Why do we go to church? There are so many good "Sunday School" answers to that question, aren't there? I look around sometimes at church and wonder why we are all there. We all seem to be going through a routine. I used to disagree with the more liturgical denominations that went through a set liturgy, routine, up and down, recited prayers, etc... I often thought that the set pattern of the service, the creeds, prayers and cantoring left no room for the Holy Spirit to move in a service. I think that having "order" in our worship is a good thing. When a strong spiritual leader leads the church through an "orderly" service, there is still much room for the Holy Spirit to breathe on the body of believers and move in the hearts of individuals in distinct and very personal ways. The order is there ironically for FOCUS, not for restriction, and especially not to lead us into boredom and staleness. The order is for focus on Christ.
We have become comfortable in church today. It is like going to a program. You enter, you sit, you listen, you applaud, you check your program, you donate to the plate and when the program is over, you go out to lunch or dinner. It's easy. We have even made our intimate time of Bible Study a more casual time of fellowship. No longer do we come having studied our lessons and eager for discussion, but we come late, hurried and distracted. We even get up early to prepare to bring a breakfast item of some kind to share because it's fun. I enjoy having breakfast on occasion at church, but it has become a habit that easily overshadows why we are there in the first place. Have you ever noticed that many times people make it to church (late) with a warm dish to share but no Bible? Don't get me wrong, I love to fellowship. But we are so busy in our daily lives that we have turned church into our social gathering, instead of our corporate worship.
Many times we do these wonderful things in the name of evangelism. It comforts guests. It is inviting to a visitor to have breakfast and coffee waiting. We are doing everything we can to relax and enjoy church ourselves and also to call it "guest friendly". We fool ourselves into thinking that people won't come to church if they don't feel comfortable and relaxed. So we dress more casually to make our guests feel less intimidated by thinking they have to come in fancy clothes. I don't believe that we need to be dressed in fancy clothes. I think there have been many people over the years in churches that have looked down on others for not being dressed "appropriately". That is so wrong on so many levels....but equally wrong are those who have taken the casual dress to a whole new level. Casual, dressy, fancy, plain....call it what you want to, but clean and neat is a whole different ballgame. Forgive me for sounding judgemental (it is not my intention) but if you are capable of dressing neatly and nicely, why look as if you just rolled out of bed or are headed to the pool the minute the postlude is played and the benediction spoken? Truth be told, I think we have become casual in the name of "seeker friendly" but truthfully for our own desires. It's not the clothes, it's the attitude behind them. You can be plain and unadorned without being so casual that you draw attention to yourself.
How many people are growing in their faith through our Bible study classes on Sunday mornings? If someone were to come in to visit our churches, looking....truly SEEKING Christ, do you think it really matters that we have breakfast, coffee, and and entertaining service? If that's what they are seeking, then it isn't Christ they are after. If someone is seeking Christ.....to taste and know Him because they are hungry and thirsty for the TRUTH, will they find him in our church? Or will they get plate of great food, a hot cup of coffee, and a great social gathering of friends? Yes, yes, yes...I know that these things are important. I know that friends, relationships, and genuine fellowship is essential to the Christian faith. But if we do not feed the SOUL first, the fellowship may never make it past this life into eternity. How tragic that would be.
So if you were seeking something to fill your soul....
Seeking to heal the void in your life you'd tried to fill with everything else....
What would you find at your church?
Something to relax you?
A great program to enjoy?
A fun group of friends who like to chat and fellowship?
Or will you find Christ?
The face of churches today has changed. The purpose of the church, I thought, was (and is) for the body of BELIEVERS to come together and worship. The body of Christ meets together to fellowship through the study of God's word. We then GO and tell others about Christ through daily relationships and encounters with those whom God puts in our path. Then the Lord will add to our numbers....believers...believers who will be discipled and trained.
So how does this effect the believer who is looking for a strong body in which to join in fellowship with? Have you ever moved to a new town and tried to look for a new church? Have you asked yourself what you were looking for in a church?
If a strong believer comes to our church looking for a STRONG, Bible teaching church, what will they find? If they bring their Bible, seeking a fellowship of deep, spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ....what will they find? Will they open God's word? Will they use it? Or will it sit in their lap and hold their plate? Will it remain closed?
Seeker? There are two kinds of seekers. Those who are seeking something they do not have....and there are those who know HIM and are seeking deep spiritual fellowship through worship and study. What will they find? I would hope both would find what they are looking for.
I watched the Christmas Eve midnight Mass in Chicago on TV today. Nothing entertaining.
But as I watched the faces of those in attendance, I will admit, my first thought was judgemental. I figured it was a bunch of people doing church for their "once a year visit". I'm sure there were those in attendance. But as I watched the service, listened to the creeds, watched the sacraments being made Holy for communion, I looked at the faces of the people again and saw something different. I saw people singing as a congregation what was set before them, praying earnestly, listening, and worshiping. It was ALL about God.....every moment.
So these are the thoughts in my head on Christmas day.
Let's make our churches HOLY places. Places where people will find God, no matter what their spiritual maturity. Let's not seek to please, but to worship God and feed the souls of all who enter...