Someone once asked me whether the people in a certain religion sing during their worship services. I had to stop and think about it. Music and song certainly does exist in the cultures where this religion is prevalent. In fact, they enjoy a rich heritage of religious music. Nor, is their musical tradition obscure. It has had a major influence on the music of other cultures. The thing which stumped me is whether music or song has a role in their formal worship services. Chanting is certainly employed. Some of it may even be considered musical. Perhaps one could say that these chants are songs. However, something which is beyond question is that you will never encounter any musical instruments within the walls of their places of worship – certainly during their times of worship. Some sects of this religion go so far as to totally ban all forms of music whether secular or sacred.
As I left the podium someone in the audience called out, “You did not disappoint.” Though the remark gratified, it sort of rolled off me. However, his remark became more meaningful a few minutes later when I asked my wife how the previous speaker had done. I didn’t have the opportunity to hear him as I was teaching the youth at the time.
“It was a total bomb!” she said. The vehemence of her reply rocked me back on my heels as she is normally so gracious and quick to point out the positive. It seems that the speaker – a young man, newly married, without children, just starting out in ministry – declared to his incredulous audience that from that moment forward they could live their lives without sinning. (Please note that I do not hold those attributes against the man. I only mention them to point out his lack of experience and seasoning.)
How being in covenant should impact us as a church.
In a previous post, I wrote about what it means to be in the marriage covenant. In this post I want to explore being in covenant relationship with God and what that means to the church. When we realize what it means to be in covenant relationship to God, it changes our whole perspective. We learn to look at God differently. We look at Scripture differently. We look at the world differently.
It follows that when people who have learned to look at everything through the lens of covenant, come together as a church, that church will also see things differently than it did before. Imagine a church filled with people who are alive to what it means to be in covenant relationship.
Before talking about that, let’s explore the concept of covenant a little more.
We are works in progress. Jesus didn’t come for those who don’t need help.
One of the arguments I’ve heard against Christianity is, “If Christianity is true, then how come so many people who aren’t Christians are nicer than those who are?” I can answer that question because I happen to be one of those people who struggles with character flaws. You see, I tend to be a cynic. It’s easy for me to slip into the habit of seeing the negative and expecting the worst from people. It’s easy for me to be sarcastic and to make caustic comments. Occasionally someone has to take me to task for how I express myself. Then, there’s my temper. At times, even after almost 50 years of being in Christ, I still have to watch it. Bitterness has been another huge struggle for me. It’s all too easy to dwell on the wrongs and hurts which others have inflicted.
Some thoughts sparked by the book by Ken Ham & Britt Beamer
I. The Observable Trend
Ham begins his book with the observation that the church buildings of Europe are mostly empty and that those in the U.S. are not far behind. Many buildings are being re-purposed or torn down. While this may be disturbing, it is hardly news. The trend has been well documented for decades. For example, Thomas C. Reeves presents an in-depth analysis of the decline of the ‘Main-line’ denominations in the United States in his book The Empty Church, The Suicide of Liberal Christianity (The Free Press, 1996).
Developing a well-rounded congregation.
As I sat in the pew and observed the rest of the congregation I wondered, yet again, what the point of it all was. On the surface, the congregation was dynamic and vibrant. There was lots of enthusiasm and optimism. The music was contemporary and the services were upbeat and well conducted. There were lots of ministries. The congregation was enjoying numeric growth. But, if you took the average person in the pew and stood him next to a pagan randomly snagged off the street, how could you tell the difference? My cynical eye couldn’t detect much difference in dress or behavior. The speech and attitudes of both seemed about the same. Worst of all, their thought patterns and world-view seemed very similar.