My last post generated quite a bit of discussion (at least on FaceBook); and the comments seemed to share a common desire to return to a more biblically authentic worship experience, along with a bit of frustration for the increasing theatrical production quality observed in many churches.
Today I would like to call for the end of “Perfect Church,” where every note has to be on tune and every announcement video is broadcast quality, where only auditioned singers can get on the “team” and where sermons come from the pastor being shut in with his/her creative team instead of simply being shut away with God.
I’m not advocating “Hokey Church” or “Wing-it Church,” but simply a re-assessment of why and how we do things. We should strive to do things well and to the best of our ability–but that’s just it; many are trying to do it to the best of Broadway’s ability. I feel like the sense of authentic community has been destroyed by the hiding of our human imperfections. Why would a person who is being convicted of sin ever walk the aisle of “Perfect Church” before the amassed group of “perfect members?” We need a restoration of the Acts church model!
Now I realize that the New Testament is full of human blunders–even church ones. How about the attempt at communal living that ended with dishonest offerings and dead people? But I’m afraid that our church marketing friends are trying to re-write early church history and sanitize its frailties with an unholy airbrush. How can we read Acts and then attend one of our modern 55 minute multimedia extravaganzas and think this is what Jesus and most of the Apostles were martyred for?
Here’s the bottom line question; how did we let things get this way? I’m afraid the answer won’t make us feel too good. Our western church culture has demanded that the wishes of the people are met or else we pull up our roots and move down the street to another church that will cater more to our self-indulgent and un-sanctified lives. Perfect Church has emerged–at least in part–as a church survival technique, feverishly trying to corral the unhappy and un-satisfiable masses. That does not, of course, excuse anyone–the church organization, or us–the real church–of our shared responsibility for this distortion.
Jesus speaks directly to us today through the words He originally spoke to the Church in Laodicea:
14 Write to Laodicea, to the Angel of the church. God’s Yes, the Faithful and Accurate Witness, the First of God’s creation, says:
15 “I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking. You’re not cold, you’re not hot—far better to be either cold or hot! 16 You’re stale. You’re stagnant. You make me want to vomit.
17 You brag, ‘I’m rich, I’ve got it made, I need nothing from anyone,’ oblivious that in fact you’re a pitiful, blind beggar, threadbare and homeless.
18 “Here’s what I want you to do: Buy your gold from me, gold that’s been through the refiner’s fire. Then you’ll be rich. Buy your clothes from me, clothes designed in Heaven. You’ve gone around half-naked long enough. And buy medicine for your eyes from me so you can see, really see.
19 “The people I love, I call to account—prod and correct and guide so that they’ll live at their best. Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God!
20 “Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you.
21 Conquerors will sit alongside me at the head table, just as I, having conquered, took the place of honor at the side of my Father. That’s my gift to the conquerors!
22 “Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches.”
–Rev. 3:14-22 the Message
“Father please heal our eyes to see that the ‘Perfect Church’ we desired and constructed is in reality ‘Wretched, Poor, Miserable, Blind and Naked Church.’ God help us to lay aside our appetite for “Perfect Church” and our passionless, commitment-less expressions of faith and re-discover what a true disciple of Jesus looks and acts like.”
I look forward to your comments.