All things should be done decently and in order.
-- 1 Corinthians 14:40
As an old-fashioned preacher addressing the modern church scene, I realize I'm about to spit into the wind. But, here goes. Someone has to say something about the way we worship these days.
The typical church of today is driven by three M's: music, money, and motivational talks. The number one reason for choosing a church currently is, "I like the music." The prosperity Gospel, with its obvious emphasis on the almighty dollar, is the fastest-growing type of church in our country. And in most churches of most stripes, biblical preaching has long been replaced with motivational speaking.
Let's talk about music, which I happen to like very much. One popular author and megachurch pastor credits the music with bringing people again and again to his services. He said they turn the bass guitar up as loud as possible so that people will experience a corkscrew sensation running up their backs. If I want to experience something in my back, I'll go to a chiropractor, not that church.
The largest church in America boasts a 20-piece band to rile up the crowd that gathers every Sunday. They are talented, to be sure. But their music selection offers lyrics written by semi-heretics from scandalous ministries. After the rock concert, the floor is given over to a fully heretical preacher.
Don't choose a church for the music. If you want a concert, buy a ticket. I did, just last week, and enjoyed The Beach Boys when they came to Oaklawn. They rocked. But I don't attend worship to get rocked.
Then there is the money. You all know of the many churches and preachers from whom there is no talk about the seriousness of sin, the necessity of repentance, the cost of the cross. Instead, they put inordinate emphasis on increasing wealth. They proclaim you can become rich by first helping them to become rich. This always turns out to be a half-truth and a whole lie. They have the jet planes and multiple mansions to prove people are sucked into their cult. I'd rather eat dirt than send those scoundrels one red cent.
Even non-prosperity churches have given way to non-Biblical preaching. You get a pep talk instead. One year on vacation we went to a church service featuring an American flag draped over the cross, patriotic songs instead of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and a blatant partisan political speech. We thought we had died and gone to Washington, D.C.
God does not call the church to assembly on the Lord's Day for political speech, monetary campaigns, or pep talks on how to be a better person. We've been hearing this kind of malarkey so long now, over half of church members think you get to Heaven by being a good person, not by grace through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. The three M's are dragging people down.
Why not replace them with the five S's: Scripture reading (without preaching, letting the power of the word do its work), singing (by the congregation), supplication (prayers and offerings), sermons (based on a biblical text presented in context), and the sacraments (the Lord's Supper every Lord's Day, and baptism as often as God graces us with children or candidates).
Worship conducted in this way is guided by what has been called throughout church history as The Regulative Principle. "The regulative principle of worship states that the corporate worship of God is to be founded upon specific directions of Scripture" (Derek Thomas). God and God's word provide a far better source to govern sacred worship than the latest church growth guru.
Of course, so many churches today no longer honor the inspired and inerrant authority of Scripture. Ironically, many of them, especially in the mainline denominations, honor four of the five S's in their liturgy, they just blow it with weak and watered-down sermons. On the other hand, churches that do claim to hold to a high view of Holy Scripture fail to consult it when planning and carrying out their worship. God, help us.
Church leaders, if you are reading this, please give it a think and a prayer. Church members, if you are reading this, encourage your church leaders to take God's worship according to God's word seriously. Get your churches out of the three M's and into the five S's. Or, get into a church that already abides by the regulative principle of worship.
Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected].