I hate time change Sunday. Even when I gain an extra hour of sleep, I hate the day. First of all, why on Sunday? Why make us lose an hour before worship? Why not Monday when everyone has to get up anyway? Why not Saturday, when we have a day to adjust? Better yet, why not just keep the savings time year round? Most of us never know what time it is anyway.
Come to think of it, these days remind me of many believers. I love to meet a new believer before he starts meeting a lot of religious people. Religious people can kill enthusiasm in a nanosecond. Normal, New Testament expressions of faith seem so odd that the engaged and energized believer has to backslide to have fellowship with half the church.
IT’S TIME TO SPRING FORWARD
Churches need to spring forward. They need to get out of the rut of manmade traditions that have no power. They should spring forward and clean out the closets, throw away the junk and fine tune the ministry. I’ve been in enough churches to think about becoming the host of a new reality TV show, Church Hoarders – digging through old hymnals, Sunday School quarterlies, choral selections, and offering envelopes.
Two years ago we tore down two old one-story buildings and gutted two others to build and remodel for current needs. When we were cleaning out the attic, it looked like an episode of Hoarders. In that attic was every old offering envelope dating back four decades. My only question was WHY?
Back in the 1990s I went around the Sunday School classes on a Friday afternoon and just started throwing things away. I found Sunday School quarterlies that dated back 15-20 years stuck in the piano benches. (Now there’s a whole other issue – out of tune pianos in rooms where we only know how to play and sing four different hymns!)
The average church in America is plateaued or dying. Why? They forgot to spring forward. My home church is on life support. A once strong church now has 13 people, all in their 90s. Meanwhile there are thousands of lost children, young people, and families within that community. Someone forgot to spring forward.
To spring forward also means to get out of the rut of the old way of doing church. Business meetings should be outlawed. Get a good finance committee and trust the leadership. Let’s move on people.
To spring forward means you’ve got to admit that the people you are trying to reach aren’t going to buy the KJV. They like reading The Message, ESV, NIV, or some other translation. Although I preach from the NASB, I often quote and refer to these newer translations because I know they are familiar to people. While the world is going to hell and the church is by and large biblically ignorant, why are we arguing over translations? Spring forward. Get a Bible and read it and quit dying on hills already covered with too many bodies.
THE CHURCH NEEDS TO FALL BACK
We need to fall back in love with Jesus. We love our events, our age group ministries, our seats, our songs…but do we love Jesus first and foremost?
We need to fall back and examine why some fences were built? Why do we do what we do? We need to discover or re-discover our heritage and church history. Most folks have no clue why we do what we do. We need to take time to explain the importance of the Lord’s Supper. We need to take the time to explain why baptism matters.
Never move a fence until you find out why it was put there. We have biblical boundaries that are being violated for the sake of numbers and crowds. We want people to be comfortable; God wants them to be holy. We want folks to be happy; God wants them to be reconciled to Him. We can’t move forward if we are soft on sin, unclear about the Bible, or indifferent to lifestyles.
We need to fall back in worship. No, I don’t mean return to the good old days when we had hymnals. I mean we need to quit trying to be trendy. Every artist today seems to write songs that sound the same, feel the same, just with a few word changes. You can anticipate the key change. You can almost nail the moment when everyone is going to raise their hands. It’s predictable which means it’s not spontaneous. It’s dangerously close to being “watch us perform and you act on cue” rather than “worship with us.”
Again, I love the new music. I love what we do at Sherwood. I’m grateful for the influence of Contemporary Christian Music, but I do miss the days of distinctive sounds, songs, and artists. While the music is God-honoring (whether we are talking about hymns or choruses), if we aren’t careful we will become the bland leading the bland.
We need to fall back into expounding the Word of God. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” I grew up on topical preaching. I have to ask myself when I follow certain podcasts, “How many sermons can you preach on marriage, sex, and the family?” Really? You’re that good? We’ve gotten to the point where we know more about relationships than God does. Where’s the sermon on singleness? Being adopted? Growing up in a blended home? We’ve painted our marriage series to be like “Little House on the Freeway” and forgotten that every family has unique issues. The only answers for life are found in the context of taking people back to Jesus.
When was the last time you heard a pastor preach through a book? I know that people have short attention spans. They are also biblically illiterate. They aren’t going to get smarter by having the preacher dumb down the Word of God. Teach them to have an appetite for the Word. Give them the meat, not just the milk. Show them how to hunger and thirst for righteousness. Stretch them out of their comfort zone.
We need to fall back to the basics. Our people, by and large, don’t know how to pray, have a quiet time, memorize Scripture, quote the 10 commandments, name the 12 Apostles, share their faith, or understand tithing. We need to fall back or we are going to produce a bloated, overweight, under-nourished, unhealthy version of Christianity that looks nothing like the New Testament picture of a believer. They’ll be fat and happy, but they won’t be difference makers, disciple makers, or dedicated followers of the living Lord.