NASHVILLE — H.B. Charles Jr., the pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, is highlighting the dangers of today’s “idolatrous” celebrity pastor culture, warning that “in leaning over to reach the world, the Church is falling in.”
“There is the temptation for the Church to be influenced by the world and not the other way around,” Charles told The Christian Post during a sit-down interview. “As a result, entertainment-driven worship can infiltrate the local church. And entertainment-driven worship has a byproduct of producing celebrities in those who sing and those who teach and those who lead. The infiltration of wrong values can cause us to exalt people or things. This is idolatrous because they rival Christ in our affections.”
The Western Church has enjoyed “privileges” that have made it “slothful,” the pastor said, adding, “I feel like the Lord is waking us up during this period to take our faith more seriously and to take our witness more seriously.”
Western Christians, Charles said, would do well to learn from the persecuted Church. “They understand that they cannot be married to culture,” he said. “They know there’s a clear line between the Church and the world.”
“They are under no illusion that what they represent as followers of Jesus Christ is opposed and that they are to be witnesses for Him no matter what,” he contended. “In contrast, the Church in America is tempted to try to fit in, in order to reach the culture. In some instances, in leaning over to reach the world, the Church is falling in.”
Every aspect of corporate worship, Charles said, should be a means of “making disciples of Jesus Christ,” from the preaching of the Word to singing.
“Faithful shepherds are needed to oversee the worship life of the Church to keep the Church focused on the Word of God,” he said. “Every element of a worship service must be geared around the Word of God so that we sing the Scriptures, read the Scriptures, pray the Scriptures, preach the Scriptures and enact the Scriptures in prayer and the ministry of the word.”
“We need to build safeguards around the Church so that the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ are central,” Charles added.
Charles, who has authored a number of books including A Biblical Answer for Racial Unity, was a keynote speaker at the 2019 Sing! Worship Music Conference, hosted by Keith and Kristyn Getty. The conference, which also featured John Piper, Joni Eareckson Tada, Trip Lee, and Fernando Ortega, highlighted the urgency of building deep believers in the 21st century through singing the Scriptures.
Charles highlighted the importance of sound doctrine in worship music, but clarified that there’s “nothing wrong with being emotional and intimate in our singing.”
“There’s no better example of intimacy in music than in Psalm 23,” he told CP. “The language there is very intimate: ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.’ Yet, this emotion has to drive us back to Christ or it becomes self-worship and self-affirmation.”
The host of The On Preaching Podcast also weighed in on the recent bout of prominent Christian leaders publicly abandoning their faith, calling it part of the “drastic aftermath of the Church drifting away from the faithfulness of the Gospel and the sound doctrine of the Word.”
“The growing hostility to the Christian faith is a wake-up call for the Church to be the Church and to recognize that we are called to be the light of the world and the salt of the Earth,” he said. “We are living in dark times in a culture that is decaying and needs the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
He also spoke of Isaiah 40:8: “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of our God stands forever.”
“The Church has reason to be concerned about the times we are living in, but not alarmed,” Charles declared. “I believe that the Bible has answers for the matters that are under debate in the culture today. And I am convinced that those answers are true and will not change.”
“The question is,” he added, “will the Church be faithful to speak for God to the culture or just join this voice to whatever the opinion of the day is?”