Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What Does It Profit a Church If It Gains the Whole World and Loses Its Soul?

"The preacher, instead of looking out upon the world, looks
out upon public opinion, trying to find out what the public would like to hear.
Then he tries his best to duplicate that, and bring his finished product into a
marketplace in which others are trying to do the same. The public, turning to
our culture to find out about the world, discovers there is nothing but its own
reflection. The unexamined world, meanwhile, drifts blindly in the future."

--Dining With the Devil, by Os Guinness p.59 citing a quote from Context, 15 April 1991, p.4

This quote strikes me as true. It's a symptom of the attractional model church that peddles the "gospel" for it's own self-serving aims: growth, popularity, power. Churches have turned people into numbers. We want to get butts in the seats and keep them there...and if we have to take the sting out of the gospel to do it--then so be it. We tweak the music and our dress codes. We build gyms to make our facilities more appealing. We modernize the children's programs. We want to be accepted in the community. But where is the substance? Where is the awe of God? Where is the power?

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.
Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number
of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.   --2 Timothy 4:3

What is the purpose of the church? According to Revelation 5:10, we are "a kingdom and priests to our God." We can't cater to the "needs" of some people at the cost of the church's holiness or the gospel message of repentance from sin and toward discipleship.

The interesting thing is that we have tried to make the church so palatable to the world that we have lost our uniqueness. In his book, Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?, James K. A. Smith states this well:

Worship, then, needs to be characterized by hospitality; it needs to be
inviting. But at the same time, it should be inviting seekers into the church
and its unique story and language. Worship should be an occasion of
cross-cultural hospitality. Consider and analogy: When I travel to France, I
hope to be made to feel welcome. However, I don't expect my French hosts
to become Americans in order to make me feel at home. I don't expect them to
start speaking English, ordering pizza, talking about the New York Yankees, and
so on. Indeed, if I wanted that, I would have just stayed at home! Instead, what
I'm hoping for is to be welcomed into their French culture; that's why I've come
to France in the first place. And I know that this will take some work on my
part. I'm expecting things to be different; indeed, I'm looking for just this
difference. So also, I think, with hospitable worship: seekers are looking for
something our culture can't provide. Many don't want a religious version of what
they can already get at the mall. And this is especially true of postmodern or
Gen X seekers: they are looking for elements of transcendence and challenge that
MTV could never give them. Rather that an MTVized version of the gospel, they
are searching for the mysterious practices of the ancient gospel" (78).

Here's a unique attractional model for us:

"But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself."--John 12:32

It's easy for us to point fingers at our churches, ministers and elders, but let us not forget that the Church is made up of people, people who are buying into this mode of being, as well. We have to be different. We can't be afraid to stand out. If we look like the world, talk like the world, think like the world and live like the world then what in the world is there for the world to see in us? The salt has lost it's saltiness.

It's time for us to be different--be godly. It's time for us to have a sense of Awe in worship. A.W. Tozer nails this on the head in The Knowledge of the Holy.

"The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen
above its religion, and man's spiritual history will positively demonstrate
that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or
base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God" (1).

In a world full of talk--the world wants to see action. But not mindless action. They want to see God in action. They want to see His people in action and acting as if they believe that He is truly there. What do people see in us?