In discussing key issues facing Bible believing churches today, I mentioned in the last Clarity Trumpet that the five issues I was going to discuss were crucial, and I defined crucial as those "areas in which churches are struggling and over which they are sometimes battling." Crucial in this context does not necessarily mean the most important but rather areas in which the battles seem to be raging at the present, or areas in which pastors and church leaders across the country are having the most questions, or over which they are experiencing the most difficulties. Keep this in mind as I conclude with the final two areas of concern.
A lot is happening within local church settings due to influences inside and outside of the various media — some good and some not so good. It is unsettling, even divisive, for some people.
Questions abound. Are services more conducive to worship when words to songs are displayed on an overhead screen rather than having the people's noses stuck in hymnals? What about the old hymns being crowded out by the newer choruses? Is that good or bad? And whatever happened to song leaders? Now we have worship leaders and coordinators. And, of all things, drums being played in the morning worship services! What's the church coming to, anyway?
It might help to remember the old adage, KISS — Keep It Simple, Sweetie! Get it clear in your mind what constitutes true worship, and you are not likely to get swept away with every new fad that comes down the pike, nor will you be reactionary against everything that is new or different.
Here is some helpful Scriptural insight:
First: worship, revere, and honor are all words that spring from the same Greek thought in your New Testament. One word, meaning to prostrate oneself in an act of worship, is used in John 4 where Jesus replied to the Samaritan woman, saying:
The other Greek word would have to do with having a proper attitude of reverence toward someone; fixing an evaluation upon that one. It is in this vein that Christ told His adversaries:
So, true worship would be to prostrate yourself (whether physically or in your mind) before the Lord "in spirit and in truth" and to reverence the Son in the same way as you do the Father.
However, there is another aspect of worship that we have somehow overlooked in our preoccupation with "setting the mood" for worship. The truth I speak about is this: We often associate our worship with our love for the Lord, and rightly so. We sing, "I love You, Lord, and I lift my voice to worship You, oh my soul rejoice." But are you fully aware that if you look upon worship as the outward or inward expression of your love for the Lord that you may be missing the main point of New Testament worship? To put it plainly: obedience to god is the highest form of worship!
Jesus made this so clear in His Upper Room Discourse (John 13–16). Each of us needs to take His words on this subject to heart:
It's possible to get caught up in a religious frenzy of singing, praying, and respectable church work, and still fail to worship our God. True obedience involves a heart attitude of submissiveness to the Lord: prostrating ourselves before Him, and revering Him for all that He is. Since I am convinced that Jesus Christ is God, I bow before Him in humility and surrender, ready to obey whatever the cost. Thus, I worship Him in the fullest and truest sense.
If we keep these simple truths clearly before us, we will maintain our worship services in keeping with the Bible's emphasis of having all of our focus upon Him rather than upon the ones leading us: pastors, worship leaders, musicians, soloists, or choirs.
The theologically liberal ecumenical movement has not been able to adequately do what it set out to accomplish; that is, bring all of Christendom under one religious umbrella — a visible unity. Its greatest obstacles have been Bible-believing churches. Those who take the Bible as God's final Word on all matters, especially concerning matters of faith and practice (doctrine and behavior), have refused to bow to liberalism's faulty doctrine of the "Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man" — and rightly so.
However, Satan is never at a loss in adapting his methods to meet the present need as he sees it. So, along came the charismatic movement with its avowed loyalty to the Bible and its roots deeply planted in traditional Pentecostalism. While traditional Pentecostalism was and is very narrow in scope, the charismatic movement is very broad in its influence and in its willingness to embrace all who "name the name of Jesus" and who have received (or who want to receive) the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
The powerful influence of the charismatic movement is seen in that it can boast of having within its fellowship not only those from Pentecostal-leaning groups, but also many from mainline Protestant churches, a number of Roman Catholics, and many, many evangelicals who are "looking for something more." Yet, despite its impact, all of Christianity has not rallied around the one banner of the Holy Spirit's baptism, as defined by charismatics.
Please read the following very carefully and do not misconstrue my meaning or intent. The most recent ecumenical-type movement to come along is The Promise Keepers (founded by charismatic leaders). Officially, there are seven promises of a Promise Keeper, and it's hard to fault the overall emphasis. And, besides, why would anyone want to? A lot of good has come as a result of men returning to their homes, businesses, communities, and churches as godly men focusing on being all they were intended to be by their Creator.
However, a growing number of pastors think there is a real potential danger here, and this danger seems to center on the emphasis contained in part of the sixth promise: A Promise Keeper is committed to reaching beyond any racial and denominational barriers to demonstrate the power of biblical unity. Some pastors are finding that there is such a steady emphasis of love over doctrine (called "denominational distinctives") that a harsh reaction toward a pastor's strong Bible teaching sometimes surfaces from men who have bought into the primacy of love over sound doctrine.
What's a pastor to do? Should he forbid men of his church from attending any ecumenical type gatherings? Would it be proper to preach a message against such movements or organizations? Should he just ignore it altogether? It doesn't seem any of these reactions would be very plausible.
There is one approach, however, that is appropriate in all situations: faithfully teach Bible truth and principles which would throw light on any situation, providing on the one hand, warning signals where needed, and on the other hand, emphasizing whatever is positive. Then when believers are exposed to any doctrine, movement, or emphasis, they will be equipped to discern truth from error, right from wrong, and will mature through the process described so well in Hebrews 5.
One final word: Proverbs 23:7 states that as a man "thinks in his heart, so is he." Jeremiah 17:9 reveals that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." We're not going to find solutions to our problems or find satisfying and lasting answers to our deepest questions by looking within. We must look outside ourselves to the Word of God and allow it to so saturate us that we think God's thoughts. Romans 8:5 tells us that believers live either according to the flesh or according to the Spirit depending on what they set their minds on. Psalm 119:11 states, "Your Word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You." Bible truth that is allowed to change and control our thinking will change our behavior. It doesn't work any other way. There are no short cuts or instant "spiritual maturity" pills. Bible doctrine that is known, believed and applied will result in a Christ-like life.