I spent a lot of time this weekend reflecting. I have walked with a lot of other believers and been a part of a number churches. I’ve seen people driven to daily grown in their faith and churches determined to honor God, and I’ve seen people who have nothing but cultural faith and churches who have idols on their altars (figuratively). One of the passages that God led me to this weekend was Matthew 7:21-23:
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23, ESV)
God struck me with verse 22. Many will have prophesied, and cast out demons, and done great works…but did not know him. I have witnessed churches go through the worship wars and come out more vibrant than ever. I have witnessed churches split over the issue and both churches grow afterwards. I have witnessed churches split and one or both halves die. I have witnessed churches that stayed together and withered away. If staying together was not necessarily the determining factor in future growth, what was? If style was not the determining factor in future vitality, what was?
I believe that it is a heart surrendered to God’s will. For both the individual Christian and the church, a heart surrendered to the God’s will is the key to living in faith. I believe it is entirely possible for a church to take the right road for the wrong reasons, and I believe that doing so will kill a church eventually. Let me briefly explain. I believe a church can choose to “go contemporary” and loose all vitality even thought that is what God wanted them to do, because they did it for the wrong reasons. When a church “goes contemporary” so that they can dump the responsibility of reaching their community on their worship style, I believe that the church will fail even with a really good contemporary service.
When a church chooses to be a blended church in order to keep the peace, I believe they run the same risk. Even if that is what God is calling them too, if they don’t do it to honor God, but to keep the peace, the church will stagnate and die. If a church stays traditional because it’s what they want, what they are comfortable with and it ignores the cultural needs of its community, even if they are called to that style of worship, their church will fail.
We are called to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), we are called to engage our culture (2 Corinthians 9:20), we are called to holdfast to the teaching we have (Acts 2:42), but we cannot make a practice that helps us with one of those calls the end rather than a means. The end of our worship cannot be to keep the peace but must be to honor God. The end of our worship cannot be to hold-fast to tradition but must be to honor God. The end of our worship cannot be to engage our culture but must be to honor God.
If we miss this mark, even the right road will be wrong.