I am a member and the interim worship leader of a wonderful little congregation in Missouri called Harmony Baptist Church. A few months ago, we had a tragic parting of ways where a significant portion of our congregation decided they did not like the direction that the church was heading and that they would be better off pursuing their idea of what a church should be elsewhere. Unfortunately, it seems that the decision of whether or not to hire me as the worship pastor was the final straw for this group. Honestly, this was a kick in the teeth to me. I have done nothing but give my heart and soul to this congregation for ten years, yet I was not good enough to pursue my call at Harmony in their opinion.
I’m not bitter. Really.
Everything seems to be working out in a positive Godly direction, though. I am still leading worship as the interim worship director and the congregation enjoys the music and my teaching, so all’s well that ends well, right? Well, I don’t know about that, but the church is moving forward. We are truly and earnestly seeking to be the hands and feet of Christ, but we are really still in our infancy. The church has been around for twenty-plus years, but this “new church” (which is really what we are considering ourselves) has only been attempting to get off the ground for about six months now. There are definitely exciting things on the horizon, but, honestly, I am having some issues with letting go of what happened and I believe that when we truly understand our mistakes, we have a much better chance of making the correct choice when a similar problem decides to rear its ugly head.
So what was the problem?
In my humble estimation, the issue that ripped Harmony apart (ironic, eh?) boils down to consumerism. Consumerism is the attitude that instills the thought processes that makes us ask questions like “what can I get out of this?” or “what is this church doing for me?” The consumer is the person who attends church and says, “I didn’t really get anything out of the sermon,” or “I really got a lot out of the music today.” While one of these statements is positive and one is negative, they are both steeped in consumerism. I saw first-hand how people who are in church for the sole purpose of seeing themselves exalted or to be put in a position of power can literally stop a congregation that is working for God dead in its track. This has really been a heartbreaking experience for me. I couldn’t get over their selfish attitude. Or at least, that is what I thought.
Interesting isn’t it…when you look out at other people’s issues how God turns it all back into an introspective journey where you end up seeing just how much you fail. That is the point that I came to several weeks ago. I realized that I was just a younger version of the people who decided to leave. I realized that the consumerist attitudes that drove them away fall into the same consumerist ideals that I hold dear and propagate.
The older group that left was staunchly against contemporary Christian music in the church. As I would lead worship, they would stand in the back (back row Baptists! Woo!) with theirs arms crossed and glare for the entire worship service. Honestly, this was extremely wearing on me as a worship leader. I used to think, “Man, how in the world can they sit there and stifle the Holy Spirit like that,” but as I said, God has a way of turning me back to the plank in my own eye.
As I began to really dig into what their problem was, God opened my eyes to my own problem and revealed that I have exactly the same atttitude as the group that left. I am not a huge proponent of traditional church music. That is not to say that I hate hymns. That isn’t true at all. I find that many hymns are relevant and amazing, but the style that traditionally accompanies hymns (read: Piano and an organ accompaniment) is not relevant to society as a whole any longer. So, there I was, pointing fingers and scowling under my breath and God looked me dead in the face and called me out for the hypocrite that I was. The truth is, I am just as unbending as the traditionalists that left the church. Try to take away my Tomlin, Hillsongs United, and Crowder and I would be just as upset.
Would I split a church? Probably not. But would I look for a different congregation that suited my preferences better? You bet I would and that is the root of consumerism. To spin an old JFK quote we should:
“Ask not what the kingdom of God can do for us, but what we can do for the kingdom of God.”
If we worship under the banner of preference and consumerism, then we really miss out on the amazing things that God has planned for us as the Church.
Beloved Church, the time has come to let personal preference fall to the wayside and return to the root of why we worship. That is the amazing love of Jesus Christ.