A few years ago, 50 or so now, the “church” began to engage in a bait and switch tactic. In a sense the church said, “let’s be as little like the church as possible so that we can just get people in our doors, then when we have them we will slowly introduce them to the ‘real’ church.” It became about catering to preferences, sensibilities, and comforts. The result was the removal of the sacred, lower teaching, removal of redemptive songs and replacing them with chorus’, less time spent, less scripture being read, less prayer, mega churches, and an overall loss of cultural influence because we frankly had very little to say culturally, we had strip mined our own history with the removal of the sacred. What essentially happened was this, we baited and baited and baited and promptly forgot to switch, because when we were done we had nothing to switch too, it was gone. So I began about 10 years or so ago to ask myself a couple of questions.
Why did God create men?
Why did God redeem men?
I discovered that the answer for both those questions is the same. He created us to worship him and He redeemed a people to show forth His praise. That drastically altered my perspective on why we gather and what we should do when we gather. Before I was concerned with what men (believing and unbelieving) wanted or thought they needed. After I moved my gaze from men to Him I ceased to wonder what to do and began to wonder in awe at Christ. Then I understood the preferences, sensibilities, and comforts of men didn’t matter at all, in fact, they didn’t even want what they so desperately needed because their heart was “desperately wicked, who could know it”? The worship of God made all natural men uncomfortable and was never what they preferred and never what they sensed they needed. The “church” was giving people what they wanted, not what they needed and it was killing them and us.
Our target audience when we gather to worship is not seekers, the un-churched, the de-churched, or the churched, it is God himself. In turn, He is exactly what we need, so it just makes sense to begin to think about worship more in the simple terms of what God wants, and what He wants is less of us and more of Him and more focus on Him. This leads us to choose rich and redemptive musical selections, more prayer, more silence and contemplation of the Word, and deeper teaching and study of the Word. It also leads to more beauty and a greater attention to detail, form, and order. Because God is holy, pure, and good, the sacredness of worship returns when we truly taste and sense more of Him.
To worship God is what men were created and redeemed to do, and generally God even redeems them while in the process of worship. Men are generally converted more often while in a corporate setting than a private one which is why Paul told Timothy, the pastor in Ephesus at the time, preach and fulfill the office of an evangelist. Jesus mostly spoke and taught in corporate settings, the Apostles mostly spoke and taught in corporate settings, and most of the early gospel messages were given during feasts (times of focused corporate worship) like Pentecost. God is with His people in a special way when they gather for worship. Worship then is not just transforming for us but evangelistic (or transformational) for those who don’t know Him.
I am encouraging people to re-think “church”. We are a Kingdom of priests, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. We are called, more than anything else, to worship God, and it is worship, more than anything else, that changes the hearts of men when it is full of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So rituals like prayer, scripture reading, contemplation, silence and wonder, the sacraments, good preaching and teaching, far from being the things that we should avoid introducing people to, are the very things that bring men to Christ, they are means to bring grace to the hearts of men. In a sense, removing these things would be a lot like removing the pipes from your house and then wondering why there is no water. And if we have no water, how do we plan on watering those that are thirsty for God.