7 Things the Church Pretends are Biblical

When Tradition Collides with Scripture

Reading Time: 8 minutes

I often joke about our traditions by saying they are found in the book of Hezekiah. I’ll quote a chapter and verse and tell them to look it up later. By the way, it’s difficult to find when there’s no book of Hezekiah to begin with.

7 Things the Church Pretends are Biblical

My point — we hold on to many traditions (or preferences) as if they’re founded in Scripture, when in reality, they really aren’t. Have you noticed how the Church does this?

I’m sure there are more than seven, but let me start off by sharing them.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION: If you have more to add to these seven, share it in the comment section! I would love to hear from you! You can leave a comment by clicking here.


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Planning a Communion Meal

Tips and Ideas to Help

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Since our ministry began, I’ve asked myself some serious questions.  One of them — what constitutes a ‘church service’?  What I’ve learned, is that we tend to allow our tradition, and not scripture, to answer that question.  The Bible never describes a ‘church service’ as people reverently sitting in sanctuary pews, while singing hymns and listening to a well-dressed pastor.  Can a ‘church service’ look like that?  Sure!  But it’s not what actually defines a ‘church service’.

Planning A Communion Meal

The Underground Church

A number of years ago, I had the privilege of being a part of a short-term missions team.  I’ll never forget experiencing an underground youth group.  Yes, they sang songs.  Yes, they heard from God’s Word.  But other than that, the ‘service’ looked NOTHING like what the average North American would call a ‘church service.’

It was full of community, unity, friendship, authentic connection, love, and selflessness.  Their goal wasn’t to serve themselves and welcome Jesus to ‘their service’, their goal was to celebrate Jesus through their community and serve Jesus.

A ‘church #service’ is about #Communion together as we celebrate Jesus. #unity #community #Acts2 Click To TweetWhat did I learn?  A ‘church service’ is about communion together as we celebrate Jesus.  Outside of the basics, the format doesn’t really matter.  The only fundamentals we know of, include teaching the Word, breaking of bread, fellowship, and prayer (Acts 2:42).

So, what if we planned a service around one of the most significant aspects of our faith?  What if Holy Communion was actually the focus of our service?  What if we didn’t just ‘partake’ together, but actually ate together, like Jesus’ and his disciples did during the Last Supper?  (Check out What Happens During Communion? for more.)

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[Guest Post] “Dear Parents with Young Children in Church”

Reading Time: 5 minutes

My wife and I pastor a church that has a whole lot of kids!  It’s awesome!  But, with a lot of kids, comes a lot of noise, commotion, laughing, crying, talking, and sometimes even screaming.  Tradition would say, “it’s inappropriate during a Sunday morning service.”  I ask, “how can we modify our Sunday morning service to include our kids?”

While we think on that, read how one mother reflects on bringing Children to church in her blog post “Dear Parents with Young Children in Church“…

“You are doing something really, really important. I know it’s not easy. I see you with your arms overflowing, and I know you came to church already tired. Parenting is tiring. Really tiring.

I watch you bounce and sway trying to keep the baby quiet, juggling the infant carseat and the diaper bag as you find a seat. I see you wince as your child cries. I see you anxiously pull things out of your bag of tricks to try to quiet them.

And I see you with your toddler and your preschooler. I watch you cringe when your little girl asks an innocent question in a voice that might not be an inside voice let alone a church whisper.  I hear the exasperation in your voice as you beg your child to just sit, to be quiet as you feel everyone’s eyes on you. Not everyone is looking, but I know it feels that way.

I know you’re wondering, is this worth it? Why do I bother? I know you often leave church more exhausted than fulfilled. But what you are doing is so important.

When you are here, the church is filled with a joyful noise. When you are here, the Body of Christ is more fully present. When you are here, we are reminded that this worship thing we do isn’t about Bible Study or personal, quiet contemplation but coming together to worship as a community where all are welcome, where we share in the Word and Sacrament together.When you are here, I have hope that these pews won’t be empty in ten years when your kids are old enough to sit quietly and behave in worship. I know that they are learning how and why we worship now, before it’s too late. They are learning that worship is important.

I see them learning. In the midst of the cries, whines, and giggles, in the midst of the crinkling of pretzel bags and the growing pile of crumbs I see a little girl who insists on going two pews up to share peace with someone she’s never met. I hear a little boy slurping (quite loudly) every last drop of his communion wine out of the cup determined not to miss a drop of Jesus. I watch a child excitedly color a cross and point to the one in the front of the sanctuary.  I hear the echos of Amens just a few seconds after the rest of the community says it together. I watch a boy just learning to read try to sound out the words in the worship book or count his way to Hymn 672. Even on weeks when I can’t see my own children learning because, well, it’s one of those mornings, I can see your children learning.

I know how hard it is to do what you’re doing, but I want you to know, it matters. It matters to me. It matters to my children to not be alone in the pew. It matters to the congregation to know that families care about faith, to see young people… and even on those weeks when you can’t see the little moments, it matters to your children.

It matters that they learn that worship is what we do as a community of faith, that everyone is welcome, that their worship matters. When we teach children that their worship matters, we teach them that they are enough right here and right now as members of the church community. They don’t need to wait until they can believe, pray or worship a certain way to be welcome here, and I know adults who are still looking to be shown that. It matters that children learn that they are an integral part of this church, that their prayers, their songs, and even their badly (or perfectly timed depending on who you ask) cries and whines are a joyful noise because it means they are present.

I know it’s hard, but thank you for what you do when you bring your children to church. Please know that your family – with all of its noise, struggle, commotion, and joy – are not simply tolerated, you are a vital part of the community gathered in worship.”

Let’s rephrase that last sentence… “Please know that your family – with all of its noise, struggle, commotion, and joy – are not simply tolerated [at Bethel Pentecostal Church in Bay Roberts, NL], you are a vital part of the community gathered in worship.”  Hopefully we can all insert our local assemblies.  If we can’t…

Let’s think about this…
If you’re a parent of young kids, do you bring your kids to church?  If you don’t, is it because of what others may think?  If you do, know you’re making an awesome impact, can keep doing it!

If you’re not a parent of young kids, how do you respond to “noise and commotion” during a service?  Remember being reverent is more than being quiet, it’s also acting in obedience – Jesus said, “let the children come to me.”

The next time you see a young mom or dad in church with their young children, make sure you let them know how proud you are of them!

Imagine the Potential, our Passion & God’s Plan…

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Imagine with me for a moment.  Imagine a conference that is more than a conference.  Imagine children and youth leaders desiring to be more effective.  Imagine worship that humbly points to God.  Imagine challenging and powerful leadership insights inspired by God’s Word.  On April 26-28 of 2013, 300 next generation leaders didn’t have to imagine, we experienced Newfoundland’s very own Next Generation Leadership Conference.  This year, we were encouraged to IMAGINE the potential, our passion and God’s plan.

Photo: Stephen Andrews

The weekend was held together by this verse: “[God], who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.”[i]

Imagine the potential…

Sam Luce, children’s pastor of Redeemer Church in Utica, NY[ii], started the conference out by outlining a few things every leader needs to get right.  In summary: a good leader delegates, is humble and eager to serve, connects where necessary, and is priority and value driven, while always understanding that God is enough!  Imagine the potential if we all possessed those attributes.

Dan Bursey, a family entertainer and Compassion advocate[iii], also challenged attendees by sharing how everyone has the potential of changing the world of poverty.  By sponsoring one child at a time, hopeless situations can change into hopeful ones.  Imagine the potential if we all became advocates of fixing world hunger.

Imagine our passion…

On Saturday morning, Paul Robertson of Youth Unlimited[iv], talked about the culture of today’s youth.  He looked at Paul’s passion in Acts 17:16-23.  Paul had a sense of concern, responsibility and gratitude, but remained respectful.  Robertson suggested that we can do the same by listening before speaking, because there’s a generation waiting to be heard.  Imagine if we were all passionate about listening.

That night, Dr. Marv Penner[v], talked about who leaders are.  There are times when we think we have enough strength to lead on our own; however, if we don’t make sure God is at the centre of our passion, then we will eventually fill the void with pride.  Imagine if we were a generation of leaders who were passionate about God being at the core of our leadership, not ourselves.

But it wasn’t all talking.  Melina Dulluku, worship leader at Highway Gospel Church in Scarborough, ON[vi], led us into worship during the conference.  There were a number of amazing moments of worship, including a time when everyone spontaneously started singing “10 Thousand Reasons” before she started singing herself.  Imagine the passion of pure and humble worship.

Imagine God’s plan…

“Imagine a generation where God is priority #1,” is what Natalie Rogge[vii] opened with Sunday morning.  She wanted leaders to know that there is a journey ahead.  It’s called God’s plan, and leaders need to remember: when we feel surrounded, we need to seek God, take a stand, see how God will pull us through, and sing joyfully.  Imagine if we all sought to understand God’s plan, rather than their own.

The IMAGINE theme continued throughout the entire weekend.  From the humorous interludes to every workshop, “imagining what God can do” continued to be the focus.  There is unimaginable POTENTIAL with God when we turn over the PASSION He has equipped us with so that He can be the center of the PLAN.

Just imagine.

 


[i] Eph. 3:20-21, NIV.

[ii] samluce.com

[iii] danbursey.com; compassion.ca

[iv] paulrobertson.ca

[v] http://www.cpyu.org/Page.aspx?id=324630

[vi] melina-d.ca

[vii] newlifemilton.com

** Photo taken by Stephen Andrews http://500px.com/stephentcandrews

How He Loves Us – “sloppy wet” versus “unforeseen”

Thinking through the lyrics

Reading Time: 5 minutes

If you’re into modern worship music, you’d know John McMillan’s song “How He Loves Us” very well. Since writing the song in 2005, many artists have included the song in their repertoire.  Kim Walker from Jesus Culture and David Crowder are among those who have done so.[i]   It’s clear, the amazing truth behind the song is powerful – God loves us! While this is so true, it’s also very important to understand how he loves us.  God loves us with unconditional love known as agape love, and we should express ourselves in a way which allows us to mature and grow deeper in our relationship with God.

How He Loves Us

Before I continue, if you haven’t heard both artists sing this song, take a few minutes to listen to them.  Notice the difference between verse 2 in each version and enjoy the powerful song!

Kim Walker

David Crowder

In case you missed it, here are the lyrics of verse 2…

We are His portion and He is our prize
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If grace is an ocean we’re all sinking
So Heaven meets earth
Like a [sloppy wet OR unforeseen] kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way that…[ii]

Both artists sang different similes in verse 2.  Walker sang, “So heaven meets earth like sloppy wet kiss,” while Crowder sang, “So heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss.”

At first glance, we might think Crowder is simply using a phrase that is less controversial; trying to appeal to a wider audience.  While this may be true to some degree, there are also theological issues at play.

Unfortunately, the English language doesn’t explain certain words very well.  The English word “love” is certainly one of those words.  The Greek language, however, has a number of words for “love”; each conveying a different meaning.  In this particular case, I suggest we use Greek definitions to make sure we are consistently describing the correct kind of love.  This is really important when discussing the kind of love God has for us. (Click here to see a brief overview of the Greek words for “love”)

God loves us with unconditional love.  We love because he loved us first.[iii]  God’s love doesn’t require reciprocation in order for Him to love us.  When we speak of relational love, however, we think of two people having feelings for each other.  The key there, is “each other”.  Love is reciprocated. Love goes two-ways.  When we speak of God’s love, the love starts with Him, and if reciprocated, ends with Him.  The only response we, as humans, have is obedience and worship. The Greek language refers to this unwarranted love as agape.

In the song, Walker sang the phrase “sloppy wet kiss.”  It’s a simile used to describe the love connection between heaven and earth – the Father sending the Son to earth as an action of love.  The problem, however, is this simile doesn’t really describe God’s love (agape), rather the love between a man and a woman (eros).  This causes confusion, as we’re saying we understand God’s love in the same way we are attracted to another person in passionate love.  God’s love is more about affection than about attraction.  A “sloppy wet kiss” has more to do with our attraction to someone than it does are affection towards someone.

Our affection often results in our action outside of attraction, and is usually seen in mature relationships.  For example, even within passionate love (eros), affection is shown when a husband cleans the dishes before his wife returns home, or a wife letting her husband pick out the movie they want to go see.  It’s a selfless action, out of love.  This would be the closest eros is to agape.  So, if we changed the lyric to, “so heaven meets earth like a husband washing the dishes,” it would make more sense than “sloppy wet kiss.”  🙂

When Crowder sang this verse, he sang the phrase, “unforeseen kiss.” This seems to work better. This simile is actually using an agape kind of love to describe God’s love.  Just like we don’t deserve God’s love, we’ll never understand or comprehend why God would love us so much.  In the same way, it’s like someone out-of-the-blue kissing us – it’s totally unexpected, undeserved, unwarranted.

Which one should we use?
It depends on how you view God’s love.  I believe God’s love is far deeper than passionate and sexual love (eros), and therefore, I wouldn’t explain God’s love in that way.  The term “sloppy wet kiss,” also conveys a sort of shallow relationship.  I’d like to believe God desires us to develop into a mature and deep relationship with him as time progresses.  Singing the phrase, “unforeseen kiss,” allows for that sort of relationship to grow.

What do you think?  Feel free to comment and share.


[i] Kim Walker sang it on Jesus Culture’s album called “We Cry Out” (released in 2008); David Crowder sang it on his album called “Church Music” (released in 2009).

[ii] Verse 2 of “How He Loves Us” written by John Mark McMillan, 2005 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music.

[iii] 1 John 4:19