You Don’t Seriously Think… What we do in church matters?

This is the first in a series I am calling “You Don’t Seriously Think…” about ecclesiology – how we should do church. Feel free to join the conversation. You can agree, disagree or file ideas away for future cud-chewing, which is actually a great thing to do. You do not need to agree with me, indeed, that is how “iron sharpens iron.”


Larry-Sanders-The-Medium-Is-The-Message

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Someone wrote today with a comment expressing an idea that at least a hundred people have made on thegospelside blog. Here it is…

“It doesn’t matter how the message of Christ is brought, as long as it is being spread, all glory goes to Him. God works in more ways the one, think about it, each person is different and responds differently to situations. Therefore if church is done in just one way, not everyone will respond the same way. I say do church the way God wants you to, weather (sic) that means with hymns or what looks similar to a night club. That’s the beauty of church, finding what moves on your heart and where God wants you to be.”

Hi Leslie,

Thank you for commenting. You articulated the sincere, well-meaning belief of most of evangelicals I know.  A belief that I once held. It is based in a positive movement toward unity in Christ. So it is sincere, but there is a back side to that coin that makes it one that I don’t think we want to carry. So let me push back a bit…

I am actually saying that how we bring a message does matter. How leaders lead matters. That if this is really about souls, it really matters. This isn’t about style at all, actually. Style is merely what you point to, like symptoms of a disease.

The message matters too.

So a mainline church that has buried the Gospel and preaches pablum matters.

A megachurch that hides the Gospel under moralism matters.

People going home without actually participating in the worship of the living God matters, regardless if that happened in a “relevant” church or an irrelevant one.

Faith as being an hour we attend and a small group rather than a complete conversion of our beings really, really matters.

I don’t just know this from Scripture and the 20 centuries of the faith, I know it from the hundreds of comments on this site about how wounded, abandoned, and left flat people have been from well-meaning Christians and the church. For a year, hundreds of people have gone to a non-media distributed blog someone linked them to on Facebook, logged on and poured out their pain. Gee whiz, it isn’t even what the post was about! These are people who should be surrounded by a community of joy and hope and love in Jesus…umbilically tied to a group that comes together to surrender their lives to the Living God, finding power as they are changed. There are communities that ARE like that, to be sure. But too many of us are buying the book and copying what church X did in Little Rock or LA or wherever instead of loving people and going to them.

The attractional model is about “coming” as a passive response. The missional model is about “going” as an active, Matthew 28 Great Commission response. That is a core difference. One that matters.

So the Church, as the body of Christ matters. And that means how we do it matters too. Because God matters and so do his peeps, both those in and outside of the church.

And, it should be said, this is not about 4 songs and a sermon vs the liturgy. “Come here our organ and choir and see our stained glass” is not any different from “Come hear our cool band and see our cool light show.”

So lets talk about how to love God and be the Church in a way that harms less people. This is not about the “packaging” a message. It could be about repurposing the Sunday gathering in order to honor God, be more biblical, uses the gifts of all Christians and reach a lost and hurting world, many of whom’s pain was caused by us!

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19 thoughts on “You Don’t Seriously Think… What we do in church matters?

  1. How many different examples are there in the Bible indicating the importance of conduct in worship? From Cain and his fruit to Moses’ sons and their strange fire to David bringing back the ark and Amaziah getting leprosy. The Bible says come out from among them and be ye separate. If it looks like the world and acts like the world and stinks like the world, how’s the world supposed to tell the difference? Very well said, sir.

  2. I’d echo what Naysayer said, except I tend to focus more on the NT and don’t care for the language of the KJV. No offense meant, and I pray none is taken. :)

    Well done, Matt – you are saying the same thing this evangelical has been saying for a while now.

      • My apologies, Naysayer, but when I go to Bible Gateway and start a keyword search using “come out”, it takes me back to Genesis as a starting place and gives me 209 possible verse references.

        I don’t speak that language, nor does anyone I am acquainted with; neither have I done my scripture memorization in an archaic tongue.

        I believe the verse you reference is rendered in modern English as “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” 2 Cor 6:17

        As I said, no offense meant, and I pray none is taken – I don’t read the KJV’s language since I don’t speak it, and I have a bad tendency to “hear” it as mostly quoted by people hanging on the Old Testament.

        • Right. No offense taken. I seem to remember Jesus hanging out in the OT a lot. There’s also I Corinthians 10 to reassure us that it’s still relevant. And all in all, it’s not really the point in the first place, the context being the church separation and the verse stated to come out from among them and be ye separate. No offense meant.

  3. So, we listen to the still small voice. We go to where the people are. We bring no harm to those we serve. If “anyway works” then our churches would still be active and joyful, full of those of all ages. What else? Linda

  4. I hear a faint assumption that people leaving fellowships and getting “burned” is a negative. If they are done by the hand of a gathering of believers that doesn’t have worship of God Christ as central then it really isn’t a bad thing.

    I guess what I’m saying is… You’re both right. Leslie is right about the form because cultural contextualization should be celebrated. Matt is right because the gospel, must be the gospel instead of some watered-down moralistic deism.

    • People leave groups because they don’t like what the group is about. It may be that they don’t like us following the Triune God as Lord of our lives and loving others as the natural outflow of gratitude…those in love tend to love. It may be that they left because they came expecting that and not seeing it. We will always be a collection of the broken and flawed. But it is a legitimate assumption that those broken flawed ones would be showing the grace to one another that we are receiving from God.

  5. I appreciated this post. I think you clarified your thoughts on the “Cool Church” post a bit. I believe I now see you were not necessarily throwing all relevant churches under the bus in the previous post, but simply looking for a better way of doing things. And pursuing a better church framework and knowing when to adapt with change is a good thing.

    I am actually part of the Millennial generation, and I have dealt with the difficulty of finding a church to call home. And my reasons for being against organized church were much simpler than the reasons you outlined in your post. So if you are interested in hearing the viewpoint of someone who has experienced what you seem to be curious about, feel free to take a look at a recent post I wrote regarding this: http://redoakheart.wordpress.com/

  6. The do less harm model is a fascinating thing to consider. Some years back, I had the mistaken idea that a zero harm model was possible… a lot of others were thinking the same, but its impossible. A safe space for one can be at times a dangerous place for others, and it easily multiplies into a death spiral. Broken people even with the best intentions can serve as millstones to other broken people and it sets the stage for millstones for pretty much everyone involved.

    I think the scriptures allude to this a bit, even if one views John 10:16 as a Jewish and Gentile thing… certainly there would be aspects of a given Christian walk which could trigger baggage problems for one to the exclusion of the other as well as the reverse. The sticky bit is Romans 12:5… but the renewing and transformation of the mind can take a long time, and for some it just may not be possible. Copying the book of the month doesn’t cut it as each community has its own unique strengths and weaknesses that one needs to consider.

    Fascinating post.

    • I am sure zero harm is impossible.

      I also see the “This year’s resource” thing everywhere. Once years ago my wife and I took our Studebaker wagon with the roll back roof on a cross country trip with our, at the time, 4 month old daughter. One of us slept in the back with the stars overhead. It was probably pretty dangerous, but we were young and dumb. We really wanted to eat regional cuisine the whole way. We were shocked to find all of the same restaurants lining the highway in Oklahoma as Arizona. When we got to Tennessee and asked our relatives to take us to “southern food” we got Cracker Barrell. That was what I was saying by “McDonaldization.” I really would like to experience difference as a strength. It seems to me that we are devolving into three denominations in America: Catholics, liberal Protestants and Conservative Protestants. We surely have too many traditions in light of current attendance patterns, three is surely too few.

  7. Pingback: Saturday Shortcuts | Planned Peasanthood

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