Jumping the shark
By Mario Murillo
We are trapped in a highly embarrassing situation: Youth are leaving churches to meet in homes—now get this—to study the Bible and pray. This is happening because many churches have jumped the shark.
Wikipedia says, “’Jumping the shark’ is an idiom used to describe the moment a television show begins a decline in quality, signaled by a particular scene, episode, or aspect of a show in which the writers use some type of gimmick in an attempt to keep viewers’ interest, which is taken as a sign of desperation, and is seen by viewers to be the point at which the show strayed irretrievably from its original formula. The phrase is based on a scene from a fifth-season episode of the sitcom Happy Days when the character Fonzie jumps over a shark while on water-skis.”
The two kinds of churches hit by this youth exodus are: 1. The Seeker (mega) churches. 2. Churches that focus on exotic supernatural experiences.
How Seeker (mega) churches jumped the shark: The idea was that the Gospel—on its own—would not attract the unchurched. They hoped that by adding—enhancements—buttresses—rebranding, they would impact secular culture. Culture won.
They had zero impact on cultural deterioration. While they frantically tinkered, America entered a moral nuclear winter. Violence, debauchery and atheism spiked on their watch. This forced their goal to change from reformation to simply keeping seats full.
In desperation they jump more sharks: Secular music ousts hymns—half-naked women do dance productions—people get tattooed on stage as a backdrop to preaching…and the preaching is mushier than ever.
Then the shocker: The doctrines, values and compelling truth that seeker pastors so assiduously extracted—thinking it would attract youth—is the vacuum that drove them away.
Prophetic/Hyper-supernatural churches are also jumping the shark. Prophecies, encounters with angels, dripping oil, feathers and soul travel are reported with greater frequency…they have to be.
It is not enough for speakers to say they visited the third heaven, now they have to say they do it daily, and finally they say they can do it at will. It is not enough to say Jesus visited them, now their guests are dead ministers—plus, they can invite others to these séances. The sheer abundance of prophetic words, mystical experiences and soul travel that are now required in order to maintain popularity is breathtaking.
Youth are leaving these kinds of churches. They may have oohed and awed for a season—now these extremes make their eyes roll.
We have the best message the world has ever heard. Trying to improve it or spice it up only makes it worse. We have the best book ever written. We have the Holy Spirit to give us grace and power to more than match the evil of our day.
The American church is guilty of wresting away control from the Holy Spirit. We have every advantage and yet we are losing for all the wrong reasons. Never have so many, done so little, with so much!
Yet, we have every reason to be encouraged if our youth are craving the Word of God. In fact, those who are listening and rejecting falsehood are hearing a clear message: God is revealing to all praying people that a glorious new work of the Spirit is about to break forth.
Yes, we can still turn everything around! Our youth are yearning for the Bible—that is awesome news! So get up, let’s go! It starts with these simple declarations:
- The Bible is able to stand against all cultural lies. Preaching the Blood, the Cross, the Second Coming and yes, Hell transforms your pulpit into the place of power. Do not apologize just speak it and watch the Spirit of almighty God make your preaching into something you never imagined.
Recognize the danger signs! When simple Biblical truth no longer thrills you—when you feel the need to be more exotic…stop! Never let the audience clamor for more spooky revelations.
- Crave the towering miracles of the book of acts and not parlor tricks. Kathryn Kuhlman saw awesome power in a reverent atmosphere. The book of Acts and Corinthians are gleaming road maps to the kinds of healings, prophecies and miracles that no culture can stop and no generation can resist.
- Realize that God wants to do great and mighty things even more than we do. He does not need to be convinced to work, nor do we need to invent work to make up for some deficiency in God.
The Holy Spirit is waiting in the wings to lead us out of this mess. Every minister who reads this has the power to repent and receive unquestioned clarity and authority that will make them compelling to youth.