My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge~ Hosea 4:6a NIV
I am not new to the church world.
My husband and I have been Christians for the better part of three decades and I have been privileged to teach the Bible in enough settings to understand that even the most capable Pastor or Bible teacher is going to have an off message or poor delivery every now and again. For that reason, we have endeavored to give all but the weirdest churches (like the one where folks would spontaneously jump up and dash around the sanctuary during the service) a fair shake and have tried most at least twice. We understand that churches are made up of people— and people are by their very nature flawed, imperfect beings.
We do not demand perfection from people in churches or from the pastors in the pulpit.
That said, over the course of our recent church search we have had enough identical experiences enough times, in enough churches to know there are some developments in the church world that qualify as trends. Some trends are of little eternal consequence and my exasperation with those particular trends is doubtless at least a bit petty (e.g. peeves 1, 4 and possibly 5).
Other trends are worrisome. Churches are the primary sources of biblical teaching in our culture. Churches are also the first place many unbelievers go to learn about God and salvation. How churches present truth can either cloud or enhance our ability to understand and receive the truth of the Bible. I chronicled some of our experiences in a blog post entitled “Church Peeves”, and in recent weeks I have come up with a few new peeves for you, beginning with:
1. Long instrumentals in the middle of a song-
I get that it’s rewarding for a musician to have the opportunity to showcase his or her skills. If I possessed musical talent of any kind I would probably be inclined to showcase my skills too. However, long keyboard or guitar solos create nothing but awkwardness for the worshipers in attendance. It’s impossible to know what to do when it’s over. Does one clap or cheer, or simply smile appreciatively? It feels weird not to show some sort of appreciation for the musician but it feels even weirder to clap for anyone other than God during a worship service.
2. Misplaced vision-
Jesus never built a building, wrote a book, or implemented a system. He did spend three years investing heavily in the spiritual lives of twelve men. Those twelve men turned around and literally transformed nearly every aspect of the world they lived in. We would do well to reexamine our fascination with one-size-fits-all spiritual growth systems and erecting large buildings. Rather, we should emulate Jesus’ example of focusing on the growth and spiritual development of individual Christians.
3. Lack of genuinely relevant teaching-
Intact families are becoming increasingly peculiar. It is now taught that there are sixty-three known genders. The number of folks who classify themselves as unbelievers is expanding rapidly. Race relations are collapsing. We are in the middle of one of the most befuddling and contentious elections in history. During 2012 the American porn industry generated 13.33 BILLION in revenue, and drug use is being legalized in most states. The world is clearly going to hell right before our very eyes. And yet most sermons preached on Sunday mornings can be reduced down to two incredibly trivial themes: we ought to love God and be nice to people. We need to go deeper.
4. Pastors who dress like homeless people-
Three words. BUSINESS CASUAL FRIDAY. Seriously.
5. Poking fun at tradition-
Poking fun at how churches operated in the past bothers me, not because I believe we ought to do things the way they have always been done. Rather, because it displays a thorough lack of respect for the accomplishments of the past, and it ignores the reality practically shrieking in our face: We are not exactly hitting this leading the world to faith in Christ thing out of the park in our age. It could be argued that churches were far more successful at practically everything a generation or two back. We need to up our own game considerably before we earn the right to poke fun at anyone.
6. Speakers who assume their listeners are shallow-
Most people who attend church do so for the specific purpose of learning about the Bible. Contrary to popular belief, they actually enjoy getting a little history lesson or learning something about the original languages as long as the information is presented in an interesting and engaging manner. Assuming otherwise is patronizing and offensive.
I long to see churches be successful, however I have become convinced that churches will not be successful until we let go of our adolescent obsession with “being cool”. The church was never called to be cool. The church is called to be a hospital for sinners, a school for Christians and safe place for kids to grow-up.
All else is a waste of time.