Style is important but it is not a substitute for substance. I think about this particularly in the church world. People will come to a church and because it has a cool “style” of music they enjoy, communication they connect with and people they relate to—they’re in. Now let me be clear, I honestly see the value in all of those things and while no church has the perfect style (typically you’ll need to compromise on a few things) I can understand why people pay attention to those things. However, what I fear is people using ONLY those criteria to choose a community of faith to be a part of. A church is a gathering of the people of God. It’s where Biblical teaching happens and where we utilize our gifts and abilities to build up others. It DOES matter what is communicated and more importantly what the “source” is. I’ve noticed an unfortunate trend of places that call themselves “churches” but view the Bible as one of several sources of input. Opinions, feelings and issues are placed at as high a level as the Word of God. When that happens, the authority for life is based in the individual not in God and His Word. So we begin to be able to twist Scripture to fit our “needs”. We begin to make the Bible back our view points. This is a dangerous place to be.
We covered essentially two chapters from 1 Corinthians yesterday and so I didn’t have the kind of time to go into detail or fully explain a few things. So for you, the blog reader, here are a few points of clarification and additional study from 1 Corinthians 10 & 11.
First of all, to clarify: In the sermon I mentioned that we don’t have specific ministries to ethnicities and actually very few ministries/ programs geared to specific interests or age groups. Part of the rationale which I shared was that when a church breaks down the walls that society uses to divide us it becomes a great platform for the Gospel. What I mean is when we relate with people different than us and when our church is full of different types of people…the world looks on and marvels because they don’t really see that in much of society. The Gospel truly does break down walls since we’re all equally sinful, equally unworthy of grace and yet equally loved by Jesus. When we live in light of the cross we’re able to cross boundaries that few cross. Our true and honest view of the Gospel is seen in how we do relationships and who we do relationships with. So as a church leadership, we’ve tried to at least create the environment where that kind of Gospel-driven, “norm”-shattering diversity would be possible. That being said (and here’s the clarifying statement I want to make): I/we are NOT opposed to ministries geared toward ethnic groups or various interests. In fact I think groups and ministries like this can be very effective at reaching into people who would otherwise be unreached. However, I don’t believe ministries/ programs like that are ever intended to be the end-goal. What I mean is they can used to address a felt need, connect with a certain culture or way of thinking BUT ultimately the church is called to be diverse and united. So while certain ministries and programs can be great to build a bridge, I think we can do harm by never moving from a group/ ministry like that into relationships with people very different from us in the church.
Here’s a few clips from the first week in our current series: Church by Default. We talk about why we gather as a church and what God’s intention is for us.
As I’m coming up on close to 20 years in church ministry it seems as the years have gone by that the issues that are “gray” meaning not “black and white” have increased not decreased. Growing up I spent time in a few more legalistic environments where even the “gray” was black and white because someone just made a decision on what was in and what was out. And if there was any question the common advice was, “stay away from it because it’s a slippery slope and it will lead to something bad.” This can rob us of freedom and make one person’s sins and temptations, everyone’s struggles. This can be dangerous because it could overlook areas of real struggle and temptation for someone else, but because they aren’t the “legalistic rule maker” that area gets overlooked. The point is legalism can be dangerous, robbing us of freedom, stealing relationship (making faith more about rules) and potentially setting people up for downfalls in tempting areas.
So by now we’ve all heard the reports and statistics. People are leaving the church. Not “a” particular church but the church in general. Particularly among the younger generations, 18-30 year olds are rapidly abandoning the church. This obviously is scary because what does it say for the future of the church? But it’s not just young people, in general, our culture is finding less and less value in the church. You don’t have to go far to see a new book, blog or you tube video about how a person loves this but not the church or how they are for this but not for the church. So what is the problem with the church?