Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Style v. Substance

I enjoy visiting the websites of churches. Some are very sophisticated, with lots of pictures that flash across the screen very quickly. Others are more antiquated, with lots of words and few graphics.

But it’s not so much the designs I am interested in. I like to try to get a “feel” for a church from its website. Usually, I can tell a lot about a church after spending about 10 minutes on their site.

I was on a site today that described their worship experience as “real”. They went on to explain that they like their music “loud”. I guess the louder you are, the more authentic you must be, at least by that standard. They also said that sermons are delivered by a guy in “blue jeans”. A guy in dress slacks, or khakis, or (God forbid) corduroy just can’t be genuine, I suppose.

Another site I visited recently emphasized that they used the KJV (King James Version) of the Bible in their church. That appears to be very important to them. Not the New KJV, on the NIV or ESV or some other translation, but the good old 1611 KJV. The one that uses “thou” and “thy”, just like the Apostle Paul did in his original letters.

That same site also mentioned that they sing hymns. From a hymnal. Not choruses. Not words displayed on a screen or on the wall. And though they didn't say it, I'm sure that they sing verses 1,2 & 4.

In making these observations, it’s not my intention to be critical. Those of you who are know me know that I spend very little time concerning myself with what other churches or other pastors are doing. I don’t try to build up my ministry or our church by tearing down other ministries and other preachers.

But it is interesting to me to observe the varieties of styles that characterize the Lord’s church today. In the two examples I cited above, the doctrinal statements were very similar. I think that those two churches would be very comparable in what they believe, but they wouldn’t be at all comfortable in how they each carry out ministry.  I’m pretty sure that members of neither church would want to spend much time in the other.

This may be, at least in part, what the Apostle Paul had in mind as he said, “…I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9:22-23)

Paul never suggested that we compromise the Scriptures or water down the truth. He didn’t indicate we should put doctrinal distinctions aside for the sake of unity. But even as he affirmed the essence of the message, he said that we should not get too wrapped up in our methods.

Those things that are considered “cutting edge” today will be “old-fashioned” tomorrow. The style of worship that our kids rave about today will be the things their grandkids groan against 50 years from now. But the strength of the Gospel is the message—whether delivered by a guy in a three piece suit & wingtips or by a guy in jeans and tennis shoes.