Why They Don’t Sing on Sunday Anymore

As you search the internet it is amazing how many articles you can find on this subject. What strikes me about them is that my experience confirms what they say. And while some may want to say that we are making an issue over contemporary vs traditional, I think they miss the point. The reasons that Thom Schultz gives in his article are clearly not a stylistic preference issue, but an issue of application and presentation. (Schultz does a fair job of further explaining this in his follow-up article listed at the end.) It is this application of the music that has driven people from their involvement, not the style of music. People want to be engaged in the worship and not simply observers, but to often the music is presented in such a way that it discourages people from joining in. Maybe it is time we re-evaluate how we are presenting the music portion of the worship service, and some times the rest of the service as well.

Holy Soup

Looking around the church last Sunday I noticed that the majority weren’t singing. And most of those who were singing barely moved their lips. The only voices I actually heard were those on stage with microphones.

That’s been the case for years now–in churches large and small. What used to be congregational singing has become congregational staring.

Even when the chipper “worship leader” in contemporary churches bounds on stage and predictably beckons everyone to “stand and worship,” the people compliantly obey the stand command, but then they turn into mute mannequins.

What’s behind this phenomenon? What happened to the bygone sounds of sanctuaries overflowing with fervent, harmonizing voices from the pews, singing out with a passion that could be heard down the street? I suspect it’s a number of unfortunate factors.

Spectator set-up. Increasingly, the church has constructed the worship service as a spectator event. Everyone expects the people on stage to…

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BSA Continues Down The Road

 

The headline of the article says it all, “Boy Scouts president calls for end of ban on gay adults. . .” It is a journey that began, for many, long ago. A journey that was presented to the eyes of the rest of the world in 2013 when a vote was taken at the BSA National Conference to allow boys, under 18, who identify at gay to be members. It was a first major step down the road. Last week, BSA President, Robert Gates, spoke to those assembled at the 2015 BSA National Conference. In his address he proposed that the time is at hand to take the next step down the road.

I would be lying if I said I did not see this coming. In fact when the vote was taken in 2013 I gave it five years, at most, until the ban on gay leaders  was lifted. Now I am not saying that I had some great insight, I am sure there were many others who made similar predictions. My point is that the first step taken down that road two years ago should have been obvious and here we are about to take another step down this road. But in the end, I am afraid that it is not the road to the glorious destination it is trumpeted to be.  It is rather, a road that leads away from the foundations upon which scouting was built, and the values I hold as a bible believing Christian.

Now I could go down the road that argument leads to and find myself going back and forth with those who disagree with my position, those who feel this decision is the greatest things to ever come out of scouting. But experience has taught me that such arguments accomplish very little. If people do not come from a common starting place, then the ends seldom converge. Instead, I choose to state my position by addressing three quotes from Dr. Gates speech.

The first quote has to do with how we respond to the society in which we live. Dr. Gates says that as a result of “the social, political and judicial changes taking place in our country . . . the status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained.” In other words, our society has changed so much that we are out of step with it and need to change if we want to continue to exist. Now this is a response to challenges, but is it a good response.  What this is telling me is that if things get hard, then you just give in.  Is this really the lesson we want to teach out children? That when things get tough you just give up. If this is really a justification for suggesting the change I find it cowardly and shameful.  For an organization that holds honor at such a high level, what honor is there is just giving up? What strength is found in going with the crowd? What virtue is found in trading in long held values?

True honor would be found in standing strong in the beliefs held from the beginning, beliefs that have guided the BSA for over 100 years.  I find far greater respect for those who will stand firm for their beliefs and values in the face of ridicule and hardship, even if it means the eventual demise of the organization, than I do in those who change their foundational beliefs simply to survive.

I’m going to be honest, there comes a time when all social movements (when it boils down to it the BSA is a social movement, that is to say it is intended to build up society) reach a point when they must decide, are they going to be true to their foundations even if everything says it will lead to its demise or compromise simply to survive. It is the far more noble action to stand for your values in the face of opposition than to surrender your beliefs to appease others.

The second quote concerns the position BSA policy puts boys into relating to their church. Dr. Gates says, “As a movement, we find ourselves with a policy more than a few of our church sponsors reject, thus placing Scouting between a boy and his church.” This argument is fallacious in that the exact same argument can be given from the other perspective. By changing the policy to allow for homosexual involvement we embrace a policy that more than a few of our church sponsors reject, thus placing Scouting between a boy and his church.  Based on the poor logic of this statement, I will forego any further discussion of it.

It is the third statement that concerns me most, as a Bible believing, evangelical Christian.  Dr. Gates states, “Our oath calls upon us to do our duty to God and our country. The country is changing. . .” Yes, he is correct. You would have to blind to not realize this fact.  But change is not always a good things or for the better. Worse yet, change simply for the sake of change can often be worse than maintaining the status quo. But this is a different discussion.

There is something for more significant about this statement that struck me the moment I heard it. “Our oath calls upon us to do our duty to God and our country. The country is changing. . .” I had no more that heard this quote when without thinking, I finished it by saying “but God doesn’t.” God does not change. Any person who calls themselves a Christian must accept this fact, God does not change. Why not? Because a god who changes is not a god in whom faith can be placed. If you do not know that tomorrow God will be the same as he is today, then how can you trust that his salvation will last.

But I can remain confident that God does not change.  In Malachi 3:6  God declares, “I the LORD do not change.” James 1:17 tells us that He is “the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Psalm 33:11 tells us, “But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.” And Hebrews 13:8 tells us “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” No, God does not change! 

Because He does not change, I can place my faith in Him. This is why Psalm 18:2 declares, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Because He does not change, I can be confident in His word. A word that tells me that a homosexual life style is contrary to God’s teaching.

God’s teachings are repeated over and over through the Bible. In Leviticus 18:22 God told the nation of Israel, “Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.” In I Corinthians 6:9 – 10 homosexuality is grouped with  other sins like, “idolaters, adulterers, thieves, greedy, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers.” And Romans 1:26 – 27 clearly presents it as unnatural.  Now again, we can get caught up in the discussion of how these are to be understood, but I believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God and that God’s Word is true. In light of this, I can stand strong in the values presented in the long held BSA policy with confidence because, God does not change.

This same God, whom many of us have followed in the BSA for over 100 years, does not change. Therefore, to change our position based on an ever fluctuating societal view versus the position of an unchanging God, is at best foolishness and at worst, a direct a affront to the righteousness of God Himself.

Please understand the point I am trying to communicate. My opposition is not out of hatred, for this same God has taught me the need to “Love your neighbor as yourself”. (Mark 12:31) It is not out of fear that our children will be “preyed” upon, such thinking is unfounded and ludicrous. It is out of my commitment to the first point of the scout law, duty to God.

As I consider the implications of this address, I am left to wonder the true motive behind Dr. Gates’ remarks. If it is out of compassion for those who feel excluded, I share his heart, but must remain faithful to my duty to God. If it is out of fear of loosing membership from being out of step with society, I understand, but must remain faithful to my duty to God. If it is for any other reason, I must still remain faithful to my duty to God.

And so, as the BSA continues its journey, step by step, down the road they have chosen, I see it as only a matter of time until their path and the path of many more will go their separate ways.

 

 

Life Isn’t Fair, But Opportunities Abound

Have you ever had one of those days.  The ones where everything goes wrong.  The ones when, from the moment you get up in morning to when you eventually get to bed, anything that can possibly go contrary to your plans, does. You want more than anything to either go in you room and hide under the covers in hopes that tomorrow will be better, or climb up on the roof top and scream at the top of you lungs, “WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME!”

Now imagine it is more than a day.  Imagine it continues for days, weeks, months, even years. What are you supposed to do with that?  How do you keep going on?  You have plans for your life, what you think you should be doing, but your life seems to be sending you in an entirely different direction. Where do you go from there?

This is the situation that Paul find’s himself in as he is writing his letter to the Philippians. Paul was on track to become a leading member of the Jewish community. Christ himself reached out to Paul. He called him to reach the gentile world, and Paul embraced his new mission.  He had turned his whole life over to proclaiming God’s word. But in the midst of his preaching he has found himself thrown into jail and brought up on charges before the courts. How could things have possibly gone so far astray? He did nothing to find himself in this place but preach the gospel, yet here he was.

If this wasn’t enough, there were those who claimed to have the same goal of preaching the gospel, yet they seemed to be taking advantage of his situation. They were actually preaching the gospel that he had set out to proclaim in order to spite him. They knew he was incarcerated, unable to go around preaching, and they wanted to rub his nose in it. It was as if they were saying, “See you’re not so important, we can preach the gospel just as well without you.”

Talk about Murphy’s law. It certainly seemed that everything that could go wrong, was. Yet while most of us would find out selves throwing a pity-party, saying “It’s not fair”, this was not Paul’s response.  Instead Paul writes, “But What does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” Even in the midst of all these trouble, Paul did not get caught up in what was going wrong in his life, but kept his focus on the proclamation of the Gospel. He saw all that he was going through not as problems for him, but opportunities for God’s word to be proclaimed.  In his book, “Invitation to Philippians” Dr. Donald Sunukjian puts it this way. “His concern was not ‘Is it fair?’ but ‘Is it accomplishing anything for God? Is what’s happening to me being useful to God in some way? Is it furthering his purposes in the world?'”

Paul could see beyond his situation to what was important.  Those who wanted to stick it to him by showing that he was not that important and that the gospel could still be preached without him had missed the point.  This was Paul’s mindset all along.  All that mattered was that the gospel was preached.  He lived the words of John the Baptist as found in John 3:30, “He must become greater; I must become less.”

But Paul did not stop with joy that the gospel was still preached. Even in his situation, he continued to preach.  He shared the gospel with the guards who watch over him.  He did it with the understanding that he was simply a link in a greater chain.  For those he shared the gospel with, even in his setting, could then bring the gospel to those they came in contact with, on they in turn could take it even further. In Paul’s case, it was the Imperial Guard of Rome who watched over him and, in turn, they could take the gospel to the very halls of the emperor’s palace. So Paul declared in Philippians 1:12 – 13 “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.”

But that of course was Paul, what about us today.  Allow me to share a short story from my life.  I worked in university security for 20 years.  During that time I worked my way up from part-time to being the Director.  During my time I built a department that was respected and year after year increased in student satisfaction.  After nine years, the rug was pulled out from under me.  I was called into the Vice President’s office and told that due to financial situations, I was being let go. I spent the next six months unemployed, followed by 4 1/2 years split between four part-time jobs. I could easily have been caught up in looking for pity for my situation, and admittedly there were low moments, but I saw things differently.

When I was laid off, I didn’t complain.  I voluntarily came in for several days to wrap things up and make an easier transition for the person taking over my responsibilities. I wrote an open letter to those who knew me to let them know of my situation and asking them for their prayers for the university and those left to pick up the slack. I took opportunities to preach at churches. When I finally got a part-time job I found new opportunities to speak to people about their faith. I invested more time into volunteering with organizations. I began regularly preaching at a hospital chapel service. I took on an internship with my church. I found that being bogged down in self-pity would do no one any good, but as I embraced the opportunities that had been set before me, I found more and more opportunities to be involved in people lives. I found opportunities to share my faith with others. I found that I grew in my faith. I can only imagine what secondary impacts may have come from those I had contact with.

Even with all of these experiences, I still have to remind myself that it doesn’t matter that things seem unfair, all that matters is that God is glorified. So I ask you, as much as myself, what is your attitude in life? What is your reaction to the trials you face? Do you feel sorry for yourself? Do you become jealous of others who are out proclaiming the gospel, with opportunities that you think you should have? Do you find yourself unable to continue filled with self-pity, preventing you from making the best of your situation? Do you see situations as a  hinderance, or as an opportunity?

We need to understand that if we find ourselves caught up in the unfairness of life, we will miss the opportunities God sets before us. If we are so caught up in things not going the way we have planned, we will miss that God has a far greater plan for us.  But when our focus is on how God can use us, wherever we are, we will see a whole new world of opportunities open up for us. When we understand that even if we only impact one person we are brought into contact with, we may start a chain of events that could have a huge impact on the world down the road. When we realize that our focus should be on God’s glory and not our own recognition, we can join with Paul, when we see others proclaim the gospel, declaring that we “will continue to rejoice.” (Phil 1:18)

Doing What’s Best

You’ve seen them before. Young boys bustling with energy. Each of them wearing a blue shirt, with red numbers on the sleeve. Sometimes wearing an orange, or gold, or blue neckerchief. On the pocket of the shirt you find patches of tigers, bobcats, wolves and bear. I’m talking about Cub Scouts. Each learning and growing everyday and trying to live by the Cub Scout motto, “Do Your Best.”

This is a noble endeavor that we all should seek to live by.  But when you have to make a decision, how do you know what is best and why does it matter? The apostle Paul tells us in  Philippians 1:9 – 11 “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

“Discern what is best.” In Dr. Don Sunukjian’s book, “Invitation to Philippians,” he list the answer he sees in this passage.  He list two reasons found in this passage for why it is important that we make the best choice. “First, so that no one else will have anything against us, and second, so that we ourselves will know that we’ve pleased God in every way?”

I readily agree that it is important to make the best choice so that we can please God. Pleasing God is what is most important in our lives as Christians. 1 Thessalonians 2:4 tells us that “We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.” We are trying to please God. This is the role of a Christian, that everything we do is pleasing to God.

But what of his first point, “so that no one else will have anything against us.” Is this really our concern. Doesn’t Galatians 1:10 tell us, ” If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” At first glance, I would have to question the validity of this option.  But as I look closer at it I begin to see that it is not as far off as my initial thoughts would place it. Sunukjian said that it is important that we make the right decisions so that people will have nothing against us.  He did not say that we should do it to make people happy with us, that is to say, that we are not tying to please them.

Well, what exactly is the difference? After all, if people are happy with us, then they certainly will have nothing against us. While this is true, the reverse is not. In other words, even if a person has nothing against us, it does not mean that they will always be happy with us.

I know that there are people who I do not agree with. People whose choices do not please me, but I can not help but be impressed by their integrity. They are genuine about who they are. They do not simply act the way people want to make them happy. They make their choices because they truly believe in them.

You see our best choices are not simply to keep everyone happy. If we claim to be Christians, then our choices, our life styles, need to be consistent with that belief. When this is the case we please God, and give others nothing to hold against us for our behavior. This is what Peter is talking about in 1 Peter 2:12 when he writes, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

Doing our best means making choices that please God, choices that are consistent with what we believe.  When we do this, we will be sure to glorify God in our actions and allow our witness to stand before others. But to do this, we must know what pleases God and how to live. The only way to do this is to spend time with Him and in His word. That is our best choice. That is how we are “able to discern what is best” and how we are able to “be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” So spend time daily in His word.  Spend time daily in prayer. Walk with Christ. Get to know Him and what He desires from you. Then you to can do what is best.

 

 

 

Christian Hospitality

What does the word “hospitality” mean? For many, the first thing that goes through their minds is the hospitality industry. According to Wikipedia this would include:

“a broad category of fields within the service industry that includes lodging, event planning, theme parks, transportation, cruise line, and additional fields within the tourism industry.”

But is this really what hospitality is all about?

In Dr. Donald Sunukjian’s book, “Invitation To Philippians” he discusses why Paul can say, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) In his sermon on Philippians 1:1 – 8, he identifies three specific things that Paul remembers, allowing him to speak with such confidence.  One of these three items is found in verse five which reads, “because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”

And what partnership is it that was there from the first day? Sunukjian draws us back to the events of Acts 16:11 – 15.

” From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.

On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. ‘If you consider me a believer in the Lord,’ she said, ‘come and stay at my house.’ And she persuaded us.”

Here we see that Lydia, from the very beginning opened her home to Paul and his companions, for the purpose of the furtherance of the gospel. Based on this, Sunukjian proposes that hospitality is not simply an industry, but is an evidence of God working in the life of a Christian.

This led me to think, what is real hospitality? What does it look like?  Is it reasonable for all of us to be able to open our homes to others in the manner Lydia did? Can we show hospitality without having people in our homes? Is hospitality unique to Christian’s? And if not, what distinguishes it from hospitality shown by other?

 Real Hospitality

So what is hospitality anyway? Of course it is more than just a business, but is it simply opening your home?  If I tell people that they can use my house, but spend the time complaining of their presence I am surely not showing hospitality. Hospitality involves more than simply opening your home. It involves graciously welcoming guest. It involves a heart of service toward others. True hospitality is not done to receive something in return, but comes from the heart.

What If My Home Is Small

This is what we are called to as believers. We are called to share our lives with one another. But let’s be honest, not everyone is blessed with a home that they can open up to others.  I will readily admit that it is a challenge for me, not because I am not willing, but because my home is under 1,000 square feet with five people, three of which are teenagers. So what if my home is small, can I show hospitality without opening my home to others?

First you need to ask yourself, “Why do I not want people in my home?” Is it because I like my privacy and want to keep people out? If this is the case then we need to examine our hearts more closely, for this is what we are called to do.  In Matthew 25:35 we read, “I was a stranger and you invited me in.” These are the words that Jesus uses to describe those who know Him.  If our objection is simply because we do not want to deal with strangers, then we are failing to live up to God’ call on our lives.  However, if it is a logistical reason, such as there is simply not enough room, then I believe you can still show hospitality without having people into your home.  That having been said, who knows what we are missing by not doing so, for as the writer of Hebrews writes in 13:2, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

How Can We Show Hospitality

So what do we do in the event it is not reasonable to open our homes. I believe Jesus Himself answers this in Matthew 25:35 – 36 when He says, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 

Each of these is an act of hospitality.  They involve going out of our way to meet the needs of others.  Perhaps you donate food to help feed the hungry, you give clothes to those in need. Perhaps you travel to visit shut-ins or prisoners.  Yes, hospitality does not always requiring opening your door to others. What hospitality does involve is a Philippians 2:3 attitude, “in humility value others above yourselves.”

Christian Hospitality

So if this is hospitality, is there validity to Sunukjian’s proposal that “one way you can be confident that people are committed to the work of the Lord – their homes are available?” The problem is that there are many people who are not Christian’s who show great hospitality as well.  People who are always willing to have others over, people who are willing to provide a meal, yet they are not Christians. So if hospitality is not uniquely Christian, what is it that distinguishes Christian Hospitality?

We need to look at the reason behind the acts of hospitality. What is it that drives people to desire to open their homes and care for others? For some, it can be a deep-seated to need to be accepted.  “If I can be the person who provides for others, maybe they will like me.” For others, it can be a need to be in control. “If I am the one opening my home, then I can control the situation.” And for still others, it can be a genuine desire to serve others. “I simply find joy in serving others.”

Christian Hospitality is certainly not based in a desire to be accepted or be in control. And while each of us may know those who could fall into these categories, such reasons are, in fact, self-serving and fly in opposition to the Philippians 2:3 attitude. It is the genuine desire to serve others that begins to draw us closer to Christian Hospitality. To fully reach there we must look at the source of that desire.  When our hospitality is based on our Christian Faith,  the source of our desire is not simply the joy of serving others, but a desire to see God glorified in our actions. This is what distinguishes Christian Hospitality.

Final Thoughts

Is hospitality an evidence of God working in the heart of a believer? The answer is yes.  And while there are many non-Christians who show hospitality, Christian’s who do so out of desire to see God glorified, demonstrate His working in them.

How can we show hospitality? If you are able, open your home for prayer time, a small group, a Bible study or simply a get together.  If this is not possible, look for other opportunities.  When someone has a baby, provide meals for them (as they are going to be quite busy for a while). If someone needs a ride to the hospital and you have a car, take the time to provide it. If you know someone who is a shut-in, take the time visit and spend time with them.

There are many ways to show hospitality that go beyond opening your home.  Examine your heart, and ensure that your first desire is to Glorify God. Next, take the time to think outside the box. Then set things in motion.

What’s in a Name? – Branding The Church

“Welcome to GraceLife.  We are so glad to have you here.”

Word’s like this are heard more and more often all across this country.  Why?  Because many Churches have jumped on the change your name band wagon.  They argue that by giving ourselves a new name we can better explain who we really are.  Really? So “Church” no longer does the job of explaining who we really are?

Churches have chosen to drop the word “evangelical”, “fundamental”, “gospel” and” Bible” from their name because it is “confusing”, “people really didn’t know what it means” or “it leaves a bad tastes in people’s mouths.”

So they change their name to something like, “GraceLife,” “LifeJourney,” “Crossway”, “CrossPoint,” etc. Now you may ask “Well, what is wrong with that?”  My answer is that, in and of itself, it is not wrong. The problem lies not in the new name, but the justification behind it.

Let’s take a look at these reasonings. First, what exactly does” GracePoint” mean anyway? This is clearer than “Gospel”? It seems to me you have to do as much explaining to non-churched people (and probably those raised in the church) of what “GraceLife” means as what “Evangelical” means.

Second, most of these churches have dropped using the word church in their name.  Now for some it may still be in their official legal name, but in their regular everyday usage they simply refer to themselves as “GraceLife”. Apparently the word church turns people off.  Really? So here is what I take from this.  We have allowed society to coop words like “church”, “evangelical”, “fundamental” and “gospel” so that we are afraid to use them. As a result, we choose the easy route and simply avoid them rather learn to defend their true meaning. So some have chosen to change their name rather than educate people.

But as problematic as I see this rationale, there is a more disconcerting reasoning behind the trend.

Marketing

“We need to get people’s attention.”, “How can we get people to remember us?” So churches come up with a new name (and maybe a cool logo) so people recognize it immediately. After all marketing research has shown that catchy names and slogans are easier for people to remember. They call this “branding,” not unlike the symbol burned into the hide of a young calf by a rancher.

Now before you think that I am bashing marketing, I am not. Marketing is a great tool, but it is just a tool. A tool that has clearly worked in the world around us. When you see a Pepsi logo you know immediately what it is. But as a church are we supposed to be looking at corporate America as our example? Marketing should not be the guiding force of the church. That is to say, marketing research should not be a reason to justify a change, though it can help us find the best way to communicate the message of the gospel.
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Catchy Names, Slogans and Logos

So marketing research has shown us that catchy names and slogans stick with people. I can quickly prove this true by throwing out several slogans to you and you will know exactly what it is. First, “Have it your way”, Second, “just do it” and third “your in good hands.” If you guessed that respectively these are Burger King, Nike, and Allstate you would be right. So catching slogans help us remember the company to which they are attached.

The same is true when it comes to logos. If I showed you a picture of “Golden Arches”, a “Red Target” and a “swoosh” odds are you would know what companies they represent. The first is McDonald’s, second is Target and third is Nike. Yes marketing has a job to do and when branding is successful, the logos becomes indelibly written on people’s minds.

Stepping beyond the slogans and logos we now come to the names. Marketing tells us that names should not be bulky. They should communicate what is important about your “company” in as few syllables as possible. So we look for quick easy names. As a result, rather than ” Walton’s Departments Store” we have “Wal-Mart”, rather than Boston Mass Transit Sandwich Shop” we have “Subway” and rather than “Sound of Music” we have “Best Buy”.

In each of these cases, branding served the companies well, but how does this transfer to the local church? When does branding cross the line from being a tool used by the church to being a guiding force of the church’s direction?

We Are Not Trying To Please People But God

It seems to me that the answer is not as complicated as people would have you think. Twice in scripture Paul poses the answer.  In Galatians 1:10 he presents the question we must all ask ourselves. “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

In 1 Thessalonians 2:4 presents it not as a question, but as a statement of truth. “On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.”

Now I present these not as a condemnation of marketing in the church, but as a challenge to those who elevated marketing to the level higher than it should be. What is the deciding factor in your decision-making, pleasing God or pleasing man.  After all, that is the very essence of what marketing is. It is an attempt to find those things that will tickle peoples ears.  Those things that will get people excited and talking about the product. It is to find those things that please man. And while this does not automatically place it in opposition to God, it must make us stop and think.  Have we so taken from the world around us, that we see its systems on the same level as the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Thinking of Christ

So as I hope I have communicated, I am not simply throwing marketing techniques out the window, but I am questioning their emphasis.  Is a catching name, slogan or logo where we need to be putting our emphasis.  If not, then what should be the emphasis of the church? As I ask this question I shake my head thinking, “Is this a question that should really need asking?” The emphasis of the church should be nothing less that Christ Himself.  This is why we come together.  We come together to worship Him.  We come together to entreat His help and guidance.  We come together to hear His word.  We come together to build His body. This is the church, believers in Christ who join together to build up one another and Glorify God.

For 2,000 years the church has had a “logo” that is automatically recognized the world over.  The Cross.  It symbolizes the sacrifice that Christ made, that He gave His life as an atonement for the sins of the world.  Travel the world over, and you will find the Cross.  In homes, on mountainsides and at the pinnacle of Churches.  Yet today, how many church building are built without a Cross visible to the sorounding community.  Instead, we send out our flyers in the mail with our churches new exciting logo.  A logo that too often fails to promote Christ’s Church, but rather simply our local congregation. Yes, perhaps the logo has a cross within it, but not at the forefront as it has always stood.

What of names? For years names of churches helped people to find them and to know what they believed.  The word church simply means “of the Lord”, that is to say a group of people committed to the Lord.  And while church has been taken into use by other religious groups, the almost universal understanding of the word is an assembly of Christian believers.  Beyond this, churches often gave a geographical part to their name, not to say that those are the only people they reached to, but to know its location.  And, until recently, almost all churches identified their beliefs system through terms such as “Evangelical”, “Baptist” and “Methodist.” In many of these cases, these were denominational identifiers to unite them with others of like thinking.

When I hear a name like “GraceLife” there is nothing that tells me we are speaking of a church.  There is nothing to tell me where they are found. There is nothing to help me understand their beliefs. And if I come from a particular denomination, there is nothing that lets me know this is a like minded body.

Final Thoughts

Lest you think I am judging all churches that changed their names as wrong, I am not.  I simply want us to stop and think seriously about why it is we choose to change names. What is it that is guiding our change?  Is the change glorifying to God or is it pandering to man? Is the name change really the image change we want to present or is our concern changing the image people have of us as a body?

So go ahead and change your name if it is for a valid reason.  Create your logos and slogans, but remember that the only change that really matters is the change that comes from within.  A change in the hearts of your people.  It is this change that will stick with those who look at your church, not names, slogans and logos you present.

 

An article to consider – 5 Reasons to Keep the Organ in Worship

A well played organ is an incredible thing to hear. In college one of our professors had received his Doctorate in organ and was amazing. There are those who view it as an ancient instrument that is out of date, but these people do not realize what they are missing. In college we had mandatory chapel, but the minute it was over everyone scattered. Yet I remember one time when he began to play the organ for the postlude and almost no one moved.  They sat their and listened to the entire piece. The music filled the room in a way that no electric instrument could. And to sing a piece of music accompanied by an organ is beyond compare the blending of a human voice with the organ is unmatched. It is sad to realize how much people today do not understand its beauty. I remember one day standing at the back of the chapel, during some remodeling, speaking with a student.  The student expressed how he thought the organ should go as well because is was dated and no longer fit in. I was appalled at the thought.  Thankfully, wiser minds won out and the organ remains to this day. Yes organs have been sadly silenced in recent year, but there is still a place for them.  Some great point are made for keeping the organs in the blog:

5 Reasons to Keep the Organ in Worship.