Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Are we doing church right? Part 4

 So far, we've been asking where our current Christian church traditions have come from.  And are they Biblical? We discussed where we got our Church Building and how influential Emperor Constantine was on some of our early traditions.  Today, I want to briefly list some of the people and groups throughout the centuries who had added to our current way of doing things. 

Ulrich Zwingli, a Swiss Reformer - Replaced  the alter table with the "Communion" table from which the bread and the wine were administered and carried to the people in little cups on a wooden tray.

John Calvin (1509-1564) - stressed the importance of the sermon during the service, going so far as to say that each believer had access to God through the preached Word. Calvin believed most of the worship service should be led by the pastor from the pulpit, making the pastor the MC and CEO of the service.

(This is in direct opposition to what the Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12, that Jesus is the head of the church and that He speaks through His entire body, not just one member)

Martin Bucer (1491-1551) instituted the idea that one should be quiet and somber when entering the church building. This practice grew so out of hand that in Puritan New England, people were fined for smiling in church!

Puritans - gave us the long pastoral prayer at the beginning of the sermon, a prayer that could last up to an hour!  The sermon became even more important to the Puritans since they believed it was equivalent to God speaking directly to them. Hence, they would punish church members for missing the service by fining them or putting them in stocks!  Like the Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists before them, the Puritan order of worship was highly predictable, written out in detail and followed to the letter

Methodists - brought loud singing to the service, but kept the Looooong pastoral prayer.  Gave birth to the "altar call"

George Whitfield (1714-1770) - invented the open-air revival meeting and made the sole purpose of preaching to win lost souls.  Instituted the use of emotional music to invoke a response from the people.

(While winning souls is a worthy goal, it was not God's sole purpose for his church, which was to have a relationship with His children and thus, make His presence more visible on earth) .

Charles Finney (1792-1875) believed that the sole purpose of a church service was to win converts by any means possible. He turned revivalism into a science and brought it into the church.  Many modern churches operate on this premise today. (Turning salvation into a procedure and process is unscriptural and takes the leading and prompting of the Holy Spirit out of the picture)

D.L. Moody (1837-1899) - introduced the music that played during altar call. Gave us door-to-door witnessing, evangelistic advertising, decision cards, the sinner's prayer. The church was seen as a gathering of individuals and not the corporate body of Christ

Aside from the above additions to the order of church, the worship service has changed little in the past 500 years. Basically the modern church service is officiated and directed by a pastor, the sermon is central and the people are passive. In essence, God's people have never broken free from the liturgical restraints they inherited from the Roman Catholics.

So what, you may say, I like the way church is run. I'm used to it. Comfortable. But  let's look at some of the negatives associated with our modern church service.

  • The current order of worship forbids participation and thus the growth of the Christian community. By silencing the body of Christ, it halts all use of individual gifts to encourage and build up the members. No one is allowed to give a word of exhortation, introduce a Spirit-led song, give a prophesy, word of Knowledge or word of wisdom, etc.
  • The current order of worship strangles the headship of Jesus. Since the pastor leads the service, the church is limited to his knowledge and gifts. Jesus, through His Holy Spirit is not permitted to operate through any one else.
  • The current order of worship makes for a boring service, lacking the power of God and the spontaneity of the Holy Spirit.
  • The current way of doing church actually hinders spiritual transformation. Christians grow by functioning, not passively watching 

So, what do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts

(Taken from Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna)


  1. Tues June 12th,
    "Morning, MaryLu."
    How very interesting to see just how the various menthods/changes have come about over past years in the Church, to where we are today.
    I am fortunate and blessed to be in a Church, where the Pastor encourages 'others' to use their spiritual giftings ... to exhort, encourage, lift up, minister to one another, etc. He does not see himself as the 'head-hauncho' (spelling ?).
    Although there is an orderliness to our services, our Church is totally open to the leading, guiding, and prompting of the Holy Spirit's direction. Spirit-lead singing, giving a prophecy, word of knowledge or word of wisdom ... are all a part of our worship time. (We do not put the Lord in a 'contained box', so to speak.) And the services, are not boring. Praying for healing is encouraged, along with altar-calls given.
    (However, it is not a perfect Church though either ... as us "human beings" fill the pews.)
    Thanks again for sharing all of this info with us, MaryLu. Again, interesting, and, an eye-opener.
    Take care, and, God Bless,
    In Him, Brenda Hurley

  2. My church has a typical service, but the emphasis is placed on God. The pastor is a leader and shepherd during the service, and during the Bible study afterwards. During the Bible study in particular, he brings ideas, but the entire congregation studies God's Word together, taking turns reading and presenting ideas, questions and answers, and prayers. I will admit that earthly churches are not perfect, but I do not feel that the way the service is set up puts the pastor before God. If any member disagrees with what the pastor has to say, they can come to him with their concern, and the Bible study and even the time when members meet together after the service, leave plenty of chance for members to be involved and for the Holy Spirit to work through more than just the pastor. Also, the choir is allowed to lead songs of praise, and so are soloists. There is always time for silent prayer, when members can pray to God about anything rather than just following the pastor's lead. I don't know if any other churches do anything like this, but I wanted to bring this up because any time people gather together to study God's Word, the Holy Spirit has the opportunity to work on their faith. That's why I think attending church is important, but I'm sure you agree that hearing God's Word regularly is important. I think it would be very unfortunate if a pastor did stunt the church service in the way you mentioned, but at least we know that God can strengthen our faith whenever we study His Word.

  3. Thanks Brenda, your church sounds pretty fabulous. Is it Charismatic?

    Anonymous, I'm in no way saying at all that going to church is wrong or that churches themselves are not God-centered. I believe many are. I'm simply trying to show through history how far we have come from the early church in Acts and the way the early Christians and Apostles did church. I'm not at all advocating that people don't go to church. Your church sounds lovely.. by the way. I'm just trying to get people to start thinking about why we do things the way we do and if there might be a better way? A way more pleasing to God and more beneficial to Christian growth. :-) Thanks for commenting!

  4. I get your point, MaryLu, I've been to a lot of churches in my life and only a couple of them actually encourage 'open faith'. They don't try to just lead you, they help you to become leaders as well. I often enjoy just going to church and listening to the sermon, to feed my soul, but I know that God wants us to do so much more. We have God's Word in us and we need to share it. So, what are we saving it for? No more just sitting on the sidelines; get into the game and score for Christ!

  5. Thanks Debbie. Yes, precisely! Christianity is not a spectator sport! God wants us all to get involved and use our gifts. :-)

  6. Thank you, MaryLu, for a very intriguing and informative post. I too have been in many different churches over the course of my life and even now get to participate in many different styles of service. I agree with most of the points being made--it is why it's more fun to go to a football game than a church meeting! And it shouldn't be like that, but unfortunately... On the other side of the coin, if just everybody and anybody felt free to speak up at any time, I know there would soon be bedlam. Some people don't know when to shut up and others say some just plain off-the-wall things! To me, that would get boring quicker than just listening to a pastor who has at least prayed about and prepared for his message...even though it is great to hear from others sometimes too. Sigh... Is there more to come?

  7. @Diane: I do not believe MaryLu meant that people should be allowed to speak freely while the Pastor is preaching, other than to say Amen or to answer questions he asks during his sermon. It's just that a lot of churches are filled with pew warmers; people who come on Sunday morning, listen, then once they are out the door, nothing more is done on 'their' behalf to further the Kingdom of God. A Pastor is essential to a church, to guide his congregation. That being said, we as the congregation need to do our part throughout the week, not just on Sunday. We need to remember the lesson of the Sower and the Seed. :)

  8. Diane, I completely agree. Having people just speak up whenever would surely end in chaos. And yes, there is more to come. I'm going over the history of how we got here.. later on, I hope to give the solution or at least one possible solution. So hang in there! :-)

    Yes Exactly, Debbie. I'm not advocating everyone talking. In fact, I'm not advocating anything yet.. just trying to relay the facts. And you're right about those pew warmers. In the kind of first century church described in Acts, there were no pew warmers. Why? I believe it's because every church member was in a close-knit fellowship with other Christians on a daily basis who wouldn't let him or her become a lukewarm Christian.

  9. MaryLu, thank you for doing this series. It's been so interesting, and I love reading the other comments. My Pastor and his wife love to have our congregation's participation and openly encourage everyone to use the talents and gifts that God has given them, whether it's the Gifts of the Spirit, being a prayer warrior, singing, teaching. We have some that do prison ministry, some that go to the nursing homes. And my Pastor definitely believes in letting the Holy Spirit take the lead, setting Him "free from the box". I believe that it's okay to have order, but don't let it take away God's ability to be able to move and to speak to His people, because that's what He desires more than anything is to be able to communicate with us in His way, in His time. Great post, MaryLu, and thanks, ladies, for your comments! :)

  10. Wed June 13th,
    "Morning, MaryLu."
    I attend a 'Pentecostal' Church (Pentecostal Churches and Charismatic Churches differ from one another, in Canada).
    We still have an orderliness about our Services ... people don't all talk out while someone else is speaking (unless like Debbie said ... to say "Amen"). If 'a word' is being given (for example) ... it is 'one person speaking, at a time'.
    In the past, I have attended -- Anglican, Nazarene, Baptist, Missionary Alliance, and even a Quaker Church ... but we have been at our Church now for the past 18+ years.
    Amazing how "all" of the Churches vary though, huh ??? Guess you just have to choose the one that best exemplifies -- a Christian-believing, Spirit-filled Bible preaching and teaching Church, lifting up the Name of Jesus ... where you feel led to be at.
    Take care, and, God Bless,
    In Him, Brenda Hurley

  11. Ah, yes, I thought so, Brenda. From the way you described your church, I knew it had to be at some sort of Charismatic or Pentecostal. We have them here but the few I've tried have deviated to far the other way.. where it's all about the signs and wonders and I don't like that either.
    It is truly hard to find the right church these days... glad you're happy where you are!

  12. Angi, your church sounds great too! I'm actually blessed to hear there are still good ones out there. We definitely have a lack of them here in Northern California. :-(

  13. Hmmm ... lots to wonder about. Thanks again MaryLu for posting more information about the history of the church. It's quite fascinating, and explains a lot of what's going down in the church today. In our experience, the Word of God has been watered down, and the message is more about pleasing people and increasing pew warmers; some leaders we've had have sadly taken their responsibility and changed it to the "my way, or no way" mentality - the abuse of authority.
    There should be much encouraging AND allowing everyone to use their God given gifts (all of them, no matter on the opinion of others - if it's truly of God, bring it on!); letting the Holy Spirit take the lead - thus keeping the focus on Him; believers should be a close-knit family and have true fellowship (which doesn't necessarily mean sitting in a church building together) ...
    Basically, we need to let God be God. Period.
    I'm so glad to hear that some of you ladies have found great meeting places to fellowship and worship.
    I look forward to the continuing history lessons, and the possible solutions you mentioned above, MaryLu! :) Thanks!

  14. Hello everyone !
    I've been following the articles and comments for some time now, and thought I'd share ...
    Our family came to a point where God was asking us ... "why do you do what you do ?"
    To be honest, this child-like question was like a splash of cold water on our faces !
    Enter John 1:17... "The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ".
    And thus began our walk down the road of discovering grace.
    I've read four books that were life-changing ...
    The first was GRACEWALK, by Steve McVey. An excellent read to get your feet wet, to understanding grace.
    The second book was GRACE: THE POWER TO CHANGE, by Dr. James Richards. This took you deeper ... applying grace to your life that is "in Him".
    The third book was CHURCH WITHOUT RELIGION, by Dr. Andrew Farley. This book showed you that in the light of grace, the old life of the law is dead.
    The fourth book was PAGAN CHRISTIANITY, by Frank Viola and George Barna. This book brought a conclusion to the question "why do you do what you do ?".
    I'm glad to see others like yourselves are asking similar questions.
    PAGAN CHRISTIANITY is a good read (just wait until you get to the tithing chapter !) ... but one thing I'd like to share is that our history and our traditions are the superficial things when it comes to a life in Him.
    What really matters ... is JESUS.
    Nothing more, nothing less.
    Our faith isn't based on what, when, or where (again, superficial) ... but WHO (Jesus).
    After PAGAN CHRISTIANITY, may I recommend reading the other three books I've mentioned. It will put you on a road that's refreshing to travel.
    How your thoughts of tradition have been challenged ... take the next step, and have your personal relationship with the living true God challenged as well ... by learning the 'truth' about 'grace'.
    Thanks for this opportunity to share.
    - Scott

  15. Caroline, Yes, true fellowship doesn't mean sitting in church together! Great point. And of course keeping the focus on God, which is what Scott has said above.

    Scott, thanks for dropping in with your thoughts. I started on this journey over a year ago when I began to question why so many Christians going to church on Sunday never seemed to change.. why my walk seemed stagnant. And why the Christian life seemed so different from the life described in the book of Acts. In fact, he more I read the book of Acts, the more I realized something was off.
    Those books you mentioned sound intriguing and I will definitely check them out. Thank you for mentioning them.
    Yes, I couldn't agree more that it's all about Jesus! It's too easy to get caught up in "religion" and forget the real purpose, which is simply knowing Him. That's something I'm striving for every day.
    Thank you for stopping by! Please don't hesitate to comment again. I'd love to hear your thoughts. God Bless.

  16. I must admit ... I made a slight mistake !!!
    The name of Andrew Farley's book is GOD WITHOUT RELIGION ... not Church Without Religion.
    Although, come to think of it ... either name could apply !
    Sorry about the mistake ...
    - Scott

  17. No Problem, Scott, I found it on Amazon anyway and ordered it!