July 30, 2007

How should we "do" church?

John MacArthur's Pulpit Magazine blog features an outstanding article titled The Church As It Was Meant To Be.

Many churches have become nothing more than entertainment centers, employing tactics that effectively draw people into the church, but are incapable of truly ministering to them once they come.

God never intended the church to be like that. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus says, “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.” Notice the Lord’s one condition to that great promise: “I will build My church” (emphasis added). Christ’s guarantee is valid only when He builds the church His way. When you follow His blueprint, you can be sure that He is doing the work through you and that nothing, not even the gates of hell, can stop Him.

It's very sad what has become of evangelical churches. And the disease in our churches is no longer confined to liberal churches or churches that proclaim a man-centered theology. It has become all too prevalent in conservative circles including the Conservative Southern Baptists, Independent Fundamental Baptist churches, and conservative independent Bible churches. Internal politics, an entertainment culture, and a lack of revulsion from sin characterize even conservative Baptist churches now.

We must pray for Christ to heal his church.

July 29, 2007

Don't forget providence

Phil Johnson from the Pyromaniacs blog has some perceptive thoughts regarding God's providence—even when it seems that things are going wrong for us. Read the post and remember to remember where God has led in the past. We have all been through very trying times. We all need to remember that as God was leading through those previous stormy waters, so He will lead through our current trials.

July 28, 2007

Be the Holy Spirit for Your Congregation

Song Leader • Worship Leader • Lead Worshiper. I have heard many ways of describing the person who leads the congregation in corporate musical worship of God. The different names for this same person have morphed over the years as times have changed and as various people have tried to inject their personal viewpoint into the mix of what we call this person. But most of these titles have linguistically described a person who is directing the congregation—giving the congregation an idea of what's going on and what is expected, keeping the myriad people together on key, in tempo, and focused on the same concept.

But all things should be done decently and in order.
   —1 Corinthians 14:40

But recently a new term has surfaced that bothers me tremendously—Worship Facilitator. This title, which appears to have risen out of the Emergent Church community, seems presumptuous to the point of blasphemy. We cannot know the hearts of the folks who are using this term, but it seems to me that it springs out of false humility—a desire to try to convince people that this person is not up in front of everyone because he wants the attention or wants to be in the spotlight.

The problem with the term Worship Facilitator is found in the etymology of that term. Although facilitator has come to be known as a person who leads a meeting—who makes the meeting run smoothly (makes the meeting facile), the etymology of this term shows that a facilitator is someone who supplies the faculties to the recipient of his facilitating to allow that person to accomplish the task at hand. In the case of meetings, this is a perfectly acceptable title for the leader. But in the case of worship, the only person capable of facilitating worship in the hearts and minds of the congregants is the Holy Spirit.

We must guard ourselves as we strive to invent new terms and redefine meanings that we do not open those around us to misunderstandings that can cause serious theological trouble in the coming years. In an effort to be "relevant" and to empower those around them, I believe many people have bought into this term—thinking that it will make them seem less like a superior and more like just one of the people having a general conversation. The problem with this viewpoint is that it ignores the fact that a large group of people needs a leader to lead them—not a so-called "facilitator" trying to do something that can be done by only God Himself.

July 25, 2007

C.S. Lewis on Worship

I think our business as laymen is to take what we are given and make the best of it. And I think we should find this a great deal easier if what we are given was always and everywhere the same.

To judge from their practice, very few Anglican clergymen take this view. It looks as if they believed people can be lured to go to church by incessant brightenings, lightenings, lengthenings, abridgements, simplifications, and complications of the service. And it is probably true that a new, keen vicar will usually be able to form within his parish a minority who are in favour of his innovations. The majority, I believe, never are. Those who remain—many give up churchgoing altogether—merely endure.

Is this simply because the majority are hidebound? I think not. They have a good reason for their conservatism. Novelty, simply as such, can have only an entertainment value. And they don’t go to church to be entertained. They go to use the service, or, if you prefer, to enact it. Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best—if you like, it ‘works’ best—when, though long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing, but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.

—From Letters to Malcolm

I fear that our new-found emphasis on making churches seeker friendly is causing us to lose a rich tradition of hymns—hymns that have been used as solid theological teaching tools as well as music education tools for generations. The introduction of low-brow music into the life of the church has not been a boon to worship, but rather appears to take our focus off of the Savior and move it to such things as C.S. Lewis laments above. We are now focused on trying to sing songs that we have not yet learned, trying to clap at the right time and in the right tempo, and determining the musicianship of the individual mini-rock stars who are rocking out behind the altar.

May God have mercy on us for changing His worship into self-entertainment.