a strange thing about Strange Fire

I’m listening to the audio of the Strange Fire conference. Good stuff for the most part. I am sure there are points to quibble with in content from time to time, no one gets it one hundred percent right all the time. I have to say, overall, that this is an impressive effort. I encourage everyone to listen. Having said that, there are two things that stick in my craw, one is perhaps minor, the other may be major.

The Minor Deal

All the messages I listened to so far are interrupted by applause at points. Is it just my cantankerous ornery soul that bothers, or does it bother anyone else as well? I know that in independent Baptist circles we sometimes have the “Amen chorus” interrupting the preaching. That bothers me as well, but to a somewhat lesser degree.

I have to admit, as a preacher, that I like applause. It strokes my flesh to hear folks speak well of my preaching. When I get with it in one of those really “Amen-ing” churches, it can be gratifying. At least with “Amens”, one can suppose that they are calling out in prayer to God to “make it so” over something you just said. When it is applause, I am afraid that is just a little too man-centered for me. That goes straight to the preacher, not to heaven, I’m afraid.

But the real irony of the practice comes when you ask this question: “where did it come from?” Isn’t the applause the fruit of charismatic influence in the evangelical churches? Isn’t it part and parcel of the CCM culture, the entertainment model, and all the trappings that charismatism brought into evangelicalism? Does anyone else find it extremely ironic that applause permeates a conference devoted to condemning, in no uncertain terms, the charismatic movement?

Maybe its just me.

The possibly Major Deal

I read an interview of John MacArthur in the aftermath of the Strange Fire conference. The interview is quite good and MacArthur says a lot of good things in it. I commend that to your attention also.

But at the end, when he is talking about his continuationist friends, Piper, Grudem, etc., what does he call for? “What they need to do, of course, is rise up and condemn those kinds of aberrations, and I would like to see more of that.” He has just concluded a conference where he calls the doctrines they espouse doctrines of devils! Some of the speakers plainly say that the fruit of this movement is not Christian. They really pull no punches on this. In their talk.

What would you expect to then be the response to friends, long in the ministry, mature in the faith, but supporting the doctrines that lead to such error? No rebuke? No call to repentance? No call for change?

Or is that just me, too?



  1. I believe Bro. Brandenburg made the same point in his latest blog post. There is a condemnation of false teaching, but not a call for practical separation. This is a problem.

  2. d4v34x says:

    Its interesting to me that the Amen chorus bothers you. Is it that it’s interruptive primarily?

    I’m not a big amen-er, but occassionally chime in. I do nod quite a bit though. And vigorously.

    • That might be merely a cultural difference. But for sure I’d call down the clapping if it started while I was preaching

  3. Wally Morris says:

    Several years ago, I did a personal Bible study on applause/clapping. At times, clapping could express disapproval as well as approval/worship. However, today applause/clapping in churches is another sign of the influence of secular culture’s [the world’s] methods in the church. I find it strange that Christians would rather clap/applause than say “Amen” or “Praise the Lord”. Is this indication of the “dumbing down” of Christians, so that we are more comfortable with non-verbal expressions rather than verbal praise? I find even people who do not know the Lord will applause in church because they are “comfortable” with that response. Applause doesn’t really demand any thinking or heart—just an automatic response because everyone else is doing it. Sort of like standing ovations—you don’t want to be the only one not doing it.
    The issue of applause/clapping in churches is not a minor issue. Instead, it is an indication of the weakness of Bible-believing churches, shallowness of their spiritual life, and influence of the world.

    • Good points, Wally. Sort of a group hypnosis rather than an individual affirmation.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  4. Brian says:

    Well, Don, JMac is an evangelical. He may be more “conservative” than the next evangelical but regardless of the adjective added, they are still evangelical and they have for the most part been soft in that category. Oh, they may speak it but the action is missing. Even JMac does this.

    • But of course.

      It is fascinating to listen to these sessions. They use very blunt language, accuse men like Piper and Grudem of egregious betrayals, but go out of their way to say how much they’ve benefited from them, etc, etc

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3