Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Here's Where I'm Coming From

Rebekah's comment on the last post made me pause and reconsider my current course of discussion. I did not originally intend for these "thoughts" to be geared towards pastors. I'm afraid that my own vocation and personal reflections have obscured my original intention. So I'm going to backtrack a bit here about the nature of the Church and the reason we see such an emphasis on church planting. Here's my burden, my fear, if you will: I'm afraid that we are planting churches, not so that we may reach people for Jesus Christ, but so that we will find better places to attend. Thank God this is not always the case, and this is not why many church planters begin, but I'm afraid that the reason so many new church plants swell in growth is because people are sick of "church" for all the wrong reasons.

I must confess to you, not only as a pastor, but simply as a believer, I am often depressed about church. This did not happen to me when I became a pastor, I felt a growing discontent from the time I began to study the Bible in earnest. I found shallow theology, slap-shod sermons, and unthinking Christians to be the norm almost everywhere I turned. This reality consumes me to this day, and if I did not believe in the power of the gospel, I swear, I would go work in computers with my brother-in-law or teach English Literature in a University.

So ask yourself why it is that you have grown cold toward your local fellowship and why it is that you attend church in the first place. Here are a list of reasons why most people get sick of their local fellowship, at least, this is what I've heard:

1. The music stinks. I can't worship to it.
2. The Church is filled with people who just don't care.
3. The preaching is lousy.
4. They don't have anything for my children.
5.

Warning! Rant alert!--->Number one is so maddeningly irrelevant I can't even believe that an otherwise sane believer falls for it. How worship got so singularly entwined with music is a mind-boggling travesty. We see the disciples singing how many times...once? Paul talks about singing in Ephesians, but the pinnacle of worship is not singing tunes that I relate to. Good music is a bonus; no music should not be a hinderance to worship. Go out and buy yourself a CD of your favorite music and sing at home for heaven's sake. <---Rant over.

Worship is not only singing or listening to preaching. Worship is found in service to the body. Your duty is also your joy in Christ. That is, my pinnacle of worship is teaching the Word of God. Yours may be praying for the babies in the nursery. Music cannot steal that joy. Serve your church for the sake of your Master and find your joy there.

I used to have a car that burned oil. I'd have to check it occassionally to add a quart as needed. The problem with the church is that we've got too many dipsticks and not enough people willing to put oil in the engine. That's the ugly truth of number 2. Or, we have folks who do not even realize that it takes volunteers to run a church. They thought they were there to sing and hear good preaching, not come and teach Sunday School, keep extended session, change diapers, help clean stuff up, mow the church lawn or a thousand other things that need doing. Right?

Newsflash for you, Martha. Don't you worry about Mister and Mrs. pew-sitter doing nothing but sitting and listening. You may be losing your joy in the local church because you've gotten your eye off the privilege of service to the King of Kings and started thinking that somebody else ought to be doing something. Who said that the one who wishes to be called great in the kingdom of heaven must be the slave of all? Last I heard, it was bad form for a slave to complain to his master, which is what your fellow church member is, that he or she isn't pulling his weight.

Here's all I will say about lousy preaching. Pray for and love your pastor. Buy him a book. Have him over for lunch and wash his feet...metaphorically or else you'll probably weird him out. If the preaching is still lousy, download John Piper to your iPod and listen to that all week. You'll be okay and you'll honor your pastor as you are commanded to do. When tragedy strikes, that lousy preacher may come over and give comfort from God's own bosom.

#4...nothing for your children? What are you doing for your children? They ought to be in church with you anyway. They learn the passion and importance of worship by watching you do it. I hope my son's earliest memories are of his papa weeping and rejoicing from the pulpit.

I beg you to give me space to preach here for a moment. Let me ask you a question: Have you gotten so spiritually mature that you have an uncanny knack for seeing all the spiritual problems of the church? If you have, then you have been given a great gift. Because if the church has a problem you can identify, you have an obligation to give your life to see it corrected. You must be prepared to sacrifice reputation, ease, and become the object of gossip. But for the sake of the elect of God, help the church become more holy! Didn't you know that when you joined? Did Jesus die for this church? Did Paul endure scorn and ridicule and slander in the churches? Did he say for nothing that the burden of the churches were on his mind day and night for nothing? Do you think he lived like a vagabond and an outcast for a bunch of hypocritical, apathetic, sinful, in-fighting, back-biting wretches? Not only did he do so, he called these miserable folks brothers and sisters, claimed that they were his joy and his crown, and he poured out his life like a drink offering for the sake of their well-being to the glory of God. Do you think that this is just for apostles and preachers? This is the life for every good soldier of Jesus Christ.

Here's the most shocking truth of them all...you might be a big part of the problem at your church. Your attitude and talk may be serving to further division. You may be right about everything you've observed, and there is certainly room for improvement, but your attitude and actions may not be working towards a happy resolution. No, you may be contributing to the divide and encouraging others to abandon the work.

That's part of my concern for our churches. We have these attitudes because we believe membership is optional, flexible, and we are not loving like family. I have been pretty pointed in this. I look forward to your responses.

8 comments:

Rebekah said...

Typing this comment with tears. (And I'm sorry if I misunderstood your direction, too.) Your list (except for the music, I'm with you on that rant!!) just described my attitude problem - it's like you read my private journal where I've poured out these concerns. This is probably one of the most convicting things I've read in a while. I had finally gotten to the point where I realize I need to praying fervently for my pastor and have been. But you are very right. I have lost my joy in serving. Thank you so much for this reminder of something I knew deep down but had lost somehow that it really isn't about me and how I feel, but that I need to be serving my King by submitting to Him and serving with His people as He leads and letting my attitude follow that commitment. My biggest concern has been that my kids will think church is boring - because I don't think good, biblical preaching is boring, but somehow that's been lacking lately. What a good word to remember that they need to see and will remember mom & dad worshiping fervently next to them in the pew. Again, thank you for this post. It pierced my heart this morning with a truth I needed to remember.

Sojourner said...

Rebekah,

I believe that you misunderstood my direction because I was unclear. Plus, I'm just working through this myself, so it makes this sort of a work in progress. If this post hits close to home, know that these thoughts first pierced my heart before I could articulate them here.

Anonymous said...

Hey brother,
A good word(s)....I have seen an exodus of professing Christians in this city to non-denominational starts because they "feel more comfortable" there. I can understand why....there is little talk of sin (abstaining/ battling/struggling against it rather than excusing it) , the Gospel is taught minus any teaching of sanctification(i.e growth beyond rebirth), and "worship" music which sounds just like your local radio rock station. I would advise people who want to be comfortable to just stay in bed on Sundays for maximum comfort. Where in the world has this idea come from that "church" is supposed to be comfortable?
What about the "iron sharpening iron", the "partaking of Christ's sufferings", the "faith tested and purified by fire", the "humbling ourselves in the sight of the Lord", the "serving God acceptably with reverence and godly fear" the "chastening of the Lord which is painful but yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness", et al.
We have a Joel Osteen,consumer driven, no fault finding church model in our good ole USA. I am glad that God is not unaware of this issue, and that His Word still changes lives when it is taught, and submitted to. I cannot change other churches, but I can be faithful to teach and serve this local church. God is more than able to take care of these other situations, but it in no wise diminishes the responsibility and accountability for those undershepherds who seek to please men rather than God and who desire to grow big churches instead of faithful churches.
Keep pressing on!....KA in LV

DW said...

Appreciate those words. I amen'ed the part about church being depressing, and was pierced by the part about volunteering. That was needed.
Looking at it from a church member perspective, it is a believer's responsibility to know their place in the local church. As you said, serving is for everyone. The other part is taking up your position in the body, where your particular spiritual gifts are put to use, where God can wield you. How does a person know their place and their gift....read the bible. Let the sword cut.
DW

Lisa writes... said...

Thank you, Brad, for not pulling any punches. Although you posted this a few days ago, your words come to me at a time of real discouragement. These statements in particular serve not only to convict but to encourage:

"if the church has a problem you can identify, you have an obligation to give your life to see it corrected. You must be prepared to sacrifice reputation, ease, and become the object of gossip. But for the sake of the elect of God, help the church become more holy!"

How I long to be found faithful...

Carla Rolfe said...

"The problem with the church is that we've got too many dipsticks and not enough people willing to put oil in the engine."

How convicting is that? I appreciate your candor on this subject, thank you.

Sojourner said...

Rebekah,

I hope that you realize it was probably as convicting for me to write as it was for you to read. May God help us both to love and serve our churches better.

Kevin,

Hey brother! It's always good to hear from you. Ben, Betsy, Amy and I are all in Texas talking about you and yours. Just so you know, your family and your church are in our prayers constantly. And I heard about your outreach strategy from Betsy...growing grass in the desert. Brilliant!

DW,

Thanks for stopping by. Hope to hear more in the future.

Carla,

That was my wife's favorite part too. I felt particularly proud over my wit there and had to promptly repent.:)

Anonymous said...

I'd like to say the music doesn't matter--but it does. Scantily clad girls, guys in sloppy jeans, repetitious secular sounding songs pass for contemporary. Or off-key, poorly prepared traditional with glaring mistakes.

Pastors misbehaving--or worse. Cliques that keep willing hands away. Sermons that couldn't unwrap the gospel truth if someone handed it to them. Sigh.