On my recent trip to the Buffalo area…
I also went to a Wednesday night church service that was completely ANNOYING. The experience turned out to be a catalyst for talking with many family members about legalism and error within the church, so that was a plus. At this service, well after only about 10 minutes, one of the preachers went off about how tithing is COMMANDED in the Bible. I lightly shook my head no….. which only fueled him some more as I was sitting close the front – and then he laid the tithing plug out there even more and so I just put my head down to doodle. This pastor, Larry, was mistakenly applying old covenant law to Christians today – which is error (go here for more). He was misunderstanding the Jewish historical practice of giving tenths to support Levites, and then insisted that the New Testament commands this also, when it does not! I was not even really annoyed by this part of the service, because so many churches promote this tithing error (More here in short summary).
But the real annoyance from the service came with the disjointed sermon because it was as if the speaker was skip-jumping Bible verses –going from Leviticus to Luke to Revelation and back to Leviticus, etc. With all due respect, It was like he looked up verses that had the word “thanks” and then tried to piecemeal a holiday message together. In an attempt to try and sound extra scholarly he revealed what appeared to be shallow Bible knowledge with what seemed like ADD delivery. And ironically, the guy that first went off about tithing did not refer to even one Bible verse while his colleague seemed to have had too many disjointed Bible references. It was definitely the worse church service I have been to in a long time -and the one single guy that led worship was hard to follow because he yodeled at times – imagine James Taylor with a yodel. I was grateful I had the patience to not get up and leave during the sermon, and instead, I gracefully exited when he was done!
But it is SO sad, and this is part of WHY church attendance is in decline in America – because preachers do not even know the word of God. It is not just Millennials that are NOT coming to church – because many Gen Xers, Baby Boomers, and even Vets are finding that in their gut they are not at peace with many of the the American Sunday morning services (or Wednesday night services). It is time for a change!
Now I am not saying to start the whole 1990’s Bill Hybel’s “seeker friendly movement” again – and I am NOT saying to water anything down; instead, let’s just freshen things up with our scheduling of services and teach the Bible more accurately – and realize that as the Culture Monk noted, Church does not have to be so boring…does it? What worked for the 1940’s, 1950’s and even the 1960’s is just not jiving with what people need and want today! This is NOT to say that we need to “modernize with compromise” – because we need to note what C.S. Lewis referred to as chronological snobbery; instead, Church services are lacking and improvements can and should be made to meet current needs and wants better.
We are to not forsake the gathering with other believers, and there is strength in unity because we need each other as we are all part of one body– but when people find that they DREAD going to church and when so many come up with VERY good reasons to NOT go – it is NOT always because they “want” to miss – instead – many times it is a matter of pain avoidance. And I say it is time for serious change! We are the church and we bring our sanctuary with us – and we need change. But fixing the church scene in America is not easy, and as Jeremy Statton put it, the answer seems to be “both simple and impossible.” – But change can (and will) happen – because the good news is that we know God has the perfect plan for His church – because it is He who builds His church – and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.