There is only one thing that makes the church of the Lord Jesus Christ Relevant to the World.
The one thing that we need is to sit at the feet of Jesus, as Mary did, to be refreshed with a sense of His presence as we worship and hear His Word. So often the church service is made into an event no different than the Martha syndrome.
Christians are being ripped off because they are not able to meet together as Christians, with their traditions. Instead, we are burdened with things that are supposed to make us relevant before those who find the things of Jesus boring.
Christians are burdened with all sorts of responsibilities designed to help church leaders have a smooth running and consumer friendly service.
But what about your needs and what are you really contributing to? Is this what church is supposed to be like?
- Churches are reducing worship to mere entertainment
- “Successful Outcomes” are reducing church to a business model
- Too many church leaders and pastors are burdening the people of God with legalism or false teaching
- These are problems all to common in places where Christianity is not openly persecuted
- The fear today is being ashamed of doing truly spiritual Christian worship
The majority of Christian churches in countries that do not openly persecute Christians subject believers to a worship service specifically intended to make non-Christians feel more comfortable. Maybe non-Christians really need the church to be completely different to the ways of the world, rather than like the world?
Churches that meet under the real expectation of persecution are not tempted to embrace this false practice. Think about it.
The reason why there is this difference is simply because Christians are wanting to avoid a different kind of persecution. Churches in places without open persecution are afraid of not being relevant in their modern and prosperous societies. Christians have become ashamed of doing truly spiritual worship for fear of being labeled ridiculous and meaningless.
The Meaning of ‘Traditions’ in the Bible
Can we do whatever we like when it comes to church or does the Bible have something to say about how we do things when we meet together in the name of Jesus?
1 Corinthians 11:2 Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.
2 Thessalonians 2:15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.
2 Timothy 1:13,14 Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.
‘Traditions’ are simply everything that are mentioned in the New Testament as a taught practice.
Acts 2:42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
- everything done for edification
- orderly worship
- no idols
- no adulterating the Word or speaking with reliance on persuasion
- preaching and teaching the Word
- reading the Word
- singing hymns and spiritual songs
- women prohibited from teaching in the general assembly
- Lord’s Supper to be taken with due recognition and worship
Is it really so important? Paul thinks so. He commands Timothy to ‘guard’ what has been entrusted to him by the Holy Spirit. Do we think of the Christian ministry anymore as those guarding standards and traditions or has the Christian ministry become more identified with entertainment and strategies associated with the corporate world?
We Have Been Warned
Consider again the above passage, 2 Thessalonians 2:15, that we should ‘stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught’. The context are the signs before the coming of our Lord, namely the apostasy and the man of lawlessness being revealed. In light of this Paul exhorts them to do that which is in contrast to the apostasy (i.e., the falling away from the faith). So long as the church stands firm and holds to its traditions the apostasy shall be avoided.
Leaving off our traditions is nothing less than that very apostasy that will come before the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Timothy 1:3-5 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Notice how Timothy was to guard against this – by thinking rightly (being sober in all things) and by enduring hardship in the ministry. In other words, that it takes a right way of thinking and hard work to avoid this from occurring. The reason why modern leaders are turning away from holding to traditional worship is simply because they want to avoid saying that “this is right” and that “this is wrong” and because they want to avoid hardship in the ministry.
Mark 8:15 And He was giving orders to them, saying, “Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”
Our Lord Jesus warned His disciples about the threat of leavening within the church. The text actually says that He gave us orders!
Most everyone is familiar with Jesus’ warning about the leaven of Pharisees, which is legalism, but we must not forget His warning about the leaven of Herod. The leaven of Herod refers to pragmatists who justify whatever means so long as the outcome is good. Herod only cared for maintaining what was in his best interests, hence Jesus referred to him as a fox. All too often, modern day ‘Executive Pastors’ don’t care what brings in the numbers and what keeps them coming so long as they maintain their position over a church that continues to grow numerically.
Has evangelical worship lost its simplicity because of too much of a concern for what the world thinks or because of false teaching?
2 Corinthians 11:3 But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.
The context of this warning by Paul was when false apostles were affecting the church in Corinth with a different gospel and spirit. Today there is the same concern for false leaders and teachers who create things that burden God’s people instead of ministering to them that blessing that comes from a ‘simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ’.
Christians are being cheated from the simplicity of worship that they should have fully afforded to them. Instead of simply getting on with prayer, the reading of Scripture, biblical hymns and songs, and the ministry of the Word, Christians are being subjected to all sorts of things. There is a focus on inclusion and relevance rather than on devotion. Going to church has become too complicated with all sorts of programs and lists to commit to, rather than being committed to sitting at the feet of Jesus for that one thing needful.
Luke writes that the disciples ‘were continually devoting themselves’ to this tradition. A seriousness had gripped their hearts and they rightly understood that it was necessary to protect something very special. So Paul exhorts us to ‘stand firm and hold to’ these things.
1 Peter 4:11 Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God….
The world is constantly mocking God and His Word. It is a shame that His churches often do the same by not communicating a seriousness about God and His Word. There is no place for jokes from the pulpit. Jesus never made a joke, nor can anyone find a joke anywhere in the Bible.
Too many Christians have responded to the church being serious by going to one of two extremes:
- The first are those who have adopted the world’s thinking that we should not take these things too seriously, because they are ashamed of God and His Word
- The second equally wrong response has been to make seriousness an act of self-righteousness
Why be serious? It is about why we meet together. We meet in the name of Jesus with the hope of sensing His presence. The one who longs to meet with Jesus does not beat around the bush, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
As a guiding principle, Paul says that all things are to done for the sake of edification in the church. Jokes may be fun, but they do not edify. A man of God, who is burdened with God’s Word, does not have time to communicate anything but the ‘utterances of God’. A pretender has to fill his sermon with other things because he does not have a burdened message from God.
If we are serious about meeting with God and sitting at the feet of Jesus, there is no place for anything that is not about that very thing.
- Obedience to God’s Word in how we worship, by God’s people and the leadership
- Faith in what God has given to us and that He will bless us
The New Testament church was not only simple and serious, but it was also earnest. The whole point of holding to and standing firm in the traditions is because these things are the only things that we have that are about Jesus. You cannot make an idol and hope it will bring you close to Jesus. You cannot busy yourself in any other thing in order to be blessed in Jesus but in prayer, the Scriptures, doctrinal songs, and fellowship.
Hence, we are to be earnest in church, in the keeping of these traditions, because it is what the Lord has given to us to keep us close to Jesus and His will for our lives.
Instead of being ashamed of the things that Jesus has given to us, let us embrace them earnestly. Though these are the things that are counted “traditional” they are in fact the only things that we have that Jesus has given to us.
We Need to Cry Out to God
Time and again the church of the Lord Jesus Christ needs to ask, “Where is the Lord?”, as even the priests of Israel failed to do so in the past. Being earnest is about using the traditions of prayer, the Scriptures, and hymns, [i.e., the things of Jesus] to be revived in the Lord, instead of walking ‘after things that did not profit’.
We Need to Realize that God’s People will Always Be Facing the Same Threats to Undermine Biblical Worship and True Christian Ministry
The movement to become “relevant”, due to perceived changes in what people want and need, stems from the mistaken idea that our age is different and unique. It is thought that special circumstances necessitate special accommodations.
We can know that this is false because…
- We face the same demonic opposition that aims at the same outcome, which is apathy and a love of the world
- The solution is the same, which is the demonstration of the Spirit in power as the Word of God is preached – it is still by means of the foolishness of message preached that people will be impacted for Christ
- The Word of God itself warns us about worldly methods and that bad leadership will always be an issue for God’s people
Philippians 2:19-21 But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.
Paul faced the same shortage of ministers of the gospel who were genuinely concerned for the people of God. We must not think that our age is any different. Have a look at Jeremiah about bad shepherds. If it was the case in the Old Testament age and in the New Testament age, why should we think that the devil is not undermining true Christian ministry in our day? If he is, what does it look like?
Psalm 63 – A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.
Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips will praise You.
So I will bless You as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.