Saturday, March 23, 2013

“Let’s Do Church” -- NOT!


I am blessed to be part of a loving and supportive church family that honors and glorifies God in their worship, preaching, teaching, missions, outreach, and all that they do. But others may not be as fortunate, as I was reminded by a dream that I had recently of what a Bible-based, God-honoring church is NOT.

In the dream, my husband and I ran into a former business acquaintance. I half expected a vague offer of “Let’s do lunch,” but instead he invited us to visit his church. To avoid offending him, we accepted.

On the appointed day, we were ushered in, not to the ornate sanctuary, but into what appeared to be a large family room of an assisted living facility or other institution. Many elderly people, some drooling with vacant stares, occupied the large, overstuffed chairs covered in cracking vinyl. Yet there were also toddlers and young children looking bored, despite the attempts of a few frazzled women to amuse them.  There was no other place to sit, so we made our way to the back of the crowded room and sat down awkwardly on a daybed.

I had brought a pair of prescription glasses to read my Bible and made the mistake of setting them on the bedside table, for I soon realized that several other pairs were already there, gathering dust, and I could no longer tell which pair was mine.

Finally the gentleman who invited us came in, dressed in a finely tailored business suit and power tie, and asked my husband to go with him to assist in the service. He complied, and I assumed that he would be praying or perhaps reading a passage of Scripture aloud.

After a long while, no one had returned for me or the others, even though I was sure the service had already started. I heard a loud band blaring contemporary music and crowds roaring in response. I grew restless just sitting there, so I wandered out. To my surprise, I spotted the minister, dressed in clerical garb, apparently killing time in the hallway and reluctant to lead his own congregation in worship.

He seemed to welcome the diversion of my presence and offered to show me some artifacts the church had recently purchased. Not wanting to be rude, I feigned interest as he pointed out an extensive coin collection and an antique German spinet inlaid with a variety of finely carved woods, but too old and fragile to be played. I wondered to myself why church funds would be spent on these expensive trinkets that served no purpose in worship, rather than on supporting missions.

I excused myself with “Don’t let me keep you from the service,” to which he replied, ”Oh, no problem – hope you’ll both stay for the social after.”

I entered the sanctuary, but the service had ended, and I was sorely disappointed at not having heard God’s Word read or preached or having had the opportunity to worship in song or prayer. Most of the congregation was already outside, sunning themselves around a large pool, and many of them had changed into swim wear.

I suddenly realized I was hungry and thirsty, but I didn’t dare try the drinks they were sipping with paper umbrellas in them. “Dinner” was being served in a fenced area, but after I paid a hefty price for a plate, I realized that all they had was Twinkies and other junk food desserts.

Thankfully I awoke, more grateful than ever for our own church. The Biblical definition of church is NOT a building or a social organization, but a called-out assembly of born-again believers (Acts 2:47; 11:26; 14:27; 16:5) comprising the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23; 5:23-32; Colossians 1:18,24) and the bride of Christ (Revelation 21:22; 22:17).. Yet the dream left me wondering how many who attend church services do so for ungodly purposes, and how many churches pander to those unbiblical motives.

Church is NOT someplace to go to strengthen one’s social or business network, to meet people of influence or to be seen in a flattering light. Jesus criticized the Pharisees for wanting the best seats in the synagogues and for making a big show of prayers and tithing (Matthew 23:2-7; Luke 11:42-44), even though their hearts were far from him (Matthew 15:8).

The bride of Christ is to be separated from the world and holy in their lifestyle (1 Peter 1:15-16). If a church group seems no different from the world in dress, habits, music and behavior even while at God’s house, how can the members be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) when they leave the building and return to their communities, schools, and workplace?

God’s house should be well maintained to honor Him, but without ostentation and foolish spending on earthly treasures (Matthew 6:19-21). Good stewardship should ensure that funds are used to spread God’s Word locally and across the globe through missions (2 Corinthians 11:8-10; Philippians 4:15). 

Although churchgoers should assemble to encourage and build up one another through fellowship, prayer, and bearing one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 10:25), which should enhance our joy and peace in the Lord, church is NOT merely a form of recreation or a pleasant family pastime. Yet some churches seek to attract congregations by providing music, media, games or social settings that seems to be only secular entertainment, and not sacred worship or Scriptural teaching.

This trend seems to be most prevalent and appalling in some youth groups. Adolescents must cope with so many painful struggles in which God’s Word should be a great source of strength and comfort (Psalm 119:9-11). But instead, some churches subject their youth to foolish and demeaning “ice-breakers” like eating peanut butter out of the youth pastor’s armpit! Small wonder that so few remain in church once they leave home.

Smaller classes or worship groups based on age or sex may be appropriate, provided that they do not segregate or isolate anyone, and as long as all teach the Word. Yet in my dream, the elderly, young, and women were excluded from the main service, and no one was fed the daily bread of Scripture (Luke 11:3). Churches offering a great variety of classes, programs and services should be careful not to prevent families from worshipping together, to fragment the congregation into groups that are too small to be supportive, or to distract from teaching and preaching the Word.

In my dream, the eyeglasses collecting dust may symbolize a church that no longer bothers to read the Word. The boredom in the youth and apathy in the elderly (Revelation 3:15-16) were the exact opposite of a church that is alive through the Holy Spirit  (Revelation 22:17). This “church” must have been expecting the members to fall asleep, for it even had a bed!

The minister seemed more interested in the social aspects of church and in acquiring treasures of no practical or spiritual value (Revelation 3:17), while shirking his responsibility to lead and to feed his flock (Acts 20:28; 1 Timothy 3:15; John 21:15-16). I left feeling hungry spiritually as well as physically, for there is no nourishment in “church” without worship or the Word (Matthew 6:11; Acts 2:46-47).

We don’t need to “do church” – only the Holy Spirit can empower the body of Christ, by His light shining through every believer (Revelation 3:6,13,22). Only through Him can churches bond together in love, shunning disputes and divisions and unified by faith in Him and His Word (1 Corinthians 11:16), and using their spiritual gifts to grow the church and build up one another (1 Corinthians 14:12).

Why don’t all churches just devote themselves to Jesus – to telling others of how He died for our sins, was buried and rose again to give eternal life to those who trust Him? (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 3:16)) Why don’t churches just preach Christ (Acts 5:42; 8:5; 9:20; 17:3; 1 Corinthians 1:23), worship Him, and encourage one another in the Lord? Isn’t Jesus enough?


© 2013 Laurie Collett
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42 comments:

  1. Our contemporary pastor told us during the celebration of 80th anniversary of our church, that his predecessor had had a dream - his target was 30 Baptist Churches in my city. Now, we have 3 churches, so 10% of this dream is done.
    But - of course - the most important is quality, not number. There are churches, which went into dangerous way and they are more similar to strange cults. It's all because they forgot about clear biblical teaching.
    I wish Yoy blessed Sunday :)
    Greetings for You
    Zim

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    1. So true, Zim -- it's not about the numbers; it's about teaching and preaching God's Word. If churches do that through the Holy Spirit, God will grow the church.
      Greetings & blessings,
      Laurie

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  2. Hi Laurie,
    'Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.' If we try to add to the church by trying to please man instead of God, then we could be in danger of achieving nothing but an entertainment centre. We are told in the scriptures how to be when we come together and if we try to add the increase instead of leaving it to God then we could be in danger of quenching the Holy Spirit.

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    1. Amen, Brenda! Without Him, we can do nothing. His ways and thoughts are higher than ours, and if we follow our own reason instead of His Word, we are doomed to failure.
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  3. Laurie, God gives you the most intriguing dreams.......wow.

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    1. Thanks, Jody Lee! May you have a blessed week in Him!
      Laurie

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    1. Thank you, Denise! God bless you & love to you too!
      Laurie

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  5. Dear Laurie,
    I'm amazed that God speaks to you through having dreams in your sleep which relates well with what's going on around you. The guy in a sharp suit and a minister coaxing to eat peanut butter from under his armpit, not considering the risk of lacking sanitation such an act could bring!
    Experience here in the UK has shown that if a church or group of churches adopt worldly fads to attract people to come in, then the opposite is likely to occur - people would either leave or stay away. I was somewhat shocked to read in a newspaper many years ago that a boxing match was held at one church to make it more appealing to men, and to draw them in. Since then I have heard nothing more about this particular church.
    When it came to games played with food, I once rebuked a youth leader for coaxing his students in messing with food - such as smearing across the face in some kind of silly game. I was disliked by him ever since, and some time later, he pulled out of the group and left our church - although my rebuke was by no means the only reason! Funnily enough, he too was a bit of a smart dresser in a more casual environment.
    This is an excellent post, and thanks for sharing.
    Frank.

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    1. Thanks, Franks, for sharing your experience and perspective. It's interesting that these worldly strategies result in lower numbers in the UK, whereas in the US, many of the "successful" megachurches use them. But what the world views as success -- large, fancy buildings hosting large numbers of congregants -- is dismal failure if they do not preach God's Word and give the Gospel message.
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  6. I have long been concerned that so many churches are much as you describe, and seem to have no interest in real spiritual matters, focusing solely on social aspects, and even ignoring major populations.

    Unfortunately, they have chosen to compete directly with the world's entertainment industry, rather than offering something of lasting benefit, and the world has access to more entertainment, so ultimately they even lose what they initially gained.

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    1. So true, Donald! Some churches try to be "relevant" by copying movie themes or entertainment that were popular years or even decades ago, or to lure people in with comedy, fancy coffee, or big bands that are never as entertaining as those the world provides. Yet churches often ignore God's Word -- the one thing the church should have that is not available in the world and that everyone so sorely needs.
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  7. WOW what an up to date dream of what is happening at many churches today. Our church might fit part of your dream, as we have no children or really young people. The sermons are challenging and full of the word, and our Pastor is active in visitation. I miss both the old hymns, and the new chorus, but so far God has not told me to leave. Thank you for sharing at "Tell Me a Story."

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    1. Good point, Hazel -- no church is perfect, because all are made up of imperfect people, so it is important to follow the Holy Spirit's guidance regarding where you should attend and serve Him in church. The key criterion, I believe, is whether the church preaches God's Word and especially the Gospel.
      Thanks for your comment and for hosting, and may you have a blessed Easter.
      Laurie

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  8. Wow, what a dream! And yes (sigh!) "the world is too much with us" in the churches, and I wonder sometimes what God is finally going to do about it. Funny, your comment about the demeaning youth group foolishness, "Small wonder that so few remain in church once they leave home": I said something almost identical on leaving a (yeah) church service Sunday where Holy Communion was interwoven between jokes and a slide presentation of the silly youth group gathering the previous week (although not as bad at the peanut butter bit (gross and unbelievable!) Communion without that crazy distracting back-and-forth would have been beautiful, meaningful, worshipful, and it was to some extent, but the goofiness sure toned down the sacred!
    Sylvia R @ sylvrpen.com

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    1. Thanks so much, Sylvia, for sharing your experience. I agree -- communion should be practiced in a sacred manner, with all examining their conscience and giving thanks to God for His unspeakable gift. That is not the time for irreverent humor and banter that makes light of His sacrifice for us.
      Blessings to you,
      Laurie

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  9. Oh my! Again I am reminded of how truly blessed I am. Our services are for young and old, and the children do not have Sunday school but are expected to sit quietly with their parents. We have plenty of social gatherings, but church is for worship. To the point when we started having carry-in dinners in the basement after Church, there were those who objected. However, I am thankful for our church family just like I'm sure you are thankful for yours, even more so after that dream. :)

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    1. Praise God that you have a God-honoring church! I believe there is much to be said for children hearing the undiluted Word from an early age. Thanks so much, A Proverbs 31 Wife, for your comment.
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  10. I have never been in a church that didn't worship God and talk about Jesus. I feel lucky to day that, I know not everyone is that lucky.

    How awful to not know the word. How much worse to go seeking it in church and still not be able to experience it.

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    1. Amen, Rosey! That is the worst travesty of all, that seekers would attend church looking for the truth, and yet not hear God's Word preached. I'm glad to hear that you are part of a Christ-worshipping church where His Word is proclaimed.
      May you and your family have a blessed Easter,
      Laurie

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  11. Dear Laurie
    About two years ago I left the organized church for I couldn't take the spiritual abuse many of our congregants and I were experiencing any longer. Ever since I have been following our Lord Jesus and have grown quite close to our Pappa God. Your church is the exception, not the rule.
    Blessings and thanks for sharing this
    Mia

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    1. Thank you so much, Mia, for your comment. I am so sorry to hear of your painful experience, yet blessed to hear that you are a follower of Jesus and have a close relationship with Him. It is my prayer that you may find a God-honoring church where you can be blessed by the worship and by the members and where you can bless them as well.
      May you have a blessed Resurrection Sunday!
      Laurie

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  12. This was a wonderful post. I am glad I cam across it. I'm currently not a member of a church. I am a part of a cell group with some older ladies and a young adults group with some young folks, all who attend the same church. On several occasions I have been asked to visit their church on Sunday. I resisted for a while because honestly I was still a babe in Christ and most of my time was spent at home studying the word. When I do go into group environments they're small and I would share what I received from the Holy Spirit.

    One day I went to the Sunday service at the church and wasn't very pleased. To be honest I don't even recal what the pastor spoke about because I was so thrown by the hoopla around the tithes. They had what appeared to be some sort of powerpoint presentation showing cars and homes and things like that as the pastor would shout out as the offering baskets went around, "Your debts will be paid of, your mortgages will be paid off.." and so on. I thought to myself, is he teaching these people that this is how God works. If we give Him money He will bless us with out hearts desire. Should He not be teaching seek first the Kingdom and all these things will be added to you.

    It really turned me off and I could not even focus on the sermon. The young folks were on their phones texting. Someone was hollering practically cosigning everything the pastor said, which I found to be distracting. I would say it's just that church, but I grew up going to church from I was a little baby until I was about 18. When I got older I hardly went to church. I would go along with my mother, but when she died when I was 20, I stopped all together.

    Just recently I went back and visited. I am afraid for many of the people who have no idea what the church really is. Many think it's simply a building. Someone even told me to go to church so I could get some preachin in me. The Holy Spirit has revealed a lot to me. I feel there is a reason I've been kept me away from churches and the ritual and all of that. Although I do not forsake the gathering, that's why I attend the smaller groups. Today if we were honest there are not many of those places called churches that actually have any of the church in it. I wouldn't even talk about fellowshipping afterwards, where people only talk to people they know after church, they don't reach out to others. It's sad. We must pray that the truth be revealed to those who are blind to all of this. I am young and still growing but what the Holy Spirit has revealed to me, I cling to.

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    1. Dear Sateigdra,
      Thanks so much for visiting and sharing your experience. You are right that many churches do more to hinder faith than to strengthen it. Bible-based, God-fearing churches are few and far between, but worth looking for. I am praying that you will find one.
      Once we were saved (fairly late in life) my husband and I started looking for a church home, and visited many with negative experiences such as you describe. But when we first visited our present church, we knew right away that we had found a church family and home, and the Holy Spirit confirmed to us that not only were we meant to be fed and sheltered there, but also to serve there. It was well worth the wait and the search.
      May you continue to grow in His grace and to spread His Word, dear sister,
      Laurie

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    2. Thank you, and thanks so much for visiting my blog and following, I am glad to follow you back. It's wonderful connecting with other Christian brothers and sisters. God Bless you sister. :-)

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    3. Thanks so much, Sateigdra! It is a blessing to "meet" you! God bless you too!

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  13. Oh my Laurie; that sounds more like a nightmare! Ha! It is so heartbreaking to me that there are churches (something!) like this that push seekers and even followers from what should be an amazing fellowship united with our Father and each other. I am also blessed to belong to a wonderful, authentic church that has us leaving full of love, joy, and His grace.

    Blessings and love this Holy week!
    Denise

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    1. Praise God that you belong to a loving, grace-filled church, Denise! My prayer is that more churches would be like that, sharing His love and preaching His Word!
      A blessed Resurrection Sunday to you!
      Laurie

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  14. Your dreams always fascinate me, Laurie. They certainly reveal your deep thoughts and commitment to the Kingdom. I, too, am grateful for the love and truth given to me through my church family.

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    1. Thanks so much for the kind words, Laura. I am blessed to hear that you enjoyed this, and especially to hear that you are part of a loving and truth-preaching church.
      God bless you,
      Laurie

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  15. Thankful for the Gospel-centered church we are a part of!

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    1. Amen, Debbie! Thanks so much for your visit & comment. May God bless you & your ministry.

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  16. Imagine how the Holy Spirit would work through the church if we simply got on our knees, sought the Lord and laid our burdens at his feet! :)

    Great post...God bless you Laurie and your ministry here.

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    1. Amen, Cathy! It is all about Him, and if we would humble ourselves and yield to Him, He would lead the path to awesome revival.
      Thank you for your sweet comment, & may God bless you and your ministry too!
      Laurie

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  17. Hi Laurie! So glad you stopped by today and linked up...following you back! :-) What an awesome post!! I so agree...why isn't Jesus enough? Could it be, because they don't have a relationship with Him themselves? I'm so grateful, as I'm sure you are for my church and my pastor! :-) Thanks so much Laurie for sharing...the Body needs it! Have a blessed week my "new" friend! ;-)

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    1. Hi Michell! Thanks so much for following and for your lovely comment!
      He is all we need!
      May you have a blessed Resurrection Sunday,
      Laurie

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  18. Laurie,

    What a powerful post - and from a dream. Lots of pictures in that dream. We must be always on the look out for false doctrines and teachings. We need to be constantly in prayer and in the Word in order to seek the truth.
    Blessings,
    Janis www.janiscox.com

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    1. Thanks, Janis! Amen -- especially as the End Times draw near, we must be sober and vigilant, discerning truth through Holy Spirit guidance.
      May you have a blessed Resurrection Sunday!
      Laurie

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  19. Spot on Laurie! Thanks for sharing this wonderful post. Have a Happy and Blessed Easter.

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    1. Thanks so much, Judy! May you have a blessed Resurrection Sunday also!
      God bless,
      Laurie

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  20. I love worshiping with my brothers and sisters. I'm so looking forward to celebrating the resurrection of our Savior tomorrow.

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    1. Amen, Pamela! Me too! May you all have a blessed Resurrection Sunday!
      Love in Him,
      Laurie

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