Sometimes I wonder if Church, the way it is right now, is the way Christ intended it to be. What I mean is, over time the early “Christians” met in houses and broke bread together, sang some songs of praise and prayed together…but soon the incorporation of “things” and “elements” within those worship settings were added. These things and elements aren’t a bad thing, but what if those things and elements begin to shape our worship so much so that now we have actually lost some of what “Church” was supposed to be in the first place? What if Church has become so mainstream and so institutionalized that we have lost some of its initial significance and power?
Ear Phones, Tangles & Church
If you’re anything like me you probably have some of these:lying around your home.
They are really pesky to keep straightened out.
They can become easily tangled by just putting them down on the kitchen counter or in the dreaded pocket of your jeans. Undoing the tangles on these earbuds is a necessity in order to use them properly. If we allow them to remain tangled or if we yank them apart in frustration we will most likely break them.
This simple illustration is kind of how I see the Church today.
We’re often times just a big, frustrating tangled mess.
We have allowed some elements and even the institutionalization of the Church to become so embroiled in complications, rituals and non-biblical traditions that these sacred cows have entangled us and restrained us from experiencing what true “Church” is all about.
We think that everything points to what we do on Sunday morning in our very rigid “bulletin” format.
We think that what we do in these elements is what matters most…but if nothing translates from ritual to spiritual disciplines and real life application in our lives, then it is all for naught.
So…perhaps instead of tightening our rigid formats in worship we need to undo them.
Perhaps part of the dwindling attendances on Sundays has less to do with “worship styles” and “cultural distractions” and more to do with our complicated worship practices and formats.
I am not saying that we toss the baby out with the bath water…but perhaps the bath water is tired, dirty and cold, if you know what I mean. Why do we do what we do on Sundays? Is it because that’s the way we’ve always done it? Is it because this is what feels comfortable to us? Is it because we’re mandated by the powers that be to conduct our services this way? Are we so tangled up in complicated knots that we wouldn’t even want our families who don’t go to church to come to our services?
4 Ways we miss the mark:
1. Beating the same, tired, broken drum.
I won’t beat up on traditional music, there is still a place for it.
Music is vital, but it is not our focal point in worship. It ought to lead the worshiper towards what God is saying…it should never be a performance to show off the talents of the few. The drum we beat that is tired and old actually lies in our format of worship. There is this sort of rigid format that we follow every Sunday where we always have the message at the end, and before that we sing a song, and before that we have the bible reading…and so on. It’s a worn and beaten path. It gets old. It’s a tired and broken drum. Sometimes I believe we lose the significance of our worship if we don’t change things up. I believe that we can lose new comers, not because of the content of our service, but because of how we – the long timers – respond to it in our own hearts and expression. If the drum is broken, if worship is mundane and uninteresting, if we just keep plodding along like a tired mule on a familiar path, then, perhaps it’s time to change.
We also miss the mark many times because –
2. We fear change so we lag behind
We don’t want to upset the apple cart.
We don’t want to “break with tradition” even when “tradition” has nothing to do with the true origins of Christian worship. So, because of this fear of changing, we drag our feet for as long as possible. This is just one more rung in the clumpy, tangled mess of the church. Sometimes it’s not so much culture that is prodding us to change and adapt, but it is the Holy Spirit who is doing the prodding. Even then, the steeped traditions and tired drums keep being played without so much as a cadence change. Our fear of change as a body of believers might be the death of us. I might receive some negative criticism for this, but I believe it doesn’t make it less true. I have said it before and I will say it again that I despise the phrase “We have never done it that way before” …which sometimes translates as “We’re not about to try either!”
Perhaps, in the undoing of church, we ought to be less fearful of change and more fearful of not changing and adapting as the Lord leads us.
3. We fear change in our church because of what denominational leaders might think
Dare I say that “undoing the church” isn’t only about addressing the fear of change, but it is also about addressing this misguided notion about fear of what institutional and denominational leadership might think. I am not advocating anarchy or rebellion against leadership, in fact, for the most part, God has placed leaders in those positions for specific tasks and they should be honored and respected…but…if we spend so much time pleasing our leaders and worrying about what THEY will think or say, I believe we will have lost our way and will have only added to the tangled mess that is the church today. Yes, denominational leaders set the vision and motivation for the churches but we in those churches must meet the communities in which we live. We must be innovators of the Word of God. We must please God and fear Him above all else. We must move when He asks us to move. We must change when He prods us to adjust.
4. Our focus is inward instead of outward
Another way in which we miss the mark is the internal focus of our mission.
We, as a church, can become so internally focused that we lose the great commission unless it means the “lost” come to our doors. I find this inward focus to be extremely entangling and detrimental to our mission as a church! We must be welcoming of new comers to our worship services, while at the same time be community focused and attempting to serve the needs of others. Sometimes, when our church has been a long-time established we can have this air about us…that we are “amazing” and think “why wouldn’t people want to come to us?“; or even ask condescendingly (God forbid we ever say this) “well those people really wouldn’t fit in here!” Do cliques occur in church? I wish I could say “no” but as sure as they exist in schools, they are in church as well! Sometimes these cliques are inclusive of new members and many times (without saying so) they are not. We miss the mark of true “Church” when we lose the love of the “outsiders” and instead insulate ourselves inside our own glass bubbles.
If we are to “undo” Church, we will need to adjust these issues, and untangle our hearts.
Perhaps we must revamp our worship services even though we fear change.
Perhaps we must question why we do the things we do and what real significance they actually play in leading others to Christ and into a deeper relationship with Him! If we beat the same drum and refuse to undo church, we could face church extinction…I don’t say that as a threat, it’s just simply the truth…and sometimes the truth hurts.
Something more to ponder today!
God bless you!