I have probably come close to alienating some friends with all the texts sending them to links that just “have to read”!
There is some great stuff out there.
There is some not so great stuff also.
Some of the great stuff conflicts with each other.
It is easy to become greatly confused.
Smoke, rock style venue, drums, big splash show —- or
Smaller, intimate, acoustic, less flash.
Something in between?
Out of all of this I have come to several conclusions not only from the reading — but from looking back at the church over the multiple centuries of her life.
1. Jesus first, foremost, always
That nonnegotiable. If He is not the reason for, purpose behind, example of, then it is just wrong. He is to be one we follow, the one we hear, the one we obey, the one who is praised, the one who gets the credit.
All else is vain.
2. If one person has all the organizational say — it could be dangerous.
Recently I visited a large growing church. My friends who invited us love it. It is impressive. The church is having an impact. My one friend was talking about the lead pastor and noted that the pastor once said from the pulpit that “it is his church and he has final say”.
Red Flag! I don’t know the context in which it was said and didn’t pursue it because it wasn’t my place. I have seen too many cases where a church (large of small) is run by one individual’s plan and they have all the chips.
I recognize that someone has to lead. Someone has to be the front man. But if he (or she) is not open to the voices of others and is not giving room for their ideas to be re-evaluated and criticized there is danger ahead.
Andy Stanley says a good leader strives to never be the smartest person in the room. Good advice. Surround yourself with smart people who love you enough to say, “NO!”
The early church was very much a community oriented body without a power structure. Churches were led by elders (always found in multiples in the New Testament) who appeared to work on the basis of consensus.
3. The Bible is a great unifier.
I like Christian books and all the various teaching aids as much as anyone — BUT!
God promised His word would never return void (empty).
When reasonable people sit down and carefully look at the words in scripture with a desire to discover the principles for life they contain it is amazing how much more they agree than disagree.
A church needs to be focused on discovering the power of God to change lives through His word the Bible.
4. Even in unity there will be diversity.
The old saying from the frontier churches of the Restoration Movement (1800’s) in Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky was:
“In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity (love)”.
The Apostle’s Creed pretty much sums up the essentials:
- I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
- And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:
- Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:
- Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:
- The third day he rose again from the dead:
- He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:
- From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:
- I believe in the Holy Ghost:
- I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints:
- The forgiveness of sins:
- The resurrection of the body:
- And the life everlasting. Amen.
Two sacraments are found in the New Testament:
Baptism (original language and practice was immersion of adult believers)
Lord’s Supper (apparently part of almost every church gathering and probably a weekly observance in the early church services)
In other areas of church life we have room to disagree as long as the disagreement is loving and merciful.
No one has all the answers. So in all things — Love.
5. Worship style doesn’t matter
Throughout church history worship has ranged from the grandest of cathedrals to several believers praying on a hillside.
I personally have worshiped meaningfully in everything from large auditoriums, to simple huts in the jungle, to open air gatherings around a campfire.
I have worshiped on top a hill staring at the open expanse of millions of stars and I have huddled in a dark room in the cellar around a small lantern.
The soaring worship of Mozart or the simple tunes of Chris Tomlin — doesn’t matter.
Worship is the heart. Worship is the spirit. Worship is praising God in the way that expresses your life the best.
I don’t get very expressive in terms of lifted hands, clapped hands, or dance. I have Christian brothers and sisters who worship in a style that reminds me of the disco days in the 1970’s.
God values both.
6. Church is not inside. It is outside.
We don’t go to church. We are the church.
The church is not our building. We live church 24/7.
The church is a moving and dynamic body and community.
The church is not to be behind closed doors in a holy huddle praising God for how good we are and lamenting how bad “they” are.
Church is service.
Every missionary has to learn the language, customs, and culture — then apply the gospel message accordingly. Every person does the same as they seek to make disciples of their neighbors, neighborhood, and their city.