In 21st century America, Christians often think the problem with our churches is that their gatherings are not appealing enough to the felt needs of unbelievers. And even that they are not musically, aesthetically, or programmatically appealing enough to Christians.
I often fall into this consumeristic approach to church. Me. I’m not just calling others out, here. I need to repent of it and love God more, glitz less.
Unlike the tens of millions of Chinese Christians meeting in illegal house churches, the thousands of Nigerian Christians being persecuted by Boko Haram, or the Iraqi Christians who have been forced to flee their homes, we often desire, or want to sell, entertainment. And we are befuddled or irritated when the ekklesia, the called out people of God, doesn’t give it.
Rather than the New Testament’s teaching of church as a body we are grafted into to serve and be served, we think in terms of finding a church that will appeal to our senses. We want to shop for the store in the church mall that most suits our needs. And we think, quite often, that that is what our churches should be for our unbelieving neighbors.
The most appealing store in the church mall.
Nowhere in the New Testament will you see that.
Instead, in 1 Corinthians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus you will see the local church presented as the outpost of the Kingdom where the Gospel is proclaimed, and which individual Christians have been adopted and grafted into.
A faithful family of committed members whose adoration for Jesus spills over into devotion for each other and for the lost.
The Word preached, unbelievers repenting and believing, believers living in obedience and then mobilizing for the Kingdom.
Quite different from an Apple Store, isn’t it?
A.W. Tozer said it far better than I ever will (as quoted in “He is Not Silent,” by Al Mohler):
“We have the breezy, self-confident Christians with little affinity for Christ and His cross. We have the joy-bell boys that can bounce out there and look as much like a game show host as possible. Yet, are they doing it for Jesus’ sake?! The hypocrites! They’re not doing it for Jesus’ sake at all; they are doing it in their own carnal flesh and are using the church as a theater because they haven’t yet reached the place where the legitimate theater would take them…
“It is now common practice in most evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, the maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction. It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend meeting where the only attraction is God. One can only conclude that God’s professed children are bored with Him, for they must be wooed to meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments…
“Any objection to the carryings-on of our present golden calf Christianity is met with the triumphant reply, ‘But we are winning them!’ And winning them to what? To true discipleship? To cross-carrying? To self-denial? To separation from the world? To crucifixion of the flesh? To holy living? To nobility of character? To a despising of the world’s treasures? To hard self-discipline? To love for God? To total commital to Christ? Of course the answer to all these questions is ‘no.'”
Real churches made up of real members offering the real Gospel spells real hope.
I should desire and pray for that more, and look for what will suit my fancy less.
If we want to create true worshipers we must worship in truth.