Monday, May 24, 2010
Church History in the making! What is happening in Churches Today ?
Good things take time... time set aside to begin them, time to enjoy them, and time to finish doing them properly. A child is like this...if they are too hurried and too busy they will miss out on the best things in life. We can be like this with our children.....if we are too hurried we will miss the pleasure and best delights of a child. We can even be too busy in a church, so busy doing things that we are too busy to worship God, to truly enjoy God. If we are too hurried for too long, we forget who God is and we are dulled by our busyness, just like an alcoholic, or drug addict or a child who is constantly over stimulated by TV, we forget that there are simple but beautiful pleasures in life.
Church History is in the making right now....and I find it fascinating and very interesting. We sometimes forget this as we plod along to church. Yet every single thing we do in the church context should be a deliberate attempt to follow sound Biblical principals, there is no middle ground. Personally for me, I cannot see how there are not such things as preferences and philosophies when it comes to church functioning. For even mere preferences/philosophies are based on how you view the Bible and therefore on what your theology is. If you think something is a preference, you have to make sure that it is based on solid biblical principals - or else you are on shaky ground.
I do wonder how our present church trends will be written up in books in years to come - will we be surprised to realise how we have made history? Are we aware of what we are doing and where we are going, of what consequences follow our actions? Sometimes it seems not, sometimes it seems we are lulled into a 'crowd mentality' of thinking, "it's alright" because everyone else thinks it is, if 'so and so' were taking a stand , then maybe I would have to consider doing so as well. Our standard should be made on Christ's stand not on what other people think it should be.
I was very privileged to have very godly teachers in my life, particularly in South Africa...time and time again we were taught, "go back to the Bible, check out what was said, make sure there is no error in preaching, and come and talk if there is something I say which does not agree with the Bible, even if it may seem small." This, I think, is a very healthy position to be in... otherwise one's theology can drift with whoever is 'in change' or whoever has a convincing personality.
Before you dip into currant church history below with me I would encourage you to read my previous blogs on Good Worship and Good Preaching and in case you think I am being pedantic or legalistic I love this quote, and earnestly try and apply it to my life! The reason for talking here about these matters is that I feel we should all examine how we worship God, not because I want to win you over to my 'preference', but because we love a holy God, who deserves our honour and our best. And my conscience urges me forward to a position of 'no compromise' on these matters.
Douglas and I have spent much time praying about and talking about many issues recently. The issue, we have talked about the most about the 'how to worship God' issue, "Should you be contemporary/ traditional? When are instruments a distracting, man orientated gimmicks or not? How much input should youth have?" And many more. For us entertainment versus worship is a non issue, as far as we are concerned you cannot entertain and be man focused when you are worshipping God, but it presents a problem when we as humans try and figure out the dividing line of where one ends and the other begins. An issue that seems to be related on a practical level is ' should the youth have predominance in the church context, or should godly wise men be our leaders?'
Anyway, here are some interesting links that I have come across in recent times.
The first is by Peter Masters, who on the 'how to worship' issues, would be the most conservative in Reformed Baptistic circles. see http://www.metropolitantabernacle.org/?page=articles&id=13 Here he outlines very well the way Reformed Baptistic churches are heading today, I have to say it left me shaken when I first read it, and nearly every person we have spoken to about what this article was initially disbelieving... they especially felt that he has overstated the trend in the Mac Arthur church. But here is the link to the band they use for their Resolve Youth Conference ( run by John Mac Arthur's church) . http://www.myspace.com/enfieldworship So what you may ask. But I urge you....Take the time to listen and think, listen and look for yourself, the words may be 'good' but where does the emphasis lie....good drummers, good singers or good focus on God? Instruments tucked away where they cannot distract or detract from God himself, or are they centre stage and part of creating today's much valued atmosphere.....lights dimmed and feeling injected with a drug like induced atmosphere. May I be so bold as to say.... I strongly feel even they are entertainment focused too.
Here is some preaching on this matter....Gary Hendrix would not be as conservative on the instruments issue as Peter Masters but he is still conservative on the issue of 'no entertainment', and 'focus on God only in worship' issues.
For many years I could not understand why protestants were going to Catholic and to Greek Orthodox Churches....it was totally beyond me, I did not get it. Even now I do not think it is the right way to go....but I do see now that those churches offer a quietness and orderliness and that some people have to have in order to even begin to worship God, even if they do have other problems.
Okay so you get the picture, I am ultra frumpish by today's standards. I like to worship God in a quiet way and very orderly manner. I like to challenge my brain when I worship. I love anything quiet, even if it is modern as long as the words are excellent and totally focused on God. I do not like to have my attention drawn to people during public worship, and as I am 'very pea brained', and get very easily distracted from the reason for my being there....to enjoy God, and to aim to give pleasure to God with my worship! I hate being sucked into an atmosphere of 'feeling' good about God to come home and realise I remember nothing from the service that pointed me to know more about who God is, why I love should love Him more etc because nothing much was said in the service I have just been to. I like to come home full of the joy of who Christ is, what he has done for me....I like to have something to motivate me to love Him better, read more of His word etc in the week. And I love it when as a group we are so excited about God that we just cannot help ourselves but to talk about God! That is the essence of what worshiping God together is about.
Food for thought....how are you making Church History? What are the consequences of your decisions? How will it effect the next generation? Have you thought through what message you are giving the next generation?
Another interesting angle on current church history, is how the rest of the world sees it happening. Our local paper for Logan City recently ran an article where people had a chance to voice their opinions in the debate as to whether the local council should give a church the green light to go ahead with new church buildings on a new premises they had bought. The neighbours were saying "no", both loud and clear....they did not want the noise of a rock band ever time the church met, and for band practices in between! Church is usually at the time as when they liked to relax at home, and not have their peaceful BBQ brunch blasted by music they hate. Similarly the recent Easter Festival in Toowoomba was met with annoyance by non Christians as they had their weekends messed up by 'Christian' noise.
"But will it hurt, this world wide trend to entertain instead of worship? To be man focused instead of God focused?" I have been asked, "what will the long term effect of all of this be?" I cannot answer fully and but usually my reply is along these lines.....in the short term it may appear that pews are filled by people attracted by entertainment style worship.... it's cool, it gives an emotional buzz, your non Christan friends are as comfortable in the pew as at any other rock concert. But it does not fill the brain with scripture and prayers and meditations of who God is, how wonderful He is and how marvelously he has saved us from wretchedness. Most times it avoids the horrible words like sin and hell and leaves us with a shallow reflection of the picture so perfectly portrayed in God's word , the Bible. This, 'filling of pews' is not the same as a revival. I have seen too many casualties of people turning their backs on God because Christians have failed to show them who God really is. Too many people judge Christianity by what Christians do and teach and not by what it is in the Bible. God is perfect in every sense of the word, how long will it take us to realise that we are presenting a second rate Christianity to the world by ignoring the depth and breadth of his word, by not having the time to pull ourselves away from entertainment long enough to see who God really is?
But my church is not like that you say....the test? How long do you pray together as a church? How often do you just enjoy the word of God by reading it? How often is the character of God meditated on from many angles. How often do you remember the sermon from Sunday and go through it in the week, going over and over the gems you have gleaned? May God have mercy on us all as we make church history today!