Several of our newer staff people are from different cultures; different church traditions and different regions of the United States. Chris is from Tennessee. You can tell by his accent.
Chris is not a member of the worship staff so he only attends worship meeting when he is involved in an upcoming service or participated in the last service. I will never forget the “deer in the headlights,” look he had after his first meeting. As per usual, if an attendee is overly-quiet in a meeting, someone will urge them to share. Everyone’s opinion matters. When Chris was asked what he was thinking, his response caused some laughter. “I’m thinking you all are pretty direct aren’t you? I’m from the South. We tend to be a bit more subtle in expressing our opinions.” Then he added, “But I think I like it. No one will leave this meeting wondering what someone else was thinking!”
There is a fine line between fixing blame and fixing problems. We try very hard to maintain the distinction, but our weekly worship debrief of music, vocals, service flow, announcements and the message are not for the faint-of-heart. We subscribe to the axiom, “If people don’t talk it out, they will act it out.” It means those who refuse to share their frustrations and feelings in an open discussion will find other, more destructive ways, to share their opinions outside of the meeting. That is called passive-aggressive-behavior and nothing good comes from it.
In his best-selling book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni even urges leaders to “mine for conflict.” In other words, if team members hesitate to share their concerns publicly, it becomes the leader’s job to make sure differences of opinion get discussed openly rather than destructively behind the backs of the team. Everyone benefits when team members say what they mean and mean what they say.
I’m not suggesting people’s feelings don’t matter. Of course they do. Christians and healthy teams have zero tolerance for personal attacks and character assaults, public or otherwise. I lose all interest in a complaint or a difference of opinion when it is little more than a veiled assault on another person. Unless proven otherwise, I believe most people (even those I disagree with) do what they do because they believed it is the best course of action to achieve the desired outcome. We can disagree about the strategy and the effectiveness of the implementation without becoming disagreeable.
The reason our congregation conducts worship in a relevant and current style of music and dress, rather than in ancient robes and instruments of the past, is to communicate the relevance of God’s word for today’s culture. One of the first controversies in the early church was over the issue of whether new Christians should be required to accept Jewish customs before they accepted the Jewish Messiah. The apostles understood that the purpose of customs was to lead people to Jesus, not to be venerated as holy. The apostle wrote,
“Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”
Everything should bring people to Jesus. That’s God’s bottom-line.
Our pastors’ sermons are more than a mere discussion of a truth found in God’s word. No one will be saved or even grow more mature in faith by passing a test. We believe every story, every miracle, every teaching, prophecy, and metaphor in the Bible is given by God for the benefit of people. He wants to remind us of His love, the certainty of eternal life, and offer sage advice for dealing with the complex issues of each day’s challenge. Making sure people followed customs and traditions was never high on Jesus’ list of priorities. Mark’s account is insightful;
“One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” 25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” 27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
Most religious leaders teach the opposite of what Jesus emphatically declared. They teach, “People should adhere to traditions as a show of respect and appreciation for God.” Jesus turned it upside down when He said, “Religious practices are established by God for the good of people period, not because God wanted to test the sincerity ofpeople’s respect and honor.
When the apostle Paul discussed so-called obedience to the demands made upon the faithful by religious practices he said,“ He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
Our time and energies are wasted when we emphasize style over substance. It’s always good to ask, “What are you trying to do? Followed up by, “How is God blessing that?”
The words of Jesus our Savior, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’” (Matthew 15:7-9)
- Name a tradition in worship that is important to you but is not commanded by God?
- Is it possible for churches to get cross-ways over non-biblical issues? For example?
- Finish your thoughts with a prayer for greater unity in all churches and between various Christian Churches.
I prefer a church that:
a.) Remains faithful to the Word of God.
b.) Remains faithful to the word of God and honors long held traditions.
c.) Remains faithful to the word of God and will do anything to reach those far from God.
Click here to take the survey and please leave an observation or word of advice for others who might benefit from your insight.
If you were unable to attend services last weekend and would like to listen to the message, visit our homepage at stjstl.net and click on Media at the top right of the web page. Growing Deeper, a Bible study, written to accompany the message series is also available to download.
St. John Church live streams Sunday services at 9:00am and 10:45am. Join us!
“Lord, I believe, help me with my doubts.” Mark 9:24
Invest in yourself and your team through attending the Global Leadership Summit on August 6-7. Early Bird Pricing is in effect through June 23.
The 4th of July is just around the corner and you can help us celebrate with our community at the biggest and best July 4th party in West County--right here on this campus. The best part is you can volunteer for a while and still enjoy the party and the fireworks. Sign up here.
The Senior Pastor Transition Special Congregation Meeting is Tuesday, June 2 at 7:00pm. Your continued prayers as we move through this important step in the life of this ministry are appreciated.
Do you have a rising 6th-graduating 12th grader in your house? Make sure they know about Summer Sessions, a new event for our Student Ministry. They won’t want to miss out on it.
Stephen Hower, Pastor
Challenging the status quo to awaken an appreciation for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Phil. 3:13,14 (and to lower my golf score)
To subscribe to E-dify, a periodic e-mail to encourage and inform, please click here and type, “Subscribe” in the Subject line. To unsubscribe to E-dify, please click here and type, “Unsubscribe” in the Subject line. Or better yet, forward E-dify to a friend who needs God’s encouragement.