Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Worship vs Education

I opened this section with the fact that the ancient Hebrews has a separate word for houses of worship from houses of learning. (Temple VS Synagogue) As well as the question weather it’s right to combine said practices into a single convenient service as we do now. It’s not a simple thing to answer, but if you’ve been paying attention; thus far, you will realize that music is a crossover element in both concepts. As well as there was a huge change in the concept of the temple and ultimately worship as a result under the new covenant.  Let us also look at 1 Corinthians 14 which offers some insights to how the first generation church was conducted.

26 My friends, when you meet to worship, you must do everything for the good of everyone there. That’s how it should be when someone sings or teaches or tells what God has said or speaks an unknown language or explains what the language means. 27 No more than two or three of you should speak unknown languages during the meeting. You must take turns, and someone should always be there to explain what you mean. 28 If no one can explain, you must keep silent in church and speak only to yourself and to God.29 Two or three persons may prophesy, and everyone else must listen carefully. 30 If someone sitting there receives a message from God, the speaker must stop and let the other person speak. 31 Let only one person speak at a time, then all of you will learn something and be encouraged. 32 A prophet should be willing to stop and let someone else speak. 33 God wants everything to be done peacefully and in order. (CEV)

It would  seem that the first generation church was the genesis of the practice of merging the concepts. So it would not seem that scripture does not condemn the practice. However, this passage also reveals church practices that are far removed from the church of today. These verses paint a picture of a church that was far more interactive. It all didn’t center around the efforts of but a single teacher, and everyone else merely a consumer. A wide assortment of people was involved. Many helped in bearing an abundant harvest of spiritual fruit, and they were eager to do so. So their Christian education was in no way diminished by such a merger, they were truly living the body of Christ concept. Can we still make such a claim?
     Let me also share this. Over a century and a half-ago during the abolitionist era, when slavery was the big social issue. Many people in the church felt that the governments approval of such a horrific crime against humanity was a sign of the end. A perception that was compounded by a fact that many churches were not taking a stand on the issue so as not to offend their members that were getting rich off slavery; in their mind this was the church of Laodicea come to pass. When the civil war officially broke out the abolitionist side of the church was so utterly convinced that the end was near that a grand campaign to save as many people as possible was implemented. They didn’t worry about a deep rooted knowledge and faith. They just tried to give them enough to keep them out of hell.
     This false perception is probably but one of many events that has lead to the decline of education in the church; and the church as a whole has just declined with it. No we don’t need to separate education from worship, but we probably need to take both concepts far more seriously in our lives, by getting back to the level of dedication that the first generation church had. The Sabbath was an all day observance in Biblical times. Now it’s often no more than an hour and a half. If we tithed our time and only counted waking hours, even that would be 11 hours and 12 minutes.
       As scripture reveals in many places; man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. We feed our physical bodies every day, even multiple times a day if we have the means. However, many of us starve our spirit by only feeding it when convenient. For many see the church as merely a place to consume spiritual fruit, not bear it as Jesus called us to; as the first generation church did. (John 15:8) When a church is filled with nothing but consumers with very few producers, it’s no wonder the crop is so small.

missing the mark by diminishing worship and understanding
Veiled glory 2 Corinthians 3:7-18

Monday, March 4, 2013

Purpose of church 2 - Education part 2

Last time we talked about how Jesus taught. Yet, another concept we should take to heart is how Jesus did NOT teach, yet the church sometimes does. Christ-likeness isn’t about doing as he did, but avoiding faulty methods that he did as well. 

Forced coercion - Submission is actually a very Biblical concept. Many dismiss Christianity for that reason alone. All because people don’t recognize the difference between submission and forced submission, even within the church itself. Biblical submission was meant to be an option made of ones freewill. (Joshua 14:15, Luke 14:25-33) To see and recognize the value of Biblical truth and choosing to submit to its authority. Jesus valued sincerity, if you did not choose to follow him of your own volition, he didn’t see you as ready to be his follower. The Bible actually records people rejecting Jesus a number of times. (Matthew 8:34, Mark 10:17-22, Luke 4:28-30, John 6:60-69) While Jesus would sometimes elaborate on his position, not once ever does he prevent someone from using their freewill to abandon him or his teachings in any way. Let me put it all into perspective for you. If you pointed a gun at someone's head and demanded that they say “I love you” they would probably do it. Yet, the words they uttered would be meaningless; there would be no truth or reality within them at all under such circumstances. You are only kidding yourself if you think otherwise. It is no different when we try to force righteous behavior upon people. It can be nothing more than a phony external whitewash to keep you off their back at best. At worst, it’s just a source of rebellion. 

Harsh words - Granted Jesus could be tough on certain people, specifically religious people who should have known better. Yet offered much grace to those who were less knowledgeable. Church people often do the exact opposite by condemning and criticizing people for not knowing better already, yet soft on their fellow church folk who shouldn’t have to be told. So where should we draw the line? It’s a valid question we would do well to try to understand and act upon, rather than just reacting emotionally. To answer that, let’s do a compare and contrast between Jesus and the religious people he was the toughest upon, the Pharisees.  Jesus sought to do what’s right, where the Pharisees sought to be right. Jesus sought to help the lost, where the Pharisees sought to belittle the lost. Jesus sought to serve others, where the pharisees sought only to serve self and their agenda. Jesus sought to do everything in love, where the Pharisees loved only themselves and their traditions. This is what separates vitriolic criticism, condemnation, and guilt from good and proper correction. The easiest thing in the world to do is to hate those who hated you first, so when we correct with fleshly anger filled hate we are only painting our beliefs in a negative light. It only serves to accomplish the exact opposite of what you intend. When it comes to correction are you more Christ like or Pharisee like?

man assaulting someone with Bible
A truth made undesirable