In yet the latest example of the nonsensical madness taking place in many contemporary, entertainment-based churches, a disturbing video of a Youth Class in which students were encouraged by the Pastor to spit on, slap him in the face and even cut his bare back with a steak knife in order to “teach them about Jesus”, has gone viral. Not only was this ridiculous stunt potentially traumatic to the children involved, it is yet the latest sign of the end times apostasy – the prophesied falling away in the Church from teaching sound Biblical doctrine in favor of entertainment, person-centered teachings and gimmickry.
According to reports:
“The young people lined up as if they were preparing to receive communion, but instead of accepting bread and wine from the associate pastor at Impact City Church in Pataskala, Ohio, they spit in his face.
Then, they slapped him.
Finally, at least one carved into his back with a steak knife.
The violence unfolded at the pastor’s own encouragement, as an after-school lesson on Monday about the crucifixion — doled out nearly a week before Easter — revealed the perils of trying to reenact scriptural teachings.
The episode at the church was intended as an illustration of love. Instead, it became a parable about the readiness of children to perpetrate violence, sending a disquieting signal of how quickly some young people descend into the sort of savagery fictionalized in William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies.”
“The students were caught off guard,” the lead pastor, Justin Ross, recalled on Monday night. “Some got excited because they never had an opportunity to spit in someone’s face.”
The Pressure To Be “Relevant” – Downfall Many Churches Today
Impact City markets itself as: “a modern, non-denominational, church that focuses on being both relational and relevant. In simple terms, we want to help connect you with people you enjoy “doing life” with while on your journey of growing closer to God, closer to each other, and closer to your purpose!” (source).
This type of language and terminology is very commonly used in the modern “relevant” and “hip” churches that are laser-focused on church growth over the preaching of sound doctrine itself. Marketing firms, consultants and “toolkits” are used all over America by pastors seeking to make a splash in their “community.” Using catchy phrases, making church as informal as possible and deemphasizing the “scary” parts of the Bible while relying on entertainment, pop culture references and socializing are the foundation. All of this reflects a lack of faith in what is the most powerful gift God has given Christians – His Word.
Many contemporary churches are devoid of any belief in the supernatural power of the Bible. Scripture is clear – marketing techniques, light shows, great music and phenomenal entertainment may pack seats, but it does not make a believer in The Lord Jesus Christ:
“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, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.” – Romans 10:14-18
Faith comes from hearing the Word of God. It is the power of God’s divinely-inspired Word that brings the Light of God into the heart and mind of an unsaved soul. It’s the preaching of the Word that changes hearts from rebellion against God to humble obedience, repentance and love. Jesus Christ said:
“It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” – John 6:63
Romans 1:16 says: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” – Romans 1:16-17
Time and time again the Bible stresses that the power of God is in the Word. There is nothing wrong with making church fun. There is nothing wrong with promoting believers to have fellowship, play games or have God-honoring parties. But first and foremost a Pastor’s duty is to preach and teach the Bible – soundly and accurately. When a church is relying on marketing, entertaining and using tactics to try and keep youth engaged and attending, the result is nonsense stunts like that seen at Impact Ohio.
This is not the first example of this. Beginning And End has detailed a number of outrageous behavior by Pastors in the modern “relevant” church:
- Pastor Troy Grambling of Potential Church sitting in a car that was intentionally set on fire in the church parking lot during service.
- A Pastor flying into church on a zip line over the heads of his audience to reach the stage at the start of Sunday Service while the “Mission Impossible” movie theme blares from the speakers.
- Pastor Ed Young and his wife placing a bed on the roof of the church to sleep in and then placing their bed on the stage during service for their “Sex Series.”
Where Is Biblical Leadership?
Almost as disturbing as Impact Ohio’s Youth Torture Party was the response of their lead pastor. In an uncut, unedited video posted by the lead Pastor and the Youth Pastor in question, their apology is given. The video is below:
While we credit Pastor Justin Ross for posting a response to this incident right away, there were still some concerns with the content of his statement.
No emphasis on The Word:
“Each Monday we invite students to come across the street, a place where they can hang out with their friends. We provide activities for them, we feed them. As part of that program we also take five minutes to do a deposit of faith in the students. A chance where we can share the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.”
Most youth night programs can run anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours. According to Impact City’s website, they can run from 2:00PM until 5:30. And in this time, the Youth Pastor spends 5 minutes giving a message? Does this sound like a ministry that believes in using the Word as the “power of God?” Does this sound like a youth pastor who is training children up and emphasizing Biblical teaching?
“The reactions are appropriate. Many of you were disgusted, many of you were hurt by this, many of you were very confused. Why this would be taking place in a church, in a youth group? And we agree, it was inappropriate for this audience. And there is really no excuse for why it happened.”
Credit the Pastor for being accountable for this terrible event, acknowledging the outrage of parents and observers and stating there was “no excuse.” This is a fine example of leadership. However, in this segment and one other time the Pastor stated that the torture event was not appropriate for “this audience” – implying that because these were children and teens, they should not have done it. But if this were an adult class, that it would have been permissible.
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Note that in this passage the Apostle Paul (a former Pharisee who was well-trained in the Word of God) repeatedly emphasizes that he did not rely on his “excellency of speech” or “enticing words of man’s wisdom” in order to preach. He stuck to God’s Word and “knew nothing” else. The “crucifixion illustration” is a perfect example of man’s wisdom. Why not just sit the children down and reach the account of the trial and crucifixion of Christ? This is the central story of the entire Bible. If this can’t just be read to children (who must – dare we say it – sit in silence and listen) then what part of the Bible can be taught?
“This part did not get posted on social media. After Jaddeus allowed them to spit on him, slap him and cut him, he sat them down and explained to them about this guy named Jesus who thousands of years ago, he was put on trial for a crime He did not commit.
And he was beaten, he was broken, he was whipped. He was crucified. He died as an innocent man. We believe Jesus had the power at any point to stop them. To stop those that were hurting him. But he chose to allow it to happen … in order to take the payment of our debt that we call sin.”
Interesting that the Pastor used this incident to now state the Gospel quite accurately (though referring to The Lord Jesus Christ as “this guy” is quite irreverent). Praise God that the Gospel was preached. But why could this not have been done in the class? Why did it take a youth Pastor removing his shirt, giving a steak knife to an incredulous group of students and asking them to cut his back? And notice there was no discipline announced. Is this youth Pastor still going to be trusted to teach children?
Pray For Repentance
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” – 2 Timothy 4:2-4
Pray for Ohio Impact City Church and the many hundreds of pastors all over the world following this same “growth model” for their own congregations. Being a pastor is an honorable, God-given and very thankless role. It is not easy and the pressures a Pastor endures are exponential to their average congregant. But what sustains them through the trials and spiritual warfare of being the head of a flock of believers is The Word.
It takes an unyielding reliance on God’s Word and prayer-filled life of humility to lead and teach the Church of God. Pray for Pastor Ross to consider reevaluating his approach and making sure men and women who are experienced in The Bible with established doctrinal knowledge take lead of the church and that preaching and teaching form the church’s foundation. The message of the Bible has never been more relevant in human history. All we need are some brave Christians to open the book and share it.