Friday, September 02, 2016

Some things I wish I could say to protestant leaders about worship (and they'd listen)

[Note: I've gotten feedback from a few of my friends feeling that I was attacking people. Looking at this post through fresh eyes I can see how they would think that.  It was not my desire to attack anyone.  My desire was two-fold. To articulate a growing frustration both within myself and within a growing number of believers concerning the direction worship in many churches has taken. And second to point out that maybe, just maybe, we need to rethink how we worship God.  Instead of asking, "How do I want to worship God", we should start asking, "How does God want me to worship Him?".   This post was directed at churches in general and not at some specific church.  Nor did I mean to imply that those who worship in a way I am criticizing are necessarily intending something nefarious.  Many really do love God and are trying to figure things out.  I get that.  That all said, I would like to point out, in love, if the shoe fits... 

Finally, those brothers who had the guts to confront me (I love you more than ever for your bravery to dare confront this grumpy old guy), suggested I try writing what I was thinking and feeling without attacking others or their churches.  Fair enough.  I can't promise I'll never go on the offensive, but I do think there is a good opportunity here for me to be a bit less aggressive and yet still share my heart.  Thanks guys, I love you!]

These are just a few things I wish I could tell protestant church leaders.  There are more, but these points are in regard to worship.  Mostly this is just venting my spleen, but maybe some would take time to read and think about it even if I am being a bit snarky.

Stop trying to entertain me.  You don’t do it very well and you certainly don’t do it as well as the world.  They’ve had way more practice with it anyway as it was only in the past few generations that the Protestant church has tried to take on the role as entertainer.  The world has been doing it for millennia.  So please just stop it.   Please!  You are just embarrassing yourself.

I don’t come to church to “fellowship”.  Don’t get me wrong, I believe Christian fellowship is important and needed in the life of the believer.  I have met many brothers and sisters over the years, many of whom I’ve come to call friends and I love seeing them on Sunday.  However, I did not come to fellowship with them.  I’ve come to worship my God together with them.  So when we stop the worship to shake hands or say something goofy in response to a call from the pulpit such as, “Introduce yourself to three people and tell them you are glad they are here today!”, I get just a little peeved.  I’ve been in the world all week.  I’ve been interacting with classmates, workmates, family and strangers. I’ve been pushed, pulled, torn, twisted, pummeled and subjected to every form of drama imaginable.  I’ve fallen, repented and fallen again many times.  I really and truly need this time of pure, unadulterated, other-worldy experience with God together with his people.  So please don’t take that away from me or interrupt it with well intentioned efforts to get us to “fellowship” more.  If you really want to do something useful, have a potluck after worship. Then we can fellowship and eat!

Stop preaching to unbelievers.  I’ve been following Jesus for over thirty years now.  I’m not adverse to hearing the gospel message one more time, but frankly if I’m going to have to sit through forty-five minutes to an hour (or more!) of lecture I’d like it to have substance.  Besides, and many might call me a heretic for even saying this, church is not for unbelievers.  It is called “church” because it is the meeting of the “Church”.  I.e., The body of Christ, God’s people, a royal priesthood, the household of faith, etc.  Stop trying to make church and evangelistic outreach program.  It was never intended to be that.  If you are going to preach to the lowest common denominator you are eventually going to be preaching to a room full of unbelievers or infantile believers.  Talk up to us.  We can handle it.  In fact, most everyone really wants it. What child doesn’t want to grow up and be a big person?

That last one reminds me of another:  stop preaching like you want to get every theological concept crammed into our brains in one sitting.  If you would spend more time reading Scripture and less time telling us what your opinion is you may find people actually getting more out of the sermons.  I think if more pastors kept their sermon to about ten or fifteen minutes but focused on one single point they wanted their parishioners to think about or practice during the week they might see some amazing results.  Instead spend more time in worshipping God in song and the reading of the Psalms or other passages.  After all we aren’t really there for your oratory skills we are there to worship God (see my second point).  And no, calling listening to your sermon for an hour an “act of worship” doesn’t help.  In fact, here’s some shocking news:  most of the people miss most of your sermon.  In fact, I’d go further in saying (from observation) the minority who do stay focused enough to hear all of the sermon without tuning you out misunderstand most of what they heard.

Here’s an interesting idea.  After your sermon approach a few people (the ones you noticed taking notes and actually staying awake) and ask them what they got from the sermon.  You will find they will typically sum it up nicely in just one sentence.  Then, next week, read the main text of your sermon and preach only that one sentence.  Say it a couple of different ways so people get the actual meaning, but keep it basically to that one sentence and then dismiss the people.  Use all that extra time you would have spent hearing yourself preach to worship God.  I’m being a bit facetious here, but you get the point I hope.

Stop breaking up our families.  Oh yes you are!  (in response to your objection).  As soon as we get there to worship God you process our children into separate rooms and tell us to go worship God without them.  I realize we have a “choice” and we don’t have to send our children to Sunday school.  But you’ve created a culture of intolerance so that if our children don’t sit still and keep perfectly quiet people get annoyed and many of them are quite ready to show it or say it.  So, in effect, you’ve poisoned the wells so it is simply much easier to go with the flow and send our children away.  We wonder why our children, when they become adults, leave the church.  Think about it.

Ok, enough griping for now.  But I will be taking this up in later posts.  So stay tuned.


Matt Archer said...

The preaching thing hits close to home for me, but I will take what you wrote to heart. It is a journey of learning for me, and I can definitely improve and become more concise. I'm definitely learning to get out of the way. Above all, I appreciate the challenge to exalt Jesus and worship our Great God. Peace to you Brian!


Brian Pribis said...

That post was written by someone who was extremely long winded and self-centered. So maybe I was mostly speaking to myself ;) My family had nothing but great things to say about visiting New Hope on Sunday. Maybe someday we can finally get that coffee together.