|Remember when the radio was the|
focal point of every home? It's
still a great source of information.
I was listening to the radio this week and was especially pleased to hear an interview about to start with Pastor Jim Cymbala. At one time I was part of the choir of a sister church with the Brooklyn Tabernacle and had the distinct pleasure of attending not only several Sunday services at the Brooklyn Tab, but also of taking part in several choir workshops. Attending a Tuesday prayer night at the Brooklyn Tab is not an evening you are likely to forget. I’m a fan, too, having read all of his books and looking forward to reading the newest one.
Can you imagine my shock when the first thing I heard Pastor Cymbala tell the radio host interviewing him that only 6% of Americans are actually Biblical Christians! He went on to clarify that what he meant by that was only 6% of those identifying themselves as Christians in recent polls also specified belief that Jesus is the one and only way to heaven.
When I could force my dropped jam to snap shut I realized I wasn’t actually that shocked after all. Over the last several years that Turn the Tide Ministries has been traveling the US and sharing the message of the Gospel, we’ve visited a lot of churches and talked with a lot of folks. Folks in church, not attending church regularly at this time and those who have never attended church. In every one of these categories of people we’ve heard their own versions about all the different ways to reach heaven. We’ve listened to argument after argument that God surely isn’t going to “send” so and so to hell just because they are
· Fornicators; living in sin
· Abusing drugs or alcohol
· Telling white lies
· Only stealing from their company because they are underpaid
· Cheating on their husband/wife but it’s the spouses fault
See I Corinthians 6:9 and Ephesians 5:5, then we’ll talk more about that.
What we’ve learned over the last few years specifically is that there is a serious sin problem plaguing American Christians. The sin problem isn’t as simple as that people are sinning and need to repent. It’s a tougher problem even than that! It’s a problem exacerbated by the fact that few church leaders are preaching against sin, they make light of sin or they are simply excusing it altogether! If I had a dollar for every time someone told me “Oh, my pastor said God won’t hold (fill in the blank) against me. I’ll just be forgiven.”
Forgiveness isn’t automatic and though it is freely given it isn’t cheap and easy. In first recognizing that we are sinners, that we have committed sin, we must repent in sincere sorrow and ask forgiveness in a heart that does not plan to continue in sin. That doesn’t seem to be a concept anyone understands anymore. The teaching we’ve heard goes along the lines of as long as you show up in church regularly and drop money in the offering plate or bucket or basket, you are okay with God and don’t need to concern yourself with much more than that, unless it’s something really obvious, and even then, the teaching goes, grace will cover so just get on with your life and don’t worry about it.
It seems anything goes, as long as you can report a certain number of church attendee’s. We were invited to visit a church down south and attended the praise and worship practice. I was frankly shocked at the harshness of the worship leader toward those volunteering their time to provide music. Perfection was his goal and nothing less down to the minutest detail would be tolerated. Turns out the worship leader was also the Pastor. Made me wonder how he behaved toward the sheep entrusted to his care when they fell short of the perfection he demanded. I discovered the answer the next morning.
The music was indeed pitch perfect. It was also cold and lifeless. There was not so much worship as there was a performance, which the audience, ummm, I mean, congregation, dutifully applauded for when it was over. The preaching was also lifeless. No evidence of the Holy Spirit present or invited. As much as was humanly possible all was orchestrated to a cold, calculated perfection that left me craving some time with God the Father to recuperate from the exhaustion of just watching the attempt to master perfection through the flesh.
In a recent editorial, J. Lee Grady, the Editor of Charisma, a Christian magazine, made the following observation.
“I don’t care if you have strobe lights, fog machines, killer musicians and a home-run sermon every week. If people don’t see true brokenness in the pulpit and experience real pastoral care, they will never grow into disciples. Shallow, professional leaders produce shallow Christianity.”
I agree wholeheartedly! On the other end of the spectrum, we sat in a service with barely a handful of people and very little polish in evidence. It was clear these were not trained or educated folks. Just people reaching out to the Lord. And they did not quit crying out and singing and praising Him until they broke through and reached the Throne room. The music was off key, it was obvious none of them actually knew how to play any of the instruments, but it was one of the sweetest sounds we’d ever heard. I’m guessing it was to God, too, because He showed up and the service was anointed. The prayers were powerful and the love was evident in abundance.
We have moved so far away from the biblical model we find in the book of Acts, where the truth was preached at all costs, including the cost of their very lives. Nowadays, we are so concerned with "our" reputations, we have little to no regard for the reputation of the only one that counts. That of Jesus our Lord and Savior. Most church leadership would and DOES reject this style of church service. They appear content to please the people in return for the mammon they worship, oh sorry, I mean, the money they NEED to keep the church doors open and the retirement funds full.
Church has become about everything BUT Jesus and His gospel message and all about programs, formula’s and our own brand of Christian Celebrities (more on these next week) all carefully wrapped around God, clothed in the name of God but having very little to do with Him at all.
|Daily reading of THIS bread|
will keep us well FED!
My bottom line here is similar to how I heard Pastor Cymbala end his radio interview.
When it comes to the gathering of the saints of God, and please do not misunderstand me, I know that gathering to strengthen and encourage and teach and disciple is of great importance, it should not be about well planned programs and it surely should not be about following the latest fad or church growth formula. The planning stage should begin and end with a sincere and humble heart before God, our Bibles, a quiet time of contemplation and prayer and a fervent request for WISDOM from God the Father in how to “do” this thing we call church.
PRAYERS REQUESTS MAY BE MADE BY FILLING OUT THE FORM AT THE TOP LEFT OF THE PAGE. WE PRAY DAILY AND HOST PRAYER SERVICES ON FRIDAY EVENINGS. WE ASK THAT YOU KEEP TURN THE TIDE MINISTRIES IN YOUR PRAYERS, AND MAY THE GOD OF PEACE BLESS US ALL WITH WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING IN THE HOLY SPIRIT.