This weekend I caught a church service which was being used largely as a promotional vehicle for an upcoming building expansion program. Before I continue, let me say that (a) in and of itself, the service was well done; the testimonies of those who are being helped and ministered to by this church are quite real and genuine; God is at work in this church; and (b) there wasn’t the hard-sell offering at the end to raise money; in fact, the regular offering occurred quite early in the service and no other collection was taken.
Having said all that, I was totally appalled at what took place because (a) there was no scripture reading; very little allusion to scripture other than a projected theme verse; and (b) there was no sermon or even a short, devotional meditation. As good as the testimonies were, and as good as the worship was; this service was totally deficient overall.
There are only 52 Sunday morning services in the course of a year, and for some people, this is there only major spiritual event in the week. I know that doesn’t speak well of how many Christians practice the spiritual disciplines, but we all know the truth: Some people get their only feeding on God’s word once a week.
I also despair for those who might have been visiting in a quest for a church home. They would have found the experience self-indulgent. I did not. I knew most of the people at this church by at least their first or last name. I like those people. I like that church. But this service was just plain wrong.
Much of what we know about God we know from The Ten Commandments. From His point of view, these are The Ten Priorities. One of them is the concept of sabbath. “Give me a day each week;” He asks; we give him 60-90 minutes on Sunday. Another one of His priorities is stated as a kind of sub-clause to the first commandment, “I am a jealous God;” it says. Put the two of them together and you’ve got, “I want you to set aside a day that’s all about Me.” Does that sound sacreligious? No, that’s God.
I have never been a person to function in the prophetic gifts, but I believe that if God were in the parking lot after the service He would say, “Good testimonies, good music, good vision you have for what can be done in this place in the future. But you never opened My Word, and you never fed My People. If you really love Me; feed My sheep.”
I think God’s feelings about that particular hour would be as mixed as my own are as I write this; but in general, I think He would be a little ticked off. I would be afraid that if I were involved in the planning of that service, at some point, way down the road, at the time of judgment, the subject of June 22, 2008 might just come up. I would be afraid of his wrath at squandering a Sunday morning service for the sake of promoting a particular local church agenda. Yes, squandering. This isn’t the first time this particular church has done this. There was flak last time, too. Three members of my family never returned to that church from that day to this.
Yes, there are great things God can do through the local church. So keep doing those things. Don’t pause to look back, or to commend yourselves on what is being accomplished. Be faithful in serving that one person for whom this is “day one,” this is their “entry point,” this is the “time of beginning.” With the skill and craftsmanship of one who would bring their finest gift to lay before the King, teach and preach the Word with excellence. Each Sunday. Without taking a week off.
It was a great service; yes. And no; they shouldn’t have done it. Because at the end of the day, the church with the most faithful teaching and preaching of God’s Word wins.