The following won’t be popular or too well received by church people because it’s contrary to our historical practices and, as far as I can tell, it hasn’t been attempted… yet.
I love the church (not the institution, but the people of God), but I’m not in love with the way we “do church.”
I love the lost (not more than I love those who are saved… equally, yet differently), but I’m not a fan of the way we, as the church, attempt to reach and engage them.
I love our rich church history (not the stuff that we have historically done in ignorance, but the theological framework of grace and truth), but I’m concerned that our marriage to historical practices makes us less effective in our historical mission.
I’m young! I know that I’m young. I know I don’t have things all figured out. I don’t believe myself to be smarter than other pastors, teachers, leaders and theologians alive today or long sense passed. In fact, it is by and through their writings that I have come to so many of the following conclusions concerning church in this present age.
ASKING THE BIG QUESTION: WHY?
All that said, I have been a part of the organized church for 30+ years now. In that time I’ve been in a leadership position for more than 15 years and I’ve pastored the established church, 2 of them, for 11 of those 15 years.
In that time I have gone through all the motions and all the practices of what would be considered the norm for protestant evangelicals. I’ve participated in and led weekly prayer meetings, I’ve planned and have run typical Sunday Morning Worship Services, I’ve maintained and have even written a number of curriculums for a Sunday School program.
Really… if it’s a common place practice in an established Baptist church, I’ve done it.
THE EASY ANSWER
I know the right answer. Soli Deo Gloria — for the glory of God alone.
That’s what I’m supposed to say, as if the programs and the system that we presently have set up are the most God glorifying thing that we could ever imagine or do.
Here’s the problem, God’s not big into festivals and traditions that are failing to accomplish His work, both in the hearts and lives of His people and in the hearts and lives of those who He has set-apart for salvation (Amos 5; Isaiah 1,29; Matthew 15; Hebrews 9,10).
Now… I’m not saying that the way we traditionally do things is failing in every church or in every circumstance. However, as I look out at the evangelical church and as I consider the many, many Christ-ones I know who regularly attend a church gathering, I have to wonder if today (in our current culture) we are truly and consistently hitting the mark and accomplishing the mission.
I think it’s also important to recognize that there are a number of things that we typically do in our church functions which are not explicitly described, prescribed or commanded in Scripture. They may be a means to an end, but their not “the way” according to The Word.
Add to all of this the fact that our culture has changed. The church, as an organization, may have stayed the same, but pretty much everything else around us has transformed in one way or another.
And, as far as I can tell, we’ve been commanded to redeem our present culture not to reverse it, rewind it, ignore it, etc.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
All of this “stuff” has been running through my mind for a few years now and it’s been frustrating in the best possible way (ie. in a way that has kept me discontent with the status quo and searching). I reached a point, about 2 years back, where this intellectual longing turned into a deep soul pain that robs me of sleep and compels me to study.
Over and over again, for years now, I’ve been wrestling with the same few questions: Why do we have to “do church” the way we’re doing it right now? What can we begin doing that might make us more effective in bringing God glory and engage us more in God’s mission? How can we create a redeemed culture within our present culture? And the big one, for me — even if there is another way… how am I going to get church people to do this with me?
In the next couple of posts I want to detail some of the things I’ve wrestled with and the conclusions that I feel confident and convicted the Lord has led me to. In all honesty, my conclusions aren’t wild or crazy, they are not prescriptive for the church at large, they are not full or perfect or complete. I’m still figuring this thing out.
Instead, these are things that I believe the Lord would have me lead my church family in, here in New Jersey, surrounded by the churches that are already in our area doing the ministry that they are doing well. I’d write them all here but I’ve been told (and have read) that the longer the post the smaller the audience… so I’m breaking it up (then maybe someone will read it).
Here’s what I plan to cover:
- The Sunday Service Format
- The Way We Do Rebuke, Repentance & Restoration
- Congregational Worship – For The Believer
- Prayer Gatherings