About a year ago, I was in the car with my son and saw a billboard that took me by surprise. It was for a new church plant in our area and proudly displayed the words, “Church that doesn't **** (a word that I will not use here because it is absolutely inappropriate!) ” Really?! Is this the best we can do? Is the Gospel so boring and flat that we have to resort to this kind of ridiculous “marketing” tactic to “bring in the sheaves?”
Recently, I was speaking with a good friend of mine who had left a church that is certainly well within orthodoxy, but has allowed it's focus to fall on the excellence of musical performance rather than the excellence of the Word of God. Before he and his wife left the church, he had a meeting with the worship leader and told him that the reason they were leaving was that the music was TOO good and it overshadowed the preaching of the Word. Now, this is not to say that we should not strive for excellence. We serve the Almighty Eternal God and He is certainly worthy of our best offerings of praise. But just as my friend said, it seems that some congregations are focusing on using music to draw crowds to the church rather than focusing on preaching the Gospel to draw men's hearts to Christ.
What is it that are we called to do? Are we just more self-help peddlers who feel that the pulpit is an extension of our blog sites? Or are we frustrated rock musicians that secretly (or maybe not so secretly) would rather be rocking out the downtown arena than playing for a bunch of squares in a stiff “traditional” church? Why do we try to compete with what the entertainment industry does anyway? (They have much larger budgets and are so much better at it than we are.) But even if we could do it as well as the world what is the point? What is it that changes the hearts of men? Is it helping them in their marriages? Is it helping them with their finances? Is it helping them be better parents? While all of these things are well and good and can be the RESULT of a changed heart, these are not the things that bring about that change in the first place. In Mark 7:15, Jesus said, “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” Therefore in order for a man's actions to change, his heart must first be changed. But, can that truly happen if what we are doing is simply catering to the desires of men whose hearts are darkened by their own sin? Paul Washer of HeartCry Missionary Society once said, “The church in it's desire to become relevant makes itself look like a fool in the midst of it's enemies. The church today in America looks like a Six Flags Over Jesus. Because if you draw people using carnal means, you will have to keep people using carnal means” In many ways, we have allowed the style of our worship to trump the substance of the Truth. Besides, if we have to use some kind of laser light show to counter the short attention span of a bunch of people with ADD tendencies, what does that say about our own opinion of the Gospel? If we don't have a respect for it, is it any wonder that others don't either? Paul in Romans 1:16 said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
So what is it that we DO have that is better than the world and they cannot duplicate? The Word of God. Paul spoke of this in Romans 10 when he was discussing how one comes to faith in Christ. Verse 17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” In order for anyone to be able to receive the gift of faith in Christ, they must first hear the word of Christ. The only way that can happen is through the preaching of the Word. Let's let the Word of God do what it is capable of doing and that is changing people's hearts.
Let's keep our focus on the right things. For our worship services, leave the blog posts on the blog sites and the arena rock for in the arenas. While we can have different styles of worship services, in the end, style must take a back seat to the preaching of the Word. Worship services are not for Tony Robbins or Metallica wannabes. They are for those of us who are redeemed to worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in spirit and in truth, stemming from our love for Him and our love for His Word.
And, that is certainly something the world cannot duplicate!