Making church comfortable
I am departing from the first chapter of John today to address a comment I heard at church. We were talking about what churches are doing to accomplish growth. I kept hearing how they are changing their worship services, sometimes forming a blended service of choir, praise team, organ, instruments, and bells. That didn’t sound so bad to me, but I continued to ask what are these growing churches doing that is different than we at Asbury. It can’t be just changing the order of the service.
The answer was surprising, but even more so was the fact that at least one person in our group was all for it. The answer was this: some churches are removing all of the symbols that make church look like church so that the unchurched will not be made to feel uncomfortable by things like crosses, banners, fish, and I suppose even stained glass windows.
Is that what we have come to in the 21st century, trying to make church comfortable for the unsaved? Do you know, as hard as I try I cannot remember an instance where Jesus watered down the gospel to make it more palatable, or where the temples were modified to be perceived as more welcoming. In fact, what I read in the Scriptures is the complete opposite of a comfortable Christianity. Call me crazy (or conservative), but if the gospel doesn’t make sinners uncomfortable something is wrong.
The Mega Churches today seem to be focused on one thing, that being numbers. But it seems to me that if we water down the gospel in order to increase our numbers, we will simply be left with large numbers of unsaved people floundering and indeed drowning in a lake of sin. Is this why Jesus came and gave His life upon the cross?
No, in fact, Jesus made people uncomfortable and He knew it–why do you think the Pharisees and the Sadducees rallied against Him? Jesus did not change the message to win converts, instead He quoted from the Torah repeatedly and that is really what made the religious leaders angry–they knew the scriptures as well as Jesus and they knew He was telling the truth.
Matthew 10:34. “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 “For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’;36 “and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’
Peace on this earth is an elusive butterfly. Regardless of how much we strive to achieve peace, it will not happen until Jesus returns to earth to claim His throne. Yet, we continue to try to bring about peace, and I think that is a good thing. Blessed are the peacemakers, right? But Jesus never said anything about blessed are the compromisers, blessed are those who will do anything just to get people in the door of the church.
The symbols of the church are not idle decorations that can be tossed out at will, nor are they idols to be worshipped. The symbols of the church are salient reminders of our faith. Crosses have already all but disappeared on the exterior of churches. What used to be a beacon at the top of the steeple of the church to let all who passed know the building bearing the cross was a house of worship, a sanctuary from a sin-tossed world, has been replaced by something more amenable. After all, a cross is messy, a cross is divisive, a cross is not politically correct.
If we do not return to the faith of our fathers, to the faith that brings life and light and overcomes the darkness, it will not matter how many people we get in the church doors, because the sad fact is that people can attend church every Sunday and still be lost. And here’s something that should make anyone reading this uncomfortable–if we water down the gospel to reach more people, but those people remain lost, then how much more severely will we be judged because we have failed to live up to what Jesus called us to do? We are called to seek and save the lost, not bring them in, entertain them, and send them out in the same shape they were in when they came.
God forbid that we trade the cross for entertainment–God forbid that we trade the Word that brings life for words that feel good.
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