Faith musings from the seat of a forklift.
Sunday. Park the forklift. Time for church. Which church?
That is a good question. I muse on it often. Why do we choose the church we choose?
During our pre-service Bible study class, we’ve been discussing church history. One thing that came up is the idea of age of members. The fact that there are a lot of “grey heads”, that is to say older folks in the Lutheran church says quite a bit. I won’t say that there aren’t older folks in other denominations, but there certainly are fewer of them. I hope that this is just an aberration, but I don’t usually see to many “grey heads” in the non-denominational and Baptist type churches. Why is that?
I recently wrote about how all churches are not the same. This is most certainly true. They aren’t. Whether it is a difference in how communion is viewed, or whether or not one can choose salvation, different churches certainly have diverse views about Christian doctrine. However, there might be a point to this.
Few are the churches that you will hear that your sins are forgiven, and it is a regular part of the service. Indeed, most Christians would argue, just like the Pharisees, who but God can forgive sins, yet in doing so, they ignore scripture. In the twentieth chapter of John’s Gospel, after Christ Jesus rose from the dead, he confronted the disciples. John tells us that he breathed upon them and told them to receive the Holy Spirit. In the next verse, Jesus gave the disciples the authority to forgive sins. In the 23rd verse it reads very plainly “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” Christ granted his disciples, which includes us today, the ability to forgive sins. In the Lutheran church, we call this the “Office of the Keys”.
Additionally, music is different in most contemporary churches, especially when compared to what is sung from the hymnals. I have heard often the argument that all “traditional” music was once “contemporary”. Perhaps, but looking at the content of modern over traditional, the traditional music has more scriptural content, often singing things in scripture that some church won’t even preach. Modern music tends towards stuff that is “catchy” and easy to memorize.
Let me just ask, based upon the two preceding paragraphs, which would be preferable? A church that rarely speaks of forgiveness, save perhaps in terms of you choosing God’s forgiveness (which you actually can’t do), and sings songs with minimal scriptural content at best; or a church in which forgiveness of sins is pronounced every week and the music is chock full of scriptural content? You’d think it was a no-brainer. It isn’t.
In truth, I think that the reason that there are not too many “grey heads” in many modernistic churches is because because of those things I have made mention of. The fact that there are so many younger people in these modernistic churches is much the same. The older crowd wants to hear assurance of forgiveness of sins, and the message of the Gospel of Christ Jesus. The younger crowd wants a motivational message and music that sounds great and is easy to remember. Basically, a watered down faith that may actually be no faith.
Ultimately, it boils down to absolute standards versus relativistic feelings. The traditional church, and those who attend, prefer to hear God’s absolute standard and how his son, Christ Jesus, died for us. The modern church, and those who attend, are hooked on what makes them feel good. It is sad in a way. The church that cater to feelings have a higher membership turnover rate than those which cling exclusively to what the Bible actually says, pronouncing weekly the forgiveness of sins.
So, I guess the question I have to ask is this:
How do you choose which church you attend? What do you do when you no longer can get that emotional pick me up on Sunday, which the modern church presses as being evidence of God’s presence?
I’ve been through the Baptist and non-denominational churches. I have gone to Pentecostal churches. In the end, I found I started feeling empty at the end of the service. I needed something I could actually believe and take with me.
In the Lutheran church, I found that. Every part of the liturgy had a reason for it, and it was based upon scripture. Every song was based upon what scripture said, often directly quoting it. I heard that Christ Jesus had forgiven my sins, no decision necessary on my part, only confession that I am a sinner. Even communion was based upon what scripture said, and not what I felt. My feelings were removed and God’s actual word replaced it.
What about you? If you are not hearing that your sins are forgiven, and scripture is not quoted directly in the music, maybe its time to rethink your church.
I won’t return to the churches of my past. I don’t believe as they do. When Sunday comes and the forklift is parked, I am part of the Lutheran church, where I hear that my sins are forgiven. I will eventually be one of those “grey heads”, and I am content. Why? Because I can know I am forgiven, no matter what my feelings say.