Everyone has a “features list” when looking for a church home, which typically includes:
- Music – “traditional”, “contemporary”, or more recently, “blended”;
- Children’s programs – AWANA, King’s Kids, Sunday and/or Wednesday nights;
- Teen activities – wholesome environments for teenagers;
- Seeker Friendly – relaxed ambience with coffee, food, casual dress, etc.;
- Adult study groups – relaxed small group Bible studies addressing current topics;
There are other factors: – service times, locations, technology – the list can be long.
It’s difficult to be critical of those who seek such things. After all, should we be forced to plug our ears to avoid screeching voices – or guitars? Should our children sit rigidly, subjected to an irrelevant, dull formal liturgy? Is drinking Starbuck’s in church a sin (probably, but Sanka and Maxwell House are OK :))? Should we expect to be inconvenienced when we come to church?
My concern and motivation for starting The Church Where You Live is that in all of the above, learning more about the Word of God is not the primary criteria. One might reply that the presence of sound Biblical doctrine goes without saying. But does it?
There’s no easy way to say this – the Biblical ignorance of many long-time church-goers who claim Christianity is astonishing. Basic Bible doctrines such as:
- The difference between the Old and New Testaments;
- The priesthood of the believer;
- The relevance of the Ten Commandments to a Christian;
- How to be saved;
is beyond the ability of many to articulate. They don’t know what the Bible says because they don’t read the Bible, and worse, are not taught the Bible. Consequently, entire congregations seemingly have no idea how to live out the Christian life, and it’s painfully evident to visitors.
One search criteria for a church home is “old-fashioned preaching”. This typically means a mix of theatrical, loud, dogmatic, unflinching, sometimes offensive, pulpit-slamming, phlegm-spewing oratory.
Again, it’s fair to ask: should preaching be delivered Fred Rogers-style (Hey kids, did you know Jesus loves you? Sure he does!)? Is there anything evil about getting excited?
It’s not the preaching style that’s offensive to me. It’s what is – or isn’t – being proclaimed.
Years ago, a man was regaling my daughter of his visit to a “camp meeting” preaching conference. He excitedly described the speaker delivering hellfire & brimstone from the pulpit, with the congregation shouting, waving and rejoicing. Curious, she asked him of the preacher’s topic. Instantly irritated, the man stared blankly at her as if she had just grown another head before dismissively replying, “I have no idea”.
I recently heard a message from a big-name preacher. He was polished, interesting, engaging, utilized humor at key points, and followed a well-constructed outline. The only problem was that his message was totally devoid of any Biblical truth whatsoever.
An evangelist who touts himself as “Preaching the Old Fashioned Gospel the Old Fashioned Way” had the following statement attributed to him: “One reason I stress old-time religion <is> one day I’ll be gone, and I don’t want my grandchildren to have a church that looks like a nightclub, a preacher who behaves like a reject from a boy band, and a faith that has the shallowness of a new marketing slogan”.
However, what bothers me more is the prospect of my grandchildren sitting in a church with an idle Bible on their lap as a false teacher blasphemes Jesus Christ by labeling himself the “man of God” and heretically claiming to be God’s mouthpiece.
If you recognize the need to learn more about what the Bible actually says, or if you’re frustrated by the lack of Bible-centeredness in your present situation, then visit us at The Church Where You Live. We center on the Bible. The other things – music, atmosphere, programs – don’t feed into Christianity, but flow outward from it.