A Cookie Cutter Faith?

03 July 2010

A dear brother in the Lord shared this with me the other day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAWgWZ9lEuI

This amusing and yet disturbing video depicts the all-too-common pattern of a Sunday morning service at a non-denominational church. It was created by the media group of North Point Community Church as a lampoon of the cookie cutter nature of contemporary Christian services in America (including their own!).

Ironically, North Point is a church that is focused on high quality media productions to draw in seekers... so much so that they have created a separate media entity (North Point Media) to focus exclusively on this aspect of their ministry. The amusing part of the video is that they are having a bit of fun at their own expense. The disturbing part is that, in mocking this Sunday morning pattern, is there a bigger issue not being examined... that they, themselves, don't see? If so, perhaps it is this: The method or pattern by which we express our faith and our relationship with G-d is not the point or purpose of our relationship with G-d. So many churches today try to make it the point but it isn't. Believers often condemn one another and churches split over issues regarding the patterns we choose to express our faith in G-d.

  • Do we have chairs or pews?
  • Do we have contemporary music or hymns?
  • Do we have the Lord's supper once a week, once a month, or once a year?

All of these things are merely the formsby which some choose to express their faith. It is not the faith itself. Another dear brother in the Lord shared some thoughts regarding the focus of a church he used to attend:

My previous church participated in the Rick Warren programs, "40 Days of Purpose" and "40 Days of Community". In the first program, the idea was to get your to look outside of yourself. At the time, I was head of our outreach ministry. We had about 4 tables in our foyer of things our congregation could do to help others (e.g., we had a food pantry that opened every Saturday and was staffed by volunteers). My pastor asked me to take some of them down because they were in the way of the advertisements for the 40 Days of Purpose! The irony was amazing, and I pointed it out to him, but I'm not sure he saw it. In the 40 Days of Community, the idea was to form small groups or Sunday school classes to take on some community project. We also had one project in which the whole church could participate. When we arrived the day of the project, there were only about 6 volunteers and no church leaders (especially none who pushed the 40 Day thing). Somebody brought some girl scouts with them, and there were actually more GS than church volunteers! Keep in mind that in both examples this was something that took over the whole church, with the intention that everyone be involved. Yet, the participation was very low. The problem is that the 40 Day program puts the cart before the horse. They want Christians to do good works, but they want to skip the process of discipleship. As I saw first hand, it simply does not work. In fact, in the 10 years or so that we moved to the Willow Creek seeker sensitive church model, I saw less desire for people to become involved in some of the things our church did, like the food pantry. When you feed people [spiritual] "junk food", that's what you get. The other result is that Christians who want the meat of the word usually end up leaving the church. This happened in our church. I also read from someone who used to attend Rick Warren's church that the much smaller churches near Warren's church benefited from the exodus from Warren's church of more mature believers.
Most of the Sunday school/Bible studies tend to be focused on our flesh. I find that very few actually study books of the Bible (both in my previous church and this one). What they do study tends to focus on our opinion, or what the video instructor thinks God is like, typically apart from what Scripture says. This is not surprising, since the seeker sensitive model focuses on what appeals to the flesh. The result is baby Christians still drinking milk, and usually bad milk at that!

When we focus on these external matters rather than on G-d's Word what we end up telling those who visit our community/church is that these things are the point... but they aren't. It has been noted before but it is worth stating again:

Sitting in church doesn't make a person a Christian any more than sitting in their garage makes them a car.

If I may offer a light modification of that statement: "Sitting in church [and performing the rituals of that church] doesn't make a person a believer in the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob any more than sitting in their garage makes them a car."

Dare to be different!

If there is a pattern of living that we are called to embrace as part of our faith in G-d then it will be found in the pages of Scripture not in the pages of a New York Times best seller. Believers are called to be in the world but not of it. (John 17:11-17) Walk by faith and not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7) The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14) "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." - John 14:15 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. - 1 Timothy 1:17 <><

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