Please know that I know that the “church” isn’t a place. It is the body of believers God has purchased with His blood. For our purposes in this blog, I am merely addressing a phenomenon which typically begins with what I was presented with on Facebook.
Just the other day, I responded to a Facebook post regarding whether secular music should be used in church to help bring people into the church to evangelize them. (Presupposition: People of the "world" will follow "worldly" music even if it means entering a church). One of the examples cited was the band, U2. While I did give a cursory response, I was sure to make two points clear: Who we worship is God; and, we don’t change church to meet the world’s needs or expectations because the church is to impact the world and not the other way around. Further, I understand that Bono, from U2, distrusts organized religion having been born to a Roman Catholic father and a Protestant mother in the sectarian strife of 1960s Ireland and perhaps he may not have been the best example someone would want to use to support bringing in secular music for corporate worship within a church, but I digress.
I know of churches which have opted for the term “modernization.” I have heard it said that their church needs to catch up with the 21st century. This means the removal of pews and stained glass; and, the installation of theater seating, moving stages and theatrical lighting as well as just about every technological innovation this century has to offer. This begs to have one question answered. Why? And it also assumes that things will be better as a result. Copy and paste this into your browser to see what happens when technology takes center stage. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LPlOTklRUo
The aforementioned instances are covered by a term which seems to be increasing in its usage whenever changes are deemed necessary in the church. The term “multigenerational church” is being used over and over again as is if it gives the substantive reason why changes are necessary and I think it is time I give a response.
This has become an ever-increasing concern to me and my family as we watched millions of dollars put into a nearby church which put in all of the latest technologies for their preschool and overall campus renovations. They operated under the belief that their renovations would draw people into the church. In the end, the church and preschool went bankrupt, closed and after a number of years was ultimately sold off to a charter school.
Another nearby church places ear plugs at the entrance to its sanctuary to help protect the ears due to how loud the music is. That’s right. Earplugs are mostly used by mothers for their children to help protect their hearing. There is something about having to use earplugs in church which to me at least, is just wrong. Who, in the “world” determined it necessary to make the church environment to such a state in the first place? Someone actually found it necessary to address the reasons for loud churches here: https://midimagic.sgc-hosting.com/whychlou.htm
I suppose the most blatant example of what can happen if left unchecked, is a church which my wife and I watched in utter disbelief as a motocross racer jumped from dirt hill to dirt hill in the sanctuary of a church. Sure, it brought people in to be entertained for a moment of pleasure but the damage done may take a lifetime to repair. I speak of children who went to church to watch motorcycle stunts. That will be the image they will take away from it and that is what they will always remember. They will never forget the voice over the sound system encouraging people to cheer on the cyclist as he "jumps for Jesus." Really?
How about the churches which have fog machines and mood lighting filling the sanctuary during worship? Haven't heard of these? Church is turning into places of entertainment. I'm guardedly certain that each may have started off with good well-meaning intentions but no one heard the still small voice cautioning with the word "restraint." Copy and paste this url to see. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji7RtLaGcAk
Since the point in time of Christ's resurrection, His church was and still remains multigenerational. The church would not exist if this were not the case. Each of us believers in our Lord Jesus have a responsibility before God to raise our children in the way that they should go. Jesus made it clear that He is the way. Therefore, we who are believers, are the ones who are to impact the next generation with the Truth of the Gospel. Yes, it is that simple. You might say it is as simple as the Gospel itself. It is the church of believers who are to impact the ever increasingly rebellious “world” by going into all the world and proclaiming the Gospel to the whole creation. If it wasn’t, no one would fill the pews after previous generations passed on. That, however, isn’t really the point.
I am deeply concerned as to how we, as the body of Christ, present our corporate worship to God. It speaks volumes to a world which finds little reason to seek after let alone worship God. The “world” has so tight a grip that everything is colored or rather tainted with illusions of what is acceptable and pleasing to God. As a consequence, worshipping God has become more about what the “world” expects and what the “world” will find more comfortable and pleasing to its senses. This is not only wrong, it is completely backwards. Further, another direct consequence is the relocating of long-time worshippers to other churches or worse yet, a total walking away from the church body.
Ultimately, we believers must understand the calling God places on all of His children. It brings the question of, “Am I my brother’s keeper,” to a whole new level. It is a more mature level which says to the “world,” I’ve already been where you are and I love you so much, I am willing to run the risk of telling you the truth. Your very senses and the determination of your sensibilities are colored by assumptions masquerading as wisdom. It is a trap and delivers a false sense of well-meaning purposeful intentions directed at making things better than they currently are. Unless one is careful, it may open the door to changing how churches appear to the "world," how the church worships and may lead to issues I hope we need not ever face.
The early church met in homes, caves and catacombs. As time went on, massively ornate cathedrals with gold inlays, paintings, frescos, and murals served as examples of gaudiness to the “world.” By the time of the reformation and when Bibles could finally be placed in the hands of people, a return to houses and other places became the norm. Eventually, protestant churches rose to meet the increasing numbers of believers. By the time of the late 19th century, Charles Spurgeon preached to about 10 million people over the course of his life. He would often preach 10 times a week at different places. Billy Graham preached to live audiences of 210 million people in more than 185 countries and territories through various meetings. In both examples, people came to hear the Word of God and God provided the means by which that would take place. Our natural response to God is praise and worship. No gimmicks and it’s not about atmosphere, environment or any other distraction to set the mood of those in attendance.
It has never been about darkening the sanctuaries, turning on the mood lighting and fog machines; and, it isn’t about bringing in the music of the “world,” pumping up the volume and holding on tight because we are going for a ride today. It isn’t about corporate entertainment like an amusement park, a theater or a concert. It is about worshipping the One who created everything and praising Him for making a way that we may come into a right relationship with Him through our Lord Jesus and that is what needs to be conveyed in our worship and taught to new believers.
Nothing ostentatious is required nor should ever be considered. It is about a relationship with God and what that looks like as we praise Him with music and with song. Some may say it isn’t loud enough and we need to bring secular music from outside the church to bring people in. Really? Doesn’t that raise any kind of alert in you? If it doesn’t, then it is too loud for you to hear the still small voice telling you to open the curtains, let in the light so you can see the volume controls to turn it down.
Once a little of the "worldly" things become increasingly more acceptable by the "church" (body of believers), there is no line any longer between the "world" and the "church" and the result is always a blurring of the boundaries or their entire removal. The generation that follows after us, rather than learning and maturing in worship, becomes increasingly more likely to follow after things like this which breaks my heart.