Our last post stated that throughout the United States, churches are worshiping golden calves. It is much easier to point out what we are doing wrong than what we should be doing. What is true and proper worship?
Since this question has been asked and answered repeatedly for nearly 2,000 years, there are many and detailed answers. Since most modern Americans do not like the answers, you might not have heard these before.
The church began in the Temple built by Herod, also known as the second temple. While the vision of Peter and the Jerusalem Council recorded in Acts 15 both clearly point out that Gentile believers are not under the whole law, Christians followed Jewish synagogue rituals.
These rituals included men separated from women and children during the service, daily services, Sabbath services lasting from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday, almsgiving to the poor separate from the synagogue, antiphonal singing, that is one group singing a phrase which was then repeated by another group, lengthy Scripture reading (the Old Testament), woman wearing garments where only their faces, hands and feet were visible, special services which lasted five hours, tithes which were obligatory and had to be paid. Some of these practices had little to do with the biblical Law of Moses, and the Spirit of God clearly grants us freedom. But our freedom is not to do whatever we want. God grants us the freedom to worship God in the manner which bring Him the greatest possible glory.
Paul wrote that the Corinthians should remember me in all things, and you keep the doctrines as I delivered them to you. I Corinthians 11:2 But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor the churches of God. But in enjoining this, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better, but for the worse. For first of all, when you come together in the church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and I partly believe it. I Corinthians 11:16-18
So Paul teaches us in this chapter that as believers, we are to come together to pray, publicly read God’s Word, teach doctrine, baptize and celebrate the Lord’s Supper. There are several disagreements over the Lord’s Supper and baptism but these disagreements are well over a thousand years old. The disagreements over the Lord’s Supper and baptism are part of the traditions of the church and this blog will not have any affect on any of those different beliefs. What day we should come together has only been an issue for the last 2-300 years, yet this issue, like baptism and the Lord’s Supper and are fixed in most believer’s minds and this blog will not matter on the issue of what day we should come together to worship.
The church which claims to represent Jesus Christ in the United States of America must do several things to regain the power of God. She must return to a life of holiness and purity, return to teaching the Word of God and forsake the standards of this world in public worship. These are interlinked, interconnected. We will find that attempting partial obedience will not fill our churches with the power of God.
The word repentance means to turn from our own course, our own thoughts and our own actions and turn to God’s instructions, plans, desires. Once we do that, the average Christian in the United States will find that he has sold himself into slavery. The first step of repentance is get out of debt. The Secular Humanist plan to get out of debt is to increase income. While an increase in income can help some people get out of debt, for many people attempting to get out of debt by increasing income is either not possible or is simply destructive. The pursuit of wealth can destroy health, spiritual life, relationships and rarely produces the wealth you are seeking.
The correct course of action is to trust in the Lord and reduce expenses. While this sounds contradictory, it is God’s plan. Some people do need to change occupations to properly serve the Lord, but many find that they need to fundamentally change the way they live.
Debt slavery has destroyed churches as well as individuals and families. Organizations such as churches and schools who obligate themselves through debt are pressured to do whatever is necessary to keep people attending to keep money flowing to keep paying the debt obligations. Often (usually) this means failing to take proper disciplinary action, failure to preach against certain sins or promoting “popular” speakers, programs, organizations, etc. just to keep from losing money.
Therefore I solemnly witness before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who is going to judge the living and the dead according to His appearance and His kingdom, preach the Word, be instant in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine. For a time will be when they will not endure sound doctrine, but they will heap up teachers to themselves according to their own lusts, tickling the ear. And they will turn away their ears from the truth and will be turned to myths. 2 Timothy 4:1-4
First and foremost organizations which call themselves “churches” must return to preaching the Word of God. The cry I heard growing up was how can a few hours of the Word of God taught in church each week compete with the Secular Humanist indoctrination of all day every day in schools, TV, movies, etc. While that was a very legitimate concern, the answer of the American church was to give up and invite Secular Humanism into the church. Programs such as AWANA, Bible Memory Association, Navigators, and Teen Challenge which teach Bible Memory used to be far more prominent in churches. Bible memorization is commanded in the Word of God.
Throughout the Word of God the emphasis is on personal holiness. God also expects us to give Him our best. While the doors of every church should be open to unbelievers to “come as you are” believers in most churches dress and act like the world. Why are we surprised when young women dress like harlots when they are simply copying the dress of their parents? While the Bible does not give a detailed definition of modesty, that subject is rarely mentioned in modern American pulpits.
Our language needs to be not only pure and wholesome, but encouraging and uplifting. Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. Colossians 4:6 The individual believer must also be knowledgeable, always ready to give an answer of hope that lies within us.
After all these things, the real dividing line still comes down to music. It was said of the American church for over 200 years that Christians had their Bibles in one hand and their hymnbooks in the other. Many unbelievers were more afraid of the hymnbooks than the Bible, because the words of the American hymns taught the words of the Bible in a way that was easy to understand. TV advertising copied the style of Gospel songs because they made an impression and the concepts were easily memorized.
Paul commanded both the Colossians and the Ephesians to be speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. The question the Anabaptists, Mennonites, Lutherans, Reformers and church of England all asked 500 years ago was how this was to be obeyed. They had no electronic recordings, electronic instruments or electronic amplification. Otherwise, they were not so different from us.
The first conclusion they all agreed to was that the music must glorify and teach the Word of God. While “teaching the Word of God” means different things to different people, there was quite a concern over instrumental music without any words. Since the first recorded church manual in the 2nd Century AD, how much music should there be in a service and how should it be divided between congregational and “professional musicians,” that is soloists, musical groups and instruments.
They drew some nearly universal conclusions. There is room for great variety in our freedom in Christ and this allows for occasional exceptions to each of the following guidelines. Congregational singing should be predominate. Most of the music should be as simple as possible, so as many people as possible will understand the words. The words are the most important part of music and they should reinforce the teachings of the Word of God. Whenever possible, they should reinforce the teachings of that sermon. There should be a balance between, psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. This means that the majority of music in any given service will be older traditional music because the church is two thousand years old. The style of music must not bring the world into the church.
The only serious conflicts are the last two points. If you simply do not like any form of traditional music, then the question is why? Traditional music can mean no instruments at all, country/western style, “hillbilly” or southern gospel style, orchestral, piano and organ, a single guitar, an electronic keyboard, chanting and bells. Are you unable to tolerate any of these?
The last point, “must not bring the world into the church”, centers around volume and rhythmic beat. Electronic amplification is used by the world to overwhelm make people accept a message they often do not even understand. It is often called sensory overload. While much about music is subjective and many techniques depend on how they are used, the concept of getting a message across by overwhelming people through volume is sin. God wants us to love Him emotionally, but where does the Word of God give us permission to bypass our rational nature and allow our emotions to overwhelm us? Yes, that happens sometimes as part of life, but to create an environment to overwhelm an audience using volume every service, several times a service? The addition of flashing lights, vibrations and scented smoke adds to the sensory overload.
When used by secular musicians, they openly claim that their techniques are designed to break down sexual inhibitions and cause an emotional acceptance of whatever message the musician wants. How do these techniques Glorify God?
Image from Morguefile “Ladyheart”
Scripture quotations are from the eSword modern King James Version