come to the well.
The church experience has become fairly universal in America. Chatter fills the room as the lights dim and the worship team steps forward, songs are played and the congregation is welcome to sing along — many will raise their hands, some will tap the backs of the chairs in front of them, others will look around at everyone else to see if they are doing it right. This will be followed by the lights coming back up, focusing to the center, and the pastor coming out and giving a message, part 2 of a 4 week study on some clever name that may hint at the topic of discussion, but not really give it away.
The purpose of the series is not only to be current and interesting with those who attend, but provide a context for the message. Some are really specific like The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas finishing the series Prayer, while some are more vague like Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina with 52 Days, which was a series on thanksgiving. They brand the churches and market them with a vibe, a theme, a new logo, with the same essential goal purposed in various ways, to connect people with God… better, provide a context to connect them with God.
I’m an observer on this stage, and at times I wonder if we sacrifice teaching for relatability. We live in a world where religious values feel threatened and instead of buttoning down and becoming serious to understand what we believe, we water down the message and diversify it. The church becomes a desert for spiritual doctrine as is seeps across North America. I cannot even remember the last time I heard a message on sanctification, the priesthood of the believer, or what it means when Jesus told the Pharisees that everything in the Old Testament points to Him. Growing up I listened to an old man talk for five separate days on the symbolism built into the tabernacle in Exodus on how God designed it to reflect His Kingship. Words like priest, saint, and the body of Christ, become unmentioned and unused.
Yet changes in the tone are not new. Charles Spurgeon took Luke 15 and tied it in his sermon, Prodigal Love for the Prodigal Son: the love of God that recklessly accepts sinners. It fit 1891 England as it came from the Industrial Revolution and the church catalyzed itself against the economically growing world; however, the past decade has seen a bitter taste to rigid Christianity which has brought a verity of sermons that shift back in the other direction to make it popular to ridicule the older brother, who stayed home to obey the word of the father. Both are movements in the church to brand itself from how it has been perceived.
Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. – Colossians 4:5-6
The line drawn by Paul in this statement indicates that the distinction between the church and the world does not take place in the church, but in the world. People feel so unhappy in their churches because they are asking the assembly to fulfill a role it was never meant to fulfill, or to perform a function it was never meant to perform, but this request by Paul was given specifically to the individual believer to take the peace, kindness, and unity of Christ (col. 3) with them in their daily lives, to meet those outside of the fellowship of Jesus: the Lord’s Supper – grace, and point them to Him, not to His church, with their faithfulness to His calling and discipleship. he is the way, the truth, and the life.
I have found the need to make this message relevant in my own life – rather, to become more intentional about it. I have gathered a persuadable passion for the structure and development of the church to the point that I am going to pursue this as a staple in my personal ministry, but I have to be humble to remind myself what the goal ultimately is. The call of the Samaritan did not bring the people to a synagogue, or the temple, or this mountain or that, but to come to the well. Ultimately, it is Jesus who meets us where we are.
That is how baby elephants drink before they learn to use their trunks, so you know. It’s kind of the best thing!