Every October, in my home town of Tifton, GA, the annual County Fair took place out on highway 82 just East of town. It was a fun time for everyone. Kids and young people had butterflies in their stomach just aching to go to the fairgrounds and have a load of fun at the Tift County Fall Fair. Just about everyone went.
One would walk up and down the fairway and visit the side shows testing their skills at everything from the shooting gallery to tossing rings on the neck of Coca-Cola bottles. Prizes were carted off by the tons and money in the untold thousands was gathered in by the fair officials. Everyone had fun.
As one walked down the fairway getting the saw dust in their shoes, there was one special place which most people felt it was a necessity to visit. It was the Cotton Candy dispenser. You could smell the cotton candy while you were quite a way down the fairway. It was a rich, sweet smell and it had the capacity to draw you to it like a magnet. And there it was with the cotton candy man making great billowing, fluffy cotton candy. It was usually pink or blue in color but that didn't matter. It was good and tasted the same in any color. A person would pluck off a generous piece of that fluffy spun sugar and thrust into their mouth. It was pure sugar and it would vanish in your mouth in only a second or two. Cotton candy was addictive and not really good for a person but it was fun and satisfying for a moment. Just try giving cotton candy to a child or baby and then taking it away from them. You have never heard such a fuss in all your life. Once you give a baby the candy, you will have a terrible time taking it away from him.
As I reflect on the experience of the county fair and the cotton candy that we could buy once a year, I began to think of how similar the whole experience was to the situation we find ourselves in concerning what is happening in our churches today. Believe it or not, there are some close resemblances between the two. If one is trying to find a church that will provide a good, conservative, capably delivered expository sermon which will both inspire and instruct the saint, then they are going to find that almost everyone has taken to serving up cotton candy instead. And, they like it! The sermon content is designed to be pleasurable instead of sin-convicting. It is almost certainly strongly seeded with political correctness so that no one in particular will feel that they are being singled out. If a "cotton candy" preacher suddenly realizes that he has begun to actually preach, he will quickly rein himself in. His feel good, "sweet tooth" audience might be offended! Heaven forbid. The entire service is like a fluffy serving of cotton candy. Quick, momentarily pleasing and delivering content that doesn't last as long as a mouthful of that county fair delicacy. And, ultimately what they get from a "Cotton Candy" church experience is not any more benefiting to them than that quickly disappearing mouthful of spun sugar. They get their "cotton candy high", and leave the experience extolling the virtues of how good it made them feel about themselves. There was little substance but a lot of "feel good." And, everyone else liked it too!! "It can't be bad because everyone likes it" is the reasoning. But, we ask ourselves, what kind of Christian is being produced? Churches today have traded the atmosphere of holiness and the presence of glory for that which pleases the masses and gets a crowd. They are appealing to human nature which is totally opposite of the true nature of worship when we are suppose to focus on only one person; God. The church is willing to jettison grandeur and glory for that which gives instant pleasure and satisfaction. And, by the way, it also produces a large crowd because it appeals to what the human wants: to go to heaven their way with not too much demanded of them. Remember, one cannot win a person away from the world to Jesus Christ by becoming like the very thing they are trying to win people away from.
A characteristic of a Cotton Candy church is that there is a lot of show but little depth. Such a church is a mile wide and an inch deep. It leaves a person still hungry for something that has been jettisoned for "cotton candy." People are still looking for that anchor and they are discovering it extremely difficult to find. So, what do they do? They remain faithful to their church that they have helped build over many years with their time, energy and dedication and money. These people, who are the root and substance of the church, have been taught in the past that they should follow the pastor's leadership. Give him the benefit of the doubt. If he is wrong, then God will deal with him. And, when people have a pastor who is genuine and dedicated to God's agenda and not his own, then they have little fear of following him. But, when someone with another agenda is suddenly voted the pastor, their upbringing of allowing the pastor to set the vision and agenda can suddenly become devastating. These foundational people do not want to be seen as opposing the pastor if they have a fundamental disagreement with him on the direction in which he is taking the church. They certainly don't want to be identified as a "trouble maker." So, they sit there and get pushed in a direction which they, as mature Christians, know is wrong. Therefore, the once great church has its "DNA" changed and it starts to show signs of decline. Meanwhile, such a church will be inundated with people who have lived their whole lives in small, dry, dead churches which accomplished very little. They think the new show in town is wonderful! They buy up all the "cotton candy" they can and think they are eating beefsteak for the first time in their lives. They love it when in actuality they are responding to "something new and exciting" and think it is really what worship is all about. The word gets around and suddenly the church is filled with people who have nothing invested and nothing to lose. They will vote for anything and their numbers, which have swelled, can get it passed. The members who actually build the church are pushed along trying to maintain a good attitude. One day, lo and behold, they find that their church is nothing but a "cotton candy" machine. Dispensing a brand of Christianity which is more in tune with the world than with what Christianity has always believed and practiced. Anyone with even a modicum of awareness knows this is happening all over our Southern Baptist Convention and beyond. If these churches had remained true to their identity and let the Lord be concerned about who and how many joined the fellowship, things would be quite different. We are dealing with "kingdom building" that dispenses massive amounts of Cotton Candy to churches. The Christian churches in America are being devastated and our witness of genuine Christianity is suffering.
This writer thinks that the true Christians in our churches must begin to think and listen to the Holy Spirit. They must quit allowing themselves to be driven along in this secular age. Satan isn't dumb. I think he has reasoned something like this: "I have tried to destroy the Church for two thousand years working from the outside. I have burned the Bible, killed the Saints and inspired liberalism in order to try to kill it. But, it hasn't worked! I know what I will do. I will change my tactic and go inside. From the inside I will inspire the people to abandon the time proven direction of the Church and adopt the world's approach. I believe that will work!" And, it has. That is why there is as much turmoil in the Christian realm as there is today. That is why so many former bastions of the faith are crumbling. The body of Christ is a spiritual Organism and not an organization for man to build. It is being force fed the secular Cotton Candy of the world and it is craving for the Beefsteak of the Gospel.
As we work our way down the spiritual fairway of life, all of a sudden, there he is. Ole satan and his Cotton Candy machine dispensing his fleeting satisfaction for people who want just that: Cotton Candy Christianity.
William F. Harrell