What is church?
I was asked the other day, "What is your church doing for Pastor Appreciation Month?" My answer, "Nothing!" Perplexed, another question came regarding another tradition of the recent church, "What about Homecoming, when is that planned?" My replied, "Never!" Even more perplexed, I now had the attention of the person asking because their response to my answers was, "I don't think I would like your church."
Obviously that response saddens my heart and for those of you reading this, let me give some explanation to why I am not wrapped up in doing those things. First of all, being a pastor/minister is not my job; there is calling on my life to be in this role and while I ran from it for some time, I have embraced the position God has put me in. I don't do it for appreciation or adoration. Yes, I need to be able to support my family and yes I am paid a salary. I am extremely thankful for God's provision because there was a time I was not paid or if I were, it was very little. My point regarding this matter is this; our attention, our adoration, and appreciation should be directed to our Lord. I don't want to be a distraction to that because I want an envelope of money, a vacation cruise get-away or even the adoration and praise of my congregation. Moreover, I don't want to be elevated to a position above that of my Lord. I am merely the steward of the flock, God is the owner. Therefore, I had better take care of this task His way because I will have to give an account.
Now for the matter of Homecoming and all other traditions we have in the church. There was a time I was caught up in the fanfare of the things we do in church and I did look forward to them. I recalled all the effort and time that went into planning these events, that sometimes would be scheduled months in advance. I remember the focus and money that would go into making it a "Big" to do. Committees were formed whose sole purpose was planning and organization of these events. These are all find things and I don't want to sound like I am offended by it all... but I am. As I grow older and seek to know God more intimately and strive to do want He wants ("not my will, by yours" attitude), I am offended by anything that would distract me or anyone who claims the name of Christ from the one thing that He commanded of all of His followers. "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you"( Matthew 28:19-20).
Maybe we get so caught up in the traditions we have created because it make us feel better about doing church, instead of doing the Gospel. Maybe disobedience to the Great Commission is easier when we feel we are doing busy work for the kingdom God never asked us to do. Yes, it is true these things may be appealing to a lot of people, but I am not in it for what people like, I am in it for what God wants. I don't want to be part of the distortion or the distraction that prevents the Gospel from going forward. Now before you think I am speaking high and mighty, let me throw this out; I have not always got it right when it comes to the Gospel. I have been caught up in many things we do in church that have nothing to do with the Gospel. I now test everything against God's Word. If it lines up keep it up, if it doesn't...bye, bye! There are so many things happening inside of our gatherings that have absolutely nothing to do with the Gospel. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to sound legalistic; but the truth is, the things we do so often keep the very people we are trying to reach from being reached. Church can look more like a club than a place for the broken and hurting.
Another point we need to be careful of, is the complete opposite of tradition. We now see a growing trend of new more modern, contemporary churches appealing to the masses with a cool and relevant model. These new "contemporary" churches seem to be going against the grain of traditionalism and that's not necessarily a bad thing as want to reach as many people with the Gospel as possible. However, both seem to have their own set of traditions. The more I see what the church has been and is becoming, the more I realize both models are filled with idolatry. We do things in church services and outside that we can't live without. The only thing we should not be able to live without is God, not a particular model of how we think we should things in our gatherings.
So, what are we teaching those watching, particularly our children. Are we raising the next generation of complacency or a generation that will stand for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and go share it? Test everything and see how it lines up with God's Word. Then ask whether or not it furthers the purpose of the Gospel. Ask if it fulfills the Great Commission? Whatever you settle on, make sure it the Gospel that Jesus died for you to have, and the Gospel He commanded you to share.
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Paul is a Christ Follower. He has been married to his beautiful wife Rebecca and they have two beautiful children, a dog, two cats and a turtle. They love being together as a family and doing the adventure that is ministry. They love the outdoors and enjoying all of God's creation.