the focus of many churches these days

7 09 2006

Let me start with a quote :

A system of doctrine has risen up during the last three centuries, in which faith or spiritual-mindedness is contemplated and rested on as the end of religion, instead of Christ.  I do not mean to say that Christ is not mentioned as the author of all good, but that stress is laid on the believing rather than on the object of belief, on the comfort and persuasiveness of the doctrine than on the doctrine itself.  And in this way religion is made to consist of contemplating ourselves, instead of Christ; not simply in looking to Christ, but in seeing that we look to Christ; not in His divinity and atonement, but in our conversion and faith in Him…  The fashion of the day has been to attempt to convert by insisting on conversion; to exhort men to be converted; to tell them to be sure they look at Christ instead of simply holding up Christ; to tell them to have faith rather than to supply its object; to lead them to work up their minds, instead of impressing upon them the thought of Him who can savingly work in them; to bid them to be sure their faith is justifying, that it is not dead, formal, self-righteous, or merely moral, instead of delineating Him whose image, fully delineated, destroys deadness, formality, self-righteousness; to rely on words, vehemence, eloquence, and the like, rather than to aim at conveying the one great idea, whether in words or not. ~ John Henry Newman

Does this sound like how many churches are today?  John Henry Newman lived from 1801-1890, so obviously this was written over 100 years ago.  Yet this quote applies to modern times, I think.

I’m afraid this is a big problem in the Church these days.  So many churches are becoming “seeker-friendly”, which has good intentions, but often ends up compromising the Gospel to keep from potentially offending people.  I’ve heard of numerous churches that won’t talk about the blood of Jesus or the cross or the Holy Spirit.  But these things are central to Christianity!  You can’t be saved without accepting the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross, where He shed His blood for our sins.  And the Holy Spirit has to draw someone to Jesus before they can get saved.  You can’t just leave these things out of Christianity!

There’s also less preaching against sin in many churches these days.  I realize people don’t like to hear that they’re sinners, that they are morally corrupt.  But it’s the truth!  We have all sinned against God.  You can’t be saved without knowing this.  And once saved, we still need to hear about dealing with our sins, because we’re still not perfect yet we must strive for perfection.  When sin is not confronted, you have Christians who live like the world, and that’s hypocrisy.  And God is not pleased with that.  Sin is what we are being saved from!  Our sin is what separates us from God.  So if we don’t deal with our sin, we aren’t hearing from God and we aren’t seeing the power of God working in us and through us, and then you have a powerless Church.  There are many churches that are powerless now, in that the power of God isn’t seen.  There’s usually plenty of “religion” (as in following rules) but a lack of relationship with God.  And so many Christians say things like, “God doesn’t do that anymore”, based on their experience.  And the world sees Christians with no power, lacking God’s peace, joy, and righteousness, and they wonder why they would want to add all these “rules” for no reason.

I hope most churches aren’t this way… I really do.  I’m typically an optimist, and I still have hope, but it’s discouraging to see so many people calling themselves a Christian when their actions say otherwise.  I know people who will proudly tell you they’re a Christian (if you ask), but they don’t talk about God on their own, they don’t live like Jesus, they don’t bear much of a resemblance to Jesus, they don’t want to talk about God (when you bring Him up), etc.  That is what’s discouraging.  I’m not trying to judge who is and isn’t a Christian, but there are people who claim it but aren’t.  And some people are deceived, where they think they’re a Christian because some church got them to agree with their doctrine, but they don’t have a relationship with God.

Back to the quote… apparently John Henry Newman saw this trend over 100 years ago, and it’s still growing.  We need to stay true to the Word of God (the Bible) and seek God more than ever!  And of course our churches should reach out to the community and welcome visitors and love all people regardless.  But we must not compromise the message to be “politically correct” or to not offend anyone.  The Gospel is offensive to those who reject it.  We shouldn’t try to offend people or be offensive, but we must tell people the truth.  If we withhold the truth, then we don’t truly love them.  The truth shall set people free, not our church programs or our Christian entertainment.  The Bible is still applicable to everyone.

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12 responses

7 09 2006
Fab

It’s been my observance that many so-called Evangelical leaders in America just preach the “News”, not the “Good News”. Allow me to explain: Some of them will tell us that Jesus saves, but, that’s just “news” because many do not see the need to be saved or understand the consequences of not being saved. It becomes “good news” when we’re told that Jesus saved us from our sins by being punished in our place and we no longer have hell waiting after we die. What makes this “Good News”? The fact that we’re told the bad situation we are in and given a way out of it. If we don’t know that we are sinners, what is there to be saved from? If there is no “bad news” first, then the “good news” is just “news” with little power to save.

7 09 2006
Fab

This attitude is also evident in songs we sing that are considered “Praise and Worship”. As a Worship Leader, there are some songs I will not be leading because they are more focused on “me” than on Jesus.

Now granted, some songs talk about a testimony and what the Lord has done in your life and those do glorify Him, inspire people to worship Him and pour out their hearts to Him, even though it uses the words “I” and “me” a lot. Those are not the types of songs I’m talking about here.

I’m talking about songs that speak of a personal high “spiritual position” above talking about our God who is above all.

An example: The popular song “Friend of God”, while an OK song, is not a praise and worship song, in my opinion. These are the words to the chorus:

I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God
He calls me friend

This is “me” focused, in my opinion, yet many “mega-churches” and even some smaller ones use this as a praise and worship song. This song may be edifying to the listener, but, when we’re trying to worship God, my edification is not the purpose. We are to lift up Jesus and not “me” as God’s friend. If this was sung as a “special”, that would be OK with me, but as a worship song, it lacks one key ingredient: Worship of God.

11 09 2006
Mobo

Sadly, I must agree with the quote and the statement that Beppo makes. Now days its about what’s in it for me? (not spiritually speaking) A great message that I have recently listened to is “Give Me Some Sugar” by Steve Hill…powerful message…no if ands or buts, he tells it like it is. I challenge everyone to listen with an open heart and see for yourselves. http://www.heartlandfamily.com

Now, about the praise and worship songs. Again sadly there are several songs that are about me,we,us,etc. But I believe that if you where to listen to the verse of the song Friend of God then you might see a different story…

Who am I that You are mindful of me?
That you hear me
When I call
Is it true that You are thinking of me?
How You love me
It’s amazing

Chorus
I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God
I am a friend of God
He calls me friend

Clearly this is singing praises to God…and in the chorus I see it as someone singing it, and running through the towns and knocking on doors telling everyone…that…I am a friend of God! I AM A FRIEND OF GOD! I’m not even worthy to lace his shoes, but He calls me His friend!

The praise and worship is in the verse and the testimony is the chorus…

That’s my take…

Mobo

11 09 2006
Mobo

And you also have the bridge of the song…

God Almighty
Lord of Glory
You have called me friend

Lord I thank you for being my friend!

Mobo

12 09 2006
Kri'

Preach on, Mobo! I liked how the guest speaker put it this Sunday morning, that although he Lord and King, He also wants to be our Father and Friend.

He loves us!! 😀

12 09 2006
Fab

I don’t disagree with the usefulness of the song, but it’s still not a praise and worship song, in my opinion. The verse is still all about “me”. I knew what the verse and bridge said when I wrote my comment. The words of the song are true, edifying, and uplifting. I still can’t see this as a praise and worship song, though. It’s almost like the song, “Who Am I” by Casting Crowns. It’s a good song, true and edifying in every way. But who are we trying to edify? God or man. That’s why I try to avoid songs like this for praise and worship. They have their place and I like them, just in the right context.

God wants to be my friend and for that I’m thankful. But lost people who don’t understand the theology of why I’m a friend of God hear us sing these songs in a worship setting and can easily come away with the conclusion that it’s all about me when praise and worship is all about Jesus.

When I sing songs during prayer for healing and such, however, the songs I sing ARE more testimonial and somewhat “me” focused to inspire faith by looking more at how God relates to man and answers prayer and reminding us of His faithfulness. But, during regular praise and worship, I want to lead songs that make people see God’s greatness and long for more of it in their lives.

Just about any Christian song *can* be praise and worship to a Christian who understands the theology, but we have to be careful that organized praise and worship is unmistakably God-focused.

12 09 2006
Mobo

As a great pastor I’ve heard before would say “You have a right to be wrong.”

Seems to me there is a phobia about the phrase “Who am I” Lol

Here this will make it better for ya J…

You are mindful of me
You hear me
You are thinking of me
You love me
It’s amazing

WOW! Your right! Once I get those pesky I’s out of the way, I can see that the song is about God! :o)

(Seriously)
That’s what we need too do is get ourselves out of the way and look for Him. I believe that through praise and worship songs like this and others that God can, will, and has, revealed himself to sinners.
I believe with all my heart that the revelation will be present! Even if –God forbid– they walk out not coming to Him!

12 09 2006
Beppo

I think the key in an organized worship service is having the focus on God and not on man. That’s sometimes easier said than done. We want our church services to have great music and singing, as well as great programs. I think the Church should be leading the way in these areas. But we must be extra careful that we aren’t drawing attention to ourselves or even appearing to (if we can help it).

As Fab said, “Just about any Christian song *can* be praise and worship to a Christian who understands the theology, but we have to be careful that organized praise and worship is unmistakably God-focused.” I agree with that. A spiritually mature Christian can worship with lots of things, even without organized song. But in our church services we have some people who aren’t so spiritually mature (for whatever reasons) as well as some people who don’t know Jesus yet. So we must be more careful than we may initially think we have to be. Even if something is fine for us to worship with, we must consider if it may be confusing or misleading to someone who has less experience than us.

Some of my favorite worship songs wouldn’t be a good fit for our church services, but that’s okay. That’s why I have a CD player at home and in my truck.

Also, with so many churches these days promoting “self” by only telling people how happy and blessed and prosperous they should be, we have to be extra careful with not promoting “self”. In the example of “I am a friend of God”, I rejoice at that fact, but I suspect a few people may see a praise team singing that and think they have a holier-than-thou attitude. They might be wrong, but we still don’t want to give them any reason to think such things…

12 09 2006
Mobo

First let me start by saying that if there is anyone out there that is reading this, and don’t know. I am only poking a little fun and by no means want to sound like I’m bashing these guys or totally disagreeing with them. They know that, and I wanted you to know this too.

Now, I don’t care if the song is a praise and worship or what…I don’t care if it has a verse, a chorus, a bridge, 20 words, 10 words, 2 words or even it is being hummed. As long as that hum is offered up as praise and worship from the heart, that’s all that matters.

My comments in a nut shell is stating that even if there are no words, and all the lost hear is the humming of one person standing on the stage by themselves. (Which could be classified as look at me, but I won’t go there) as long as that hum is glorifying God, then, He, will reveal himself to that sinner.

“Who am I?”
“I am a friend of God!”
🙂

12 09 2006
Fab

You definitely explained my opinion better than I explained it, Beppo.

By the way, Mobo, you may have taken all the “I’s” out of the verse of that song, but 4 of the 5 lines still end in “me”. Take those out, and you have sentence fragments. 🙂

The problem I have with this as a praise and worship song really has to do with the fact that it just states a fact, but really gives no credit or glory to God. Now, if it said “Thank You, Lord for calling me friend even though I’m a dirty rotten scoundrel” (or something a little more poetic, perhaps), then maybe its praise-ability factor would increase, but as it is, it just sounds like it’s all about me.

14 09 2006
WillDieForChrist

Praise and Worship – Love from the Heart
Many people think that praise and worship is only singing songs at church, but it is so much more! It is also a condition of your heart — a willingness to exalt God and yield to his will. Worship is an expression of love and awe to the God who gives us more than we deserve. Whether you express your worship by singing, playing music, dancing or in some other way, remember that you are called to worship God with your every action, every day of your life. God is holy, loving, and worthy of all our worship and devotion.

15 09 2006
Beppo

Well said! Worship is a lifestyle. If you only worship on Sundays at church, then you’re missing what it’s all about. Church services are a time of group worship and learning, where we come together in unity, but it’s just part of Christianity. We should each have a personal, intimate relationship with God, being closer to Him than anyone else. Every moment of our life should be a time of prayer and worship. That may seem impossible to achieve, but when you let God change who you are (on the inside), then you want to live that kind of lifestyle. We should try to do all things for God’s glory, even if it’s a part of our everyday life. Jesus told us to “abide” in Him (see John 15), and “abide” means “to remain; continue; stay; to have one’s abode”.

It’s not always easy to stay focused on God and to walk in His presence, but it is truly the best thing you can do. There is nothing like it. In God you find your purpose : what you were created for, who you’re supposed to be, and what you’re supposed to do. And not only is it a blessing to us, but it pleases God, which is what is most important.

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