Monday, October 17, 2011

Why churches still don't have it right

In today's church you'll find a multitude of things that will either catch your eye or turn your head in disgust. Walk into some churches and you'll find big screens up on the wall behind the podium and possibly big screen TV's to the side of that. In churches where "contemporary" or "celebration" services are held, you'll likely find instruments that would be found in most any secular band today. In these churches, a time of "Praise and Worship" will be a main focus, lasting sometimes up to an hour before the rest of the service begins. Then you'll find a meager 15 minute sermon or "word for the day" from the pastor before the service is dismissed.
While in other churches that consider themselves more "traditional" you will find an organ and a piano, and possibly a choir in the elevation behind the podium, semi hidden by a modesty rail. In this church you'll have some sort of song sang as a Call To Worship, Announcements, possibly today's sermon scripture, a few hymns and a choir special, followed by the sermon.
And here is the part that blows my mind. In some churches of either style, you won't find an altar call at the end. No chance to get the person who might have been moved to finally accept Christ down in front to be talked to and prayed with. More and more in churches I visit this is becoming the norm. When I ask pastors about it, they say: "Well, it ties up the service at the end when people are wanting to go home," or "If people need to talk further about something, they know where the altar is or they can find me or an elder after the service."
How many people have we lost doing this? I read on a popular site for pastors about the argument of whether we should even have invitations as there is no such notice of any when Jesus was speaking to the crowds. WHAT? How many times did he speak of the people believing in Him, coming to Him, and following Him? If that wasn't an invitation, what are you expecting? Then some pastors have said, "Jesus didn't have church, so there is no set structure. I can add or omit as I like."
What ever happened to the house of worship? That is what they used to call a church years ago. They still weren't really a "house of worship" even then, but at least some still thought of them in that way.
I grew up Baptist, Southern Baptist at that. There was one way church was done, no matter which church you were in. There was a "Call To Worship" usually sang by the choir, then the opening hymn, followed by announcements. Another hymn would be sung, followed by a time of organ and piano music while the offering was taken up. Then a choir special, the sermon, and a time of invitation. No matter which Southern Baptist church you were in, this is how it was. Then a service quite similar to the morning service was done in the evening though dress would be more casual (suits and dresses only at the first one.) and then another time of bible study would be given on Wednesday nights. The crowds usually diminished for the Sunday Evening service, and then diminished greatly for the Wednesday night service.
Preaching was usually done with a fervor. The pastor would build the sermon in intensity until at the very end when he would convince you that if you didn't come down to the altar and accept Christ today, you would surely go to Hell. Now I have no problem with this, but I do have a problem when this is the only message week after week.
I was raised in church (read my early blogs from March and April 2011) and by the time I graduated High School, church only meant a place that you had to go 3 times a week or people would talk about you. The only thing it was far was to keep people from going to Hell (still a very important point!) but there was never any talk about a relationship with Christ.
A preacher was usually rated on how many heads bobbled to their 30 minute nap and the choir was talked about and rated on how they sung the song this week vs the last time they sang it, or if they had finally learned a new song after all this time.
And from what I've seen, the Baptists are not the only ones. Methodists do this too. As a matter of a fact, most churches are still doing this. There may be "hell, fire and damnation only" being preached all over America's churches. Sadly, I have seen many churches where nothing is preached. There is some screaming, yelling, wailing and flailing, but nothing that you can take from the sermon and apply to your life.
While we do need to be reminded of what does lay ahead if we choose not to follow Christ, we need more in our churches. We Need Teaching as well as Preaching.
Quit worrying about how the choir and/or band/musicians sounded. Quit worrying about having an "Order of Service." It is good to have an outline so that the staff knows what to generally expect, but don't be afraid to break it once in awhile. I have started a service, felt led to call out to someone hurting, and wind up with an altar call that needed nothing more afterwards with the way the Holy Spirit had moved at that service.
I'm talking about people genuinely crying their hearts out, not like some people who I have seen in some pentecostal churches who wail and flail on the floor, stop and look to see who is watching, then start back again. You know who you are!!!! I'm talking about people genuinely tired of their lives and the way that they are living, realizing that they can't do it anymore. This is what Jesus wanted from the crowds. He wanted people healed, demons cast out and for people to know that someone was there to care about them.
Too many times the only people who care about anyone at church, especially someone new is the staff, and too often that isn't going to happen either. Too many times the pastor is worried about closing up the building and the deacons/elders are worried about getting the money counted. To that I say, "LEAVE THE MONEY IN THE SAFE, GET YOUR HANDS OFF OF THE DOORS, AND GET IN THE CROWD." Talk to the people you don't recognize. You may have someone there who is considering doing something drastic in their lives such as suicide, leaving a spouse or other even worse things. They look around and it seems everyone is running for the doors. What doors that aren't being used are being locked, and they feel that they are being pushed to leave the building. Maybe they wanted to talk. Not just have someone greet them, hand them a bulletin and a card to fill out. If you are sensitive to the Holy Spirit, you will know these people immediately! You will be led and/or drawn to them. You will want to pull them to the side where you can talk more about what is troubling them. Then you will be actually reaching out to people.
I didn't start this blog to bash anybody or any denominations. I started this blog to get people to realize where we are going wrong as Christians and to shake things up, turn things Upside Down, and get back to where the church can do something good. If you do feel that you or your denomination is or has been bashed, well, maybe you need to look at why you're feeling that way. Is the Holy Spirit trying to wake you up before it is too late with an urging to reconsider how you've always done things?
Quit worrying about how the choir sang, how the musicians played, what songs were used, how much money was given. Let's start putting people first. God will take care of the rest. I've heard some of the gosh darn awfullest choirs that sang with their hearts tuned to God, and they brought me closer to worship than a polished 100 member unit that could sing all of the 4 part harmony written in the musical scores before them. These productions might have sounded good, but in the end, they left me empty, still hoping that the sermon could salvage something out of the service.
And PLEASE quit worrying about being a "contemporary" or a "traditional" church.
That is something that I don't see anymore. I once read a joke where a bum was sitting on the church step, everyone was ignoring him, some even making suggestive remarks toward him that he should leave the property. Finally a kind face approaches him and sits down beside him, looking a little dejected, though dressed "the part" that one would expect to the welcomed into the sanctuary. The bum looks up at the gentleman and says, "Hi, I'm Frank, they won't let me in because of who I am, so I'm sitting here resting before I move on." The other guy looks at him with tears in his eyes, and says, "Hi, I'm Jesus, and don't feel bad, they won't let me in either!"
Will you let Jesus in today? I'm talking into your heart, your life, your church! It's time we get back to the real reason Jesus came here on earth and died for our sins. He wanted us to learn to have a better life through his teachings of how we are to live, and He wanted us to be able to live with Him for eternity and not have to perish in a place that words can not describe how horrific it is.
Preachers, start preaching and inviting people to accept Christ. Quit worrying about your congregation learning the bible, and have them learn how to use what is in the bible to better themselves. Knowing the book in your head does not constitute knowing the book in your heart and being able to use that knowledge.
Take Bible Study to Life Study and teach them how your congregation today can learn by the men and women of the bible of yesterday. Stop the history lessons!
And when you've poured your heart out on Sunday morning, give an altar call and then stick around and seek out those who were too timid or scared to come forward but who still need someone to talk to RIGHT NOW!
Be an example! Then you can truly lead others in the path that they should go.
Thanks for reading this and come back and visit Wednesday when I talk some more about things that should and shouldn't be happening in churches right now.

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