Friday, January 13, 2012

Church, A Ritual?

Something is really heavy on my heart and it has been since I left Passion.

Church feels like a ritual. Think about it. We have a bulletin. We start at thus-and-so time and end directly at noon. We have announcements, we sing two praise songs, do this, do that, two more hymns, then a perfectly timed sermon.

Is this concerning anyone? Church feels dry and heartless, like a pointless habit that is just "part of life." There isn't any flare or difference, or PASSION. That is what I feel like we are lacking. Church is the same-ol' thing because not many people are passionate about serving and worshiping the Lord.

What happened to spontaneity just because we love Jesus?

At Passion, Louie Giglio actually invited whoever wanted to stand for the whole service to stand. He said, "we stand for the singing-worship part, but it is all worship." You know what happened? About 20,000 people stood for the whole service. I did. My attention was acute and I loved that session the most. You know what we did during that session? We read through the book of Ephesians. All five chapters. Just read it, with tons of people standing and listening. Okay, I have a question. What leaders say,, "Hey, lets invite tons of kids into the Georgia Dome and just read the Bible to them." Not many. But, you know what? They were trying to teach us the true living, active, weaponry of the Bible. And I learned that. The Bible is ACTIVE and ALIVE. But we aren't. This book, this powerful book, is in our hands and we aren't excited about it!!

What has happened to the church? Why does going to church make me feel like I'm following through with a displeasing ritual? Like I'm going just because it's necessary, not because I feel like God is pleased? GOD FORBID that my relationship with Him fall into ritual. The day I get monotonous with God, I get stagnant, I don't grow and I'm unhappy with myself and life. We cannot let the church be like this!!

What happened to spontaneity just because we love Jesus?

And you know what? I have been to some churches that allow their services to be lead by God, and they don't really bother with time or lunch plans. But, a lot of times, those are the churches that are judged and looked down on. You have no idea how many derogative comments I have heard made about thus-and-so church. They are showy. They sing meaningless songs that have the same words over and over. They aren't church-minded. They are too invitational. They have bad leadership. They don't do things like we do. They have VBS (as if that's a bad thing!). They have to many members. They are too big. Their ministry is spread too thin.

And on it goes.

In reality, I pity the church that can come up with all these problems with other churches. You know, they may sing the chorus of a song over and over but they might sing it with more heart than the way you sing your elaborate, wordy songs. They may have a bigger church, but that church might be a lot more passionate than your church.

Why do we pick at other churches? Why can't we be a global church that serves and loves God together? Yes, of course we are going to have different methods, but we shouldn't hate on other churches for having their methods. In fact, our diversity is what should bring us together and make us stronger, not drive us apart.

I guess at Passion I saw, for the first time, tons of Christians from all over the place, different denominations, and different backgrounds, loving and worshiping God together. After John Piper's bold statement about predestination, no one stomped out in a fury or got huffy. We all still sang our hearts out at the late-night concert and praised God's name together.

Honestly, I'm pretty excited that those are the Christians I have in my generation. I know the word "tolerance" has a lot of negative connotations, like putting up with Muslims and homosexuality. My generation is pretty good about tolerating things that shouldn't be tolerated. But, on the flip side, the are good at tolerating things that should be tolerated. Seems like the Christians my age are better at loving the global church - for what they are, not for the perfect church they think it should be.

Many Christians see so narrowly, but I am asking if it's impossible to see the big picture. To understand that people are loving Christ, and furthering the Kingdom, even if it's not in the same way as you.   

I'm not saying we should embrace the church's flaws but its differences. It is our job to work out as many bumps as we can and be as true to the Bible as we can, but no one church is going to be able to change the other churches. So, embrace it for what IT IS!

Can we let the glory of God be the passion of the church? Let that be the thing that drives us to serve together.

As far as individual churches go, let's love the Word and never let ritual take over our worship.

Q4U: How has your church become ritual? Or has it? If not, explain why? If so, what can you do about it? Then, what are your thoughts about the global church?  

1 comment:

Logan said...

I totally agree! When church becomes a ritual and when it becomes routine, then it basically becomes a huge waste of time. And, dare I say, a force that acts against God instead of working for Him.

Now I understand that most churches will some lose their focus or purpose for a time. It happens to everyone. But I'm sure we've all been apart of a church or seen a church that never recovers their focus. I wish it weren't so, but my church is that way now.

I really don't want to get into specifics, but the leadership of my church really needs to refocus. They say all the right things, but they don't do what they say. We paint ourselves as missionaries to the city that we're in, but we never really go outside the church doors. As a church, we don't go into the community. And our church is in a run-down part of an old, run-down city. There are a TON of mission opportunities around us, but I'm afraid we never actually go out and take advantage of them. And internally, as a church family, we are totally disconnected. I don't even know most of the older people in the church, and there's only about 120 who come on Sunday morning. And the leadership is too timid and doesn't support itself enough. We have a few people who love to be in charge and don't let anyone else plan anything or be in charge. And our church budget does not support the mission statement our church claims to live by. The money isn't going where it needs to go to reach people.

I've been really disappointed with my church for over a year now. Our youth pastor left us in September and did so in a way that really damaged the youth ministry. He's moved on to plant a church, which is great, but he didn't handle his exit well at all.

My church simply has no real passion, no real fire. Worship is mundane and usually the same. The preaching is good though. But our church is really missing something important: God. I just don't feel Him at church anymore. And shouldn't church be the place in life where I go and can worship Him unashamedly? Shouldn't it be a place where I feel free to life my hands in worship or scream if I feel like it? Shouldn't it be a place full of life, passion, and love? Shouldn't it be a place you aren't afraid to invite your friends to? Shouldn't it be a place where you just feel God's presence and a family of which you are proud to be apart of?

Now like you said, Ashley: I don't expect my church to be perfect. It has its flaws, and so do I. But when church becomes a ritual, when it becomes mundane, when it becomes a place that actually distracts me from God, then what is the point of that church?