I had lunch with John a couple weeks back. It was a great time of fellowship and we had a wonderful conversation. We had never met before so most of the time was spent talking about our lives and who we are and how we got where we are. One of the topics we discussed was what got us to start thinking more about how we understood the church. I like to ask this question because most of us take the way we “do church” for granted. I know that if God had not put certain events and people in my life I would have never even thought about the way I understand the church.
John shared with me an interesting story (very different form my own) about one way God led him to start looking more into his understanding of the church. He explained that he was part of the music team at a local church. It was more modern and served coffee before service, had a really casual dress code, and had music played by a band. The music team really wanted to serve God and get people to focus on Jesus, and they continually strived to play better and be better musicians. John felt that having high quality music would really help foster a better worship experience and bring more people “in the doors.”
You may expect at this point that they were never able to achieve this goal and John left because he grew frustrated with their attempts, but this was not the case at all. They got really good and sounded really solid, and had a great thing going musically. This was one experience that led John to start questioning his understanding of the church and his “striving for excellence”. Because the music was good, what?!?! That doesn’t seem to make much sense. The reason is that the music was good but John felt like it made little or no difference in people’s lives. People who wanted to worship worshiped, and would do so regardless of the quality of the band. But in the end, lost people were no more or less inclined to come to Jesus, the church was no more or less healthy, and the services no more or less impacting than before. So, while the band had arrived, John felt that the destination was not nearly as promising as he had expected. These days the band has fewer instruments, but they are singing for the glory of God, and people are worshiping.
I really appreciate John sharing this story with me and I am glad that God put this catalyst for change in his life. My situation looked very different. God brought some friends into my life at the same time he brought some questions into my mind. The questions arose from reading articles about how denominationalism promotes unity and how we should align ourselves with other people who think like us. I found these ideas unsettling. Unity through division didn’t make much sense to me, but I had participated within this concept for my entire church life. Thankfully God brought some good friends into my life that pointed me to the New Testament, and helped me to see what Jesus, Paul and the early church were doing and teaching and to evaluate the way that I understood the church in light of this information.
I think more and more people are seeking to have deeper fellowship with other believers. More and more people want to do more than fill a seat and pay a tithe once a week. God is working in his people, and they are becoming tired of their roles as sideliners in the faith. I see through this conversation with John that God is working in many different ways to help his people learn and grow. It is inevitable as we seek to be more like Christ that we will start to question ideas that we always assumed. Hopefully when those questions arise we will be willing to hear from Him regarding the answers. It is difficult to call into question what we have always assumed to be true, but it is necessary if we are to grow closer to Christ.