were the disciples persecuted because they amused the people, or because the refused? The Gospel of Amusement has no martyr roll! Providing amusement is in direct antagonism to the teaching and of Christ and His apostles. What did He say? ‘Ye are the salt,’ – not sugar-candy. He said, ‘Let the dead bury the dead,’ He was in awful earnestness. Had He introduced ‘bright and pleasant’ elements He would have more popular. When many went back because of the searching nature of His preaching, I do not hear Him saying, ‘Run after those friends, Peter, and tell them we will have a different style of preaching tomorrow. Something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it. Be quick, Peter, we must get the people somehow.’ Jesus pitied sinners, sighed over them, but He never sought to amuse them. In vain will the epistles be searched to find any trace of Gospel amusement. Their message is: Come out – keep out – keep clean out! How did the apostles carry on their work? Anything approaching fooling is conspicuous by its absence. They had boundless confidence in the Gospel and employed no other weapon. After Peter and John were locked up for preaching, they had a prayer meeting, but they did not pray, ‘Lord grant unto Thy servants that by a wise and discriminating use of recreation they may show the people how happy we are.’ If they ‘ceased not’ from preaching Christ, they had no time for arranging entertainments. Scattered by persecution, they went everywhere ‘preaching the word.’ They ‘turned the world upside down upside down… Lord clear the church of this rot and rubbish! The Mission of Amusement fails to effect the end desired. It works havoc among young converts. Let they heavy laden who found peace through the concert not keep silent. Let the drunkards to whom entertainment had been God’s link in the chain of their conversion stand forth. There are none to answer. There are none! The Missions of Amusement has no converts.
How about the other side? Though I have never seen a sinner saved by this method, I have seen any number of backsliders manufactured by this new method. Over and over young people have come to me in tears who have followed this method and fallen into evil. A young man told me, ‘I never thought of going to the theater until my minister said there was no harm in it.’ When young converts begin to damp off and forsake prayer meetings, etc., I almost always find that worldly Christianity was responsible. Under the pretense of ‘reaching the world’ it is carrying its sons and daughters back into the world. I swill be no wonder if the Holy Ghost withdraws His presence. ‘Come out’ is the call for today! Cast down the world’s altars. Cut down her groves. Renounce the policy of the age. Grasp the Book of God. Trust the Spirit who wrote it. Fight with this weapon only! Cease to amuse and seek to arouse. Give up trying to please folk who have only the thickness of their ribs between their souls and hell. Let the Church again confront the world; testify against it; meet it only behind the cross and like her Lord, she shall overcome and share the victory.”