TOO MUCH CHURCH?

Jan and I went to three worship services at three different churches this past weekend. Not that I needed to go three times (maybe Jan did), but we did have reasons for going to each one.

The churches and their services were all dramatically different. One had less than 20 in attendance, one had a few hundred present, and one had thousands worshipping. The music in one was almost like a concert, one somewhat contemporary, and one used a piano and organ.

One of the pastors read his sermon, one used notes, and one spoke without notes except when reading the Bible. One preached for 40 or more minutes, one around 30 minutes, and one about 25 minutes. Two of the preachers stayed with one Bible passage and the third used multiple passages.

One church building was quite old and traditional, one was an older building with a somewhat traditional set up, and one was new and contemporary. We were warmly greeted at all three, and we participated and worshipped at all three churches. Was going to three different churches and services too much church? I don’t know, but I was reminded of some important things.

Churches are different—no two churches are exactly alike—and that is a good thing. People have different preferences when it comes to style or philosophy of worship. Pastors and preachers are also different—and that too is a good thing. Not every church is suited for every person. The church and style of worship you like is not necessarily right and best; nor is the style of worship and church you do not prefer necessarily wrong or bad.

The church universal is incredibly diverse in terms of local congregations and believers who make up those churches. The three churches we attended are all in one city within a 10 mile radius; how much more interesting it would be to go to three or more worship services in churches in three or more different cultures. Some readers have probably had that experience, but I have not. But even within the same city, circle of friends, or family there is a great diversity of “tastes” among followers of Jesus. I wish we all would be more open to the differences and less critical of that which is not exactly suited to our taste.

While I was writing down these thoughts I received and read an article by Karl Vaters on this very subject. I especially like his observation: “There are at least as many ‘right’ ways to do church as there are congregations.” Later he challenges, “Let’s stop looking for a one-size-fits-all way to do church. And stop insisting on it for others.” He rightly acknowledges “There are definitely some wrong ways to do church.” But I would add that just because we don’t particularly like something doesn’t make it wrong.

I think the two most important things I was reminded of this weekend by going to three different churches and worship services are these: the Church is God’s idea and we need it. And while I’m not interested in doing it every week, I don’t think there can be too much church. Disregard the photo at the top–its purpose was to get your attention; while I too have my preferences, I wasn’t bored in any of the services.

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photo credit: cseeman <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/7702423@N04/27846427391″>Flappy on a Lazy Saturday in Saline</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

IF YOU’RE GONNA BOAST

Most of us learned when we were young that we shouldn’t boast because bragging isn’t polite and doesn’t make us look good. As a matter of fact, we now know it turns others off because when people around us boast it turns us off. But you may be surprised to learn that God approves of a certain line of boasting.

In Jeremiah 9:23 and 24 the Bible tells us “This is what the LORD says: ‘Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the LORD.” God says if you are gonna boast, boast about Me and that you know and understand Me.

It seems obvious to me that one of the ways Christians boast about God is through worship. For example, of the many places in the book of Psalms that invite worship, Psalm 89:15 affirms to God, “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you.” David gives us an example of acclaiming the LORD when he praised the LORD in the presence of the people in I Chronicles 29:11, “Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.  Yours, LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.” Part of what we do when we gather for worship is boast to one another about God through our singing and testimony.

Now when we boast that we have the understanding to know God there are a couple of things we must avoid.  One is that we never suggest that we completely and perfectly understand and know God. I love the story of the little boy who was intently drawing a picture in his Sunday school class.  His teacher asked him, “Johnny, what are you drawing?” To which he replied, ” A picture of God.” She then noted, “Johnny, that’s silly; nobody knows what God looks like.”  Without looking up he declared, “When I’m finished here they will.”  Sometimes we come across like Johnny; as though we understand and know God better than we really do.

The other thing I think we must not do in boasting about our understanding and knowledge of God is to intimate that we know God but but others have no clue. Too many Christians, especially leaders and long time believers who have a lot of Bible knowledge come across as though they have a handle on God and those who disagree with them on something just don’t get it. I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t have convictions about what we believe, I’m cautioning us to watch our attitude and how we come across to others when we boast about the LORD.

I hope if you are going to boast, you will boast about the LORD. Can you do it without overdoing it?

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/40518938@N00/2681502976″>Male Peacock With Feathers In Full Strut</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;