Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Is Your Sunday Assembly Christian?

After reading this article about an atheist “Sunday Assembly”, it got me to thinking about what makes a Sunday Assembly truly Christian. Is it style? Format? Order of service? Liturgy? Giving? Personal reflection? Friendliness? If all of those things can happen in both an atheist and a Christian assembly, then how are our church services any different from atheists who desire to assemble together?

We sing songs, they sing songs. Is it the style and instrumentation of the songs that make them Christian or atheist? Of course not, it’s the content and the audience.  

If an atheist can copy the format and order of a Christian church service, then there must be nothing inherently Christian about it. Format and order are evidently religiously neutral.   

Of course the readings differ. There is no way a good atheist would tolerate contextual Bible readings. The act of public reading is religiously neutral. It is the reading material which makes it either Christian or atheist. 

Apparently the congregants of the atheist assembly are challenged, “to think about living better, helping often and wondering more.” Public exhortation to live morally can be present in both atheistic and Christian services. So if a sermon is moral and encouraging in nature, it is not necessarily Christian. Once again, it comes down to content—but rather than the nature of the content, it is the basis of the content that determines whether it is Christian or atheist.  Atheistic sermon content can only be morality based on human achievement. Christian sermon content is solely based on the achievement of God in Christ as told in the Bible. 

As you go to church this Sunday, think about the things that make your service different than an atheistic Sunday Assembly. Would an unchurched person be able to tell the difference? How? It is those (and only those) differences that are non-negotiable elements of Christian corporate worship. We must not confuse non-negotiables with things that can (and should) change with time and culture.  

Atheists can print bulletins, sing moving songs, extend warm greetings, drop money in a collection plate, read inspiring quotes, quietly bow their heads, and give motivational sermons. But they can’t worship the one true God in spirit and truth. They can’t fellowship in the furtherance of the Gospel.  They can’t sacrificially give out of the abundance of God’s goodness to them.  They can’t explain, encourage and exhort from the very Word of God Himself.  They can’t pour out their emotional adoration in worship to the One who created, saved and sustains them. They can’t boldly come together before the Almighty’s throne of grace in prayer.  They can’t publicly read the very words of God Himself as His Spirit opens their mind, breaks their heart and bends their will to Him.  

The style, trappings, format and environment of an atheist Sunday Assembly might be similar to many of our church services. But those things that are similar are the flexible, cultural things. We should be willing and eager to change those things as the culture around us changes. The things we can never change are the things that make our services distinctly Christian. Passionate corporate worship, sacrificial giving, richly deep fellowship, fervent corporate prayer, celebration of the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and systematic exposition of God’s Word. 

Then they will know the difference.
 

1 Corinthians 14:25

1 comments:

  • Ken says:
    January 11, 2013 at 2:19 PM

    Great article. There are some, within the church today, who say they want to get "back" to the early church ways, basically house churches, but then claim that without modern music, you can't attract the younger people. My question has always been, when did the Word cease to be enough? I think some place too much emphasis on the style, order, etc., of the service while others complain its not biblical. My perspective is God is less concerned with the style or format and more concerned with whats in our heart. If we truly seek Him, we will find Him (Jer. 29:13). I think this is pretty much in agreement with your writing. Anyhoo, that's my 2 cents. God bless~

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