Grow Up and Reach Out (it’s not about the music)

Sometimes people need to grow-up, we all know folks like this. Just look at the video game industry, they clearly market their games to young men (or boys) up into their mid-30s. How about the guy who still live with mom & dad in his 30s? Not someone who’s had a hard event in their life and needed to move back in, but just never moved out. These are “man-boys” and there’s no excuse for it. Be a man…

But this blog post isn’t about the sad state of affairs manhood finds itself in today, it’s about the sad state of affairs some churches are in. But here’s the good news, we can change it! The church is the bride of Christ and we’re tasked with the mission to change the world. I praise God that I’m a part of a local church body who have a history of reaching their community with the gospel.

In the middle of a great little pericope about the church, Paul says:

…no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ

-Eph 4:14f

In other words, “grow up!”

I read a great article about the “7 Deadly Sins of a Dying Church” and it resonated with me. I know people at churches like this. It’s really important to constantly take stock of yourself to make sure that you are where you need to be with your relationship with the Lord, and the church is the same. Every church needs to assess their position in the mission that God has called them to (i.e. making disciples in all the earth), and the effectiveness of their unique purpose within that mission.

Throughout the life of a church, prayer has to be a given. Everything must be bathed in prayer and pleading with the Lord. But after that, we’ve gotta be teaching people God’s word. This is a must. This is how we keep ourselves from being “tossed to and fro.” Every church needs a serious plan to teach the Bible, this is (essentially) what Jesus commanded us to do (cf. Matt 28:17ff).

But we also need to have the right focus. We are not teaching just for information, we are teaching so that people’s lives can be changed. We are “teaching them to observe all that I [Jesus] have commanded” but we are also making disciples FIRST. It is imperative that we teach, but it’s equally vital that we first reach-out and “make disciples.”

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

-1Pet 2:1-3

When we “grow up” as churches, we don’t have divisions within us, because we’re more focused outward than inward. See, when we have an outward focus, our “internal struggles” are minimized, and people long to learn God’s word. We don’t have to force people to study the Bible, they “long for” God’s word as though it is “pure… milk.” When we minimize divisions in our church, and focus outside of ourselves, people will desire to learn.

I’ve often heard it said that “if we just ‘disciple’ people, that will lead to evangelism.” I can say, from the Bible and from my professional experience, this is never the case.

There are a lot of problems with this statement, for one ‘to disciple’ in terms of teaching is not a Biblical verb. But it’s also in the wrong order. We’re called to “make disciples” and then “teach them.” To “make disciples” is evangelism, to “teach them” is what we call today “discipleship.”

So, first things first, you need a plan and a passion of evangelism, and then you need the resources and structure to teach those who long for pure Biblical teaching. Disciples who make disciples who make disciples.

In the “7 Deadly Sins…” article, the things that can kill a church (or at least show that a church is dying) are: Doctrine Dilution, Biblical Illiteracy, Loss of Evangelistic Passion, Failure to be Relevant, Few Outwardly Focused Ministries, The Priority of Comfort, and Conflict Over Personal Preferences.

The last couple that I mentioned are the ones that really resonated with me. When churches start to argue, with passion: the color of carpet, the style of seating, the kind of music; that church is headed in the wrong direction.

I think, in recent history, one of the most divisive and unspiritual arguments in church has been over the “style of music” that is played during worship services.

…be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

-Eph 5:18ff

See, we should be “filled with the Spirit” and singing songs and making music, but the important part with regard to the song is the heart of the one singing it. Our goal is submitting to one another, not fighting for the “style” that we prefer.

What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.

-1Cor 14:26

The point of worship is for building-up the church. As for me, I have no preferred music style. I’ve seen older people say things like “if it was good enough for me, it’s good enough for them,” and I’ve seen younger people scoff at the music of generations gone by. Both of these attitudes are not good at all.

I’m a big fan of doing it all. All styles, done well, to build-up believers. If you can pigin-hole your church into one “style” then I think you’ve missed the point. Worship isn’t a performance for an audience, it’s an opportunity to build-up the church and glorify God.

Music is not an “outreach program.” I heard of a church who spent $3.5M on an organ and justified it because it would draw so many people in. WOW!

I’ve also heard people in churches say silly things like “we need some more contemporary music to reach young people.” A few comments on this one. Music that’s a decade or two old and performed in a style made popular in the late 80s is not “contemporary.” Additionally, the advantage of current music is not that it draws in the “right” people, but that it keeps the “wrong” people away. Honestly, the kind of people who will publicly complain about a church’s music style, while a part of that church, are the “wrong” kind of people.

When a Christian comes to a church, their personal attitude should NOT be: “I am an honored guest.” Rather, a Believer who is visiting a new church should think to themselves: “I’m honored to be a guest.” Beyond guests, certainly a member of a church should not look “…only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2).

We need to grow up, we need to realize that we are saved to serve, we need to stop looking out for ourselves through internal arguments and we need to reach out to the world around us and share the gospel to make disciples in all the earth. Check your focus, and when it begins to turn to the things you prefer (rather than the things that will help us to best spread the gospel) be on guard, pray, and seek God’s direction.

We can do it! We can change! We can see more people come to know Jesus than ever before… we just have to be willing to see past ourselves, and we all have a hard time with that one. God help us (and he will).

About John Harris

I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
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