Thoughts of a messed up Christian saved by God's grace

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Why go to church? part 2

  From what I can see of the early church, here are some reasons we should go to church:

1) To worship God. That actually is reason enough. Sure, we can do that anywhere, but what better place to do it than His house. And church is His house.

2) To be spiritually fed. As good of a man my pastor is and as good as his sermons are, there are times I'd be happy to skip the sermon, but we need them..... and if you read much in the New Testament at all, you see they had sermons. And sometimes they were long enough to put people to sleep.

3) Fellowship. That is one big reason we shouldn't just NOT go to church. We need to be around other Christians of similar faith and beliefs. But it shouldn't be the sole reason for going to church, and should not be what we skip from church to church to find the right kind of fellowship we are seeking. We are there to worship God and learn more of Him, not to party.

  The Bible gives the idea that the early Christian church had a lot of community. Nowadays, we only see most of our Christian brothers and sisters at church and any church function. In the days of the early church, they were together a lot and their lives revolved around the church and their Christian brothers and sisters. They had all things in common, and I get the idea that a lot of them lived close to each other and with each other. It sounds like they had a lot of contact with each other on a daily basis... without phones, emails, and Facebook. And without coffee shops and dining areas in the church.

  I wish my church was different in some ways. I like a lot about it, and there are things I'd like to change, but the question comes to me, "why do I go to church?" It is easy for a single guy to get lost in the shuffle, especially n a church where there is so much focus on youth and children's ministries, and there is nothing for singles or even enough singles to have a singles group or ministry.

  But do I need special groups for me? Do I need attention and activities to make me feel I am part of the church? That all is nice, but it isn't what church is about. My reason for going should be to go and worship God, get spiritually fed, and fellowship with other believers. Anything else is just extra.

  A while back, the wife of a celebrity pastor made the following statement:

"I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we're not doing it for God—I mean, that's one way to look at it—we're doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we're happy," she said in the 36-second clip posted on YouTube, with her husband smiling at her side in approval. "That's the thing that gives Him the greatest joy…"

"So, I want you to know this morning: Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy," she continued. "When you come to church, when you worship Him, you're not doing it for God really. You're doing it for yourself, because that's what makes God happy. Amen?"

   She got a lot of criticism over it, and I got criticism from a few people and un-friended by one person on Facebook for daring to criticize her husband and her, but I am afraid too many of us have this attitude. It isn't about us. It is about us going and learning more about God, worshiping Him, and being around others of like-mind faith,

  Too many churches are trying to make the church and Jesus more user friendly. We try to make the music sound like the music kids listen to in the world, get programs built around fun, throw in lots of sports, and whatever we can do to interest people in staying around. But shouldn't Jesus be enough? Do we need all the glitter and amusements to make us interested in being in church, whether we are an adult or young person?

  There are people meeting across the world secretly in churches. Many of them have to have church in homes. If they sing, it has to be quiet. There are no loud screaming guitars, no praise band dancing around and screaming lyrics, no speakers maxed out so loud they can't hear themselves think. Many don't have a Bible. If they are caught, it means prison, torture, and sometimes death. They have no fun programs, no padded pews, no basketball courts, no fellowship hall or kitchen to get together and eat. It is just them and God.

I like my church, but it seems like a rut sometimes. Sunday morning:
Sunday School
Dismiss Sunday School
Sing a chorus while people loiter noisily in the foyer
Pray to start the worship service
Sing two hymns with maybe a chorus thrown in
Take up an offering
Sing another song. Sometimes two, if the one song leader is up who can't limit himself to 3 hymns
Have testimonies if anyone has any

  Sometimes it seems so cut and dried. I wouldn't call my church formal, but we rarely depart from the regular format. Once in a while, God will come on the service and there is no preaching, just worship and singing, etc.

  In two weeks, I will be attending a conference in North Carolina. I went last year and enjoyed it and got a lot of help from it, but there was one part I didn't really enjoy: the worship time. The music was too loud, the singers gyrated as they sang, I didn't know most of the songs - they were on a screen, but that didn't help me know them - and most of the tunes sounded like a Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga tune. I found myself wishing they'd turn down the volume, or just stop singing. I didn't get much out of it. But yet, I will get a lot of out of the sessions and workshops, so I will go as many years as I am able.

  There are people who regularly attend church where they have this kind of worship. They would say my church is dead, and I'd say theirs is too focused on loud rock-like music.

  But it isn't about the music. If people are meeting secretly and worshiping God while softly singing so they cannot be heard, it cannot be about the music. If we took away the singing and music entirely, could we still worship God? Would we still feel we had been in church?

  If we have to make our worship music like the world, if we have to have programs and special things instead of a sermon, we are not going to church to worship God and learn more about Him. We are going to be entertained.

  From what I see of the early church, they meant business when they met. There was no fun an games, no carnival set up in the church parking lot, no Christian comedian, no loud music.....it was just them and God. And sometimes apostles preaching so long they put people to sleep. Most of modern American Christians would be bored in a service run by Paul, Peter, John, etc. They weren't out to entertain or make Jesus more user-friendly for those listening to them. They were there to tell people about Jesus. 

  I look at my church, and I look at other churches different than mine... and wonder if any of us are doing church right. If we aren't doing church right, maybe that is why so many of us aren't going to church for the right reasons.

  And maybe we have this idea of worship wrong. Just going through in my mind what I have read about church in the New Testament, there doesn't seem to be much emphasis put on worshiping God as they met. I could be wrong, but the emphasis seemed to be on gathering together to hear about Jesus. Worship isn't a feeling we get while gyrating to loud worship songs and music, nor is it something we feel as we sing a familiar hymn that arouses feelings in us. Worship is a way of life. Something we should do everywhere, not just at church as they sing and play music to bring our feelings into the worship zone. 

  Church - and worship - are not about how it makes us feel. Granted, it is nice to not have a boring and long-winded pastor, and to have music that doesn't put you to sleep nor give you a headache.... but if the reason we are going to church revolve around the pastor, the music, or whether they have coffee and donuts before the service.... we may as well stay home. We have made church all about us, our comfort, and what makes us feel good.

  We should not attend churches where we dread going, where the music is not something we can handle, but we do need to be careful in picking a church and trying to find one that is too user-friendly. It isn't about us. It is about God and worshiping Him and learning more about Him.

  I have kind of rambled on part 2, not helped by the fact that I lost internet halfway through and finished it offline, then pasted the rest with what I had done already.... I may have even repeated myself. I don't mean to knock others or belittle others for their methods of worship....... but I just wonder if any of us are doing church right, and if we go for the right reasons.

  In closing, I want to put the story here of how one of my favorite newer worship songs got written, The Heart of Worship:

The senior pastor at Redman’s home church in Watford, England, believed that the congregation had lost its way, even though the church, with its innovative weekend services and elaborate worship arts production, had become a pace setter for many throughout Europe. He sensed that many in the church had become spectators rather than participants in the journey of faith, so he did a bold thing. He decided to eliminate the sound system, all musical accompaniment, and multimedia. He announced to the church that they would be going through a season of simplicity in which they would use nothing but the unamplifed human voice during their weekend services.
Can you imagine? No microphones. No guitars. Not even a keyboard.
In various interviews, Redman has recounted that the weeks following his pastor’s unconventional decision were filled with plenty of awkward silences. Attendance declined steadily, but the staff did not flinch. They were committed to a church-wide rediscovery of true worship. Eventually, unaccompanied prayers became transparent, beautiful in their honesty, and undecorated music became more heartfelt than ever. Gradually the sound system, multimedia, and instrumentation were reintroduced, but the fast made a lasting impression on Redman and many others in the church.
Redman wrote Heart of Worship to express the changes God made in his own heart during this unusual season. At first he had no plans to share it, but he did so at his pastor’s urging, and it went on to be recorded and sung by many.
When the music fades
and all is stripped away
and I simply come.
Longing just to bring
something that's of worth
that will bless Your heart.

I'll bring You more than a song,
for a song in itself
is not what You have required.
You search much deeper within,
through the way things appear,
You're looking into my heart.

I'm coming back to the heart of worship
and it's all about You, it's all about You, Jesus.
I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it
when it's all about You, it's all about You, Jesus.

King of endless worth,
no one could express
how much you deserve.
Though I'm weak and poor,
all I have is Yours,
every single breath!

I'll bring You more than a song,
for a song in itself
is not what You have required.
You search much deeper within,
through the way things appear,
You're looking into my heart.

I'm coming back to the heart of worship
and it's all about You, it's all about You, Jesus.
I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it
when it's all about You, it's all about You, Jesus.

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