One day, several years ago, we had made a change in some aspect of our worship at the church I was serving, and a dear, sweet lady came to me and said, “Richard, you know that’s not right. That’s not who we are.”
Of course, we don’t like change. Of course, we like to be comfortable. Absolutely, we like things to be the way we like things to be. It’s our church, and we know what it should be like.
And please know that ministers are not immune to this way of thinking either.
Before your mind starts running in some awkward direction, this is not an article about church music, genre, or style. It is an issue that is bigger than any of those and more. I’m pretty sure it’s also not just a contemporary problem. Having read some church history, I believe that it was an issue in the first centuries after the beginning of the church.
I will say that God is not surprised by any of this, but on many occasions I’ve thought, and even stated, that I’m not sure that the church today is what God had in mind when He started it.
A few things this past week brought this to the forefront of my thinking.
One day my niece posted an article by Russell Moore entitled “Losing Our Religion” and on another day our eldest daughter posted an article by Greg Trimble with the title “If You’re Going to Be A Christian…Then Act Like It!” (I’ll post links to both of these at the end of this article.)
I was also reading in Isaiah 48 and was challenged by these verses:
Hear this, house of Jacob, who are named Israel
And who came from the waters of Judah,
Who swear by the name of the Lord
And invoke the God of Israel,
But not in truth nor in righteousness. (Isaiah 48:1 NASB)
This is what the Lord says, He who is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to benefit,
Who leads you in the way you should go.
If only you had paid attention to My commandments!
Then your well-being would have been like a river,
And your righteousness like the waves of the sea. (Isaiah 48:17-18 NASB)
Do you see how the prophet has declared that the people who claim to be followers of God call on Him, “but not in truth nor in righteousness”? And, then God says to them “If only you had paid attention to My commandments!” If you read the entire chapter, you’ll also see where He called His people obstinate.
At what point will we be held accountable to God? Are we already coming under His judgement? I’m reminded of this verse in First Peter:
For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God. (1 Peter 4:17a NASB)
We claim that the church is God’s or Christ’s church. Some state it in their name and others of us believe in our hearts, our words, and our actions that only our church is God’s church. But, when compared with scripture and the commands of God’s Word, is it a reality?
How often do we confuse what we think church should be like with what God has intended church to be like? Does our worship reflect the greatness and holiness of God or does it just feel right to us?
Again, I want to emphasize that I’m not speaking of specifics, of the rightness or wrongness of what we do or how we do it.
I’m challenged by these thoughts. I don’t have answers to this issue. However, I do believe it’s worth our consideration, our thoughts, and most definitely our prayers.
Is it our church, or is it God’s church?
1. The church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord;
She is His new creation,
By Spirit and the Word;
From heav’n He came and sought her
To be His holy bride,
With His own blood He bought her,
And for her life He died.
2. Elect from ev’ry nation,
Yet one o’er all the earth,
Her charter of salvation,
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses,
With ev’ry grace endued.
3. ‘Mid toil and tribulation,
And tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation
Of peace forevermore;
Till with the vision glorious,
Her longing eyes are blest,
And the great church victorious
Shall be the church at rest.
(“The Church’s One Foundation” by S. J. Stone)
Here are the articles I mentioned above:
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