Monday, October 28, 2013

Lessons from the Sabbatical--October 27, 2013

I have wrestled with something for three weeks now, and after studying on the topic and spending time discussing it with my husband, I think I am finally ready to share it on this blog.

Secular humanism is alive and well in the Church, but we choose to ignore it.
Let me explain my statement: Recently, I was talking with a friend of mine who has been so gracious in the past to just listen when I am going off on rants. She came to me in humility to present what was perceived to be a flaw in the way our church operates on most Sundays. This friend does not attend our church, but had heard through a mutual acquaintance of the discomfort that the acquaintance’s friend had because of something we do at New Life Community Church on a regular basis.
For about a year now, Trey will have our congregation split into groups of 4-5 people and go through a few discussion questions before he enters into the sermon. This time allows our worshippers time to connect, but it also whets their appetites for the sermon to come. For example, if Trey is about to preach on Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel…” he may ask the congregation to discuss reasons why they might not share their faith with others. This discussion time goes on for about 10-15 minutes with Trey following up with his sermon on what they have just discussed.
This is where the discomfort comes. This friend of a friend of a friend was not happy with the break out groups. I have no further information. I don’t know if she was a Christian. I don’t know is she is just painfully shy. What I do know is that I was asked by my friend to have Trey think about the practice to determine if it is one we should continue since someone was clearly upset by it.
One person. We are asked to change the way our people connect for one person.
There is some merit in looking at the way our church operates. We should always be asking if the procedures and programs we are currently implementing are in any way reflective of what God would purpose for our church. However, we risk erring on the other side if we will throw out an entire point of connection for one person’s preferences.
At the risk of sounding close-minded, let me remind everyone of the definition of the Church as given in Grudem’s Systematic Theology: “The church is the community of all true believers for all time.” If this is true, then our local gathering on Sunday mornings at New Life Community Church is for purposes related to true believers. And what are those purposes? “…to worship as a church and profess faith in Christ.” (Grudem, 856). I do not see anything in Scripture that would make church about an individual’s preferences, needs, and wants. The gathering of the Church is about none other than God alone. Just as the worship music is to prepare hearts for worship (which can also fall victim to the likes and whims of people), our breakout groups meet for fellowship and to prepare minds for a coming message. It is not for ourselves that we do this. It is for a Holy Father who is jealous for us.
This is not a new development in the life of the Church, this nit-picking of operations. I remember the traditional worship vs. contemporary worship wars of the 90s. Many churches split right down the middle because members decided that church was about THEM and not about GOD. I would pass church signs that would proudly proclaim: TRADITIONAL SERVICE AT 8:30 A.M./ CONTEMPORARY WORSHIP AT 10:30 A.M.-- As if hymn lovers also like waking up early. In essence, these churches created divided congregations meeting under the same roof. We have gotten so nit-picky about our worship that now we will leave a church if they sing the choruses too many times or sing them in a key that doesn’t sit for our vocal registers.
This is not what Jesus had in mind when He put the early church in motion. It was his desire, according to John 17, that we would be one. That means that when you visit or attend a church you are, by adoption, a spiritual brother or sister to the true believers who attend there. You automatically have the deepest things in common with them. You may not want to share your whole life story, but it shouldn’t be quite a strain to discuss the things of God with those who also claim to know and love Him.
And this is my point: We have got to get beyond ourselves when we worship with our local body of believers. It will not do to make church about what we get out of it or how “comfortable” we feel with a chosen procedure. This type of thinking is why we have endless denominations and splits today. Remember Jesus’ ultimate goal for the unity of the Church: “…so that the world may know that you have sent me” (John 17:23).The unbelieving world will not come to know God when they look to the disunity of the global Church today.
You may have only heard of the term “secular humanism” for the first time as you read this blog post. Even though many are not aware of its meaning or the crippling effect it has had on the Church, it is alive and well. When what we think what we deserve trumps the self-abandoning worship of God, secular humanism has its claws deep in our hearts. And that will destroy not only our ability to worship God, it will also undermine the witness of the Church.

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