(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Augusta Press.)
All throughout our Southern Baptist Zion and beyond we have been witnessing an astounding event over he past thirty years or so. In years gone by, we had a myriad of great churches which held the standard high when it came to worship which was God exalting and spiritually inspiring to those in attendance. The church was a powerful entity in society which stabilized the social environment to a great degree. Was this because the church was such a powerful political entity or such a wide-ranging social organization. Certainly, there was some element to that because there was a day when the city, county, state and national government actually cared what the church thought on certain issues. The Lord’s church had influence in every area of life. It was a steadying force which laid a calm hand on issues which might have been disruptive to the lives of people and society at large.
But, in the last thirty years or so, the scene has changed. The church has cheapened its image and influence by absorbing worldly approaches in order to try to attract more of the world into its walls. It seems that somehow the idea emerged which said: “Let’s make the world comfortable with us, give them some of what they want and they will come to our church. When we get them in here, we will be able to preach to them and get them saved.” To the shallow mind, it seemed like a great idea. There was only one thing wrong. It won’t work! You cannot save someone out of the world by becoming more like the world so they will be comfortable. The worldly people who might be attracted to this approach will attend the church but they will take away from it exactly what they want to take away and that is the idea that they will go to heaven since they have done what they think is required. Additionally, they will bring the worldly influence into the church and demand that things be changed in order to make them happy. The leaders of our churches found it much easier to please these people than it would have been to hold steady on their doctrines and practices.
If someone is going to be saved out of the world, they must be exposed to something different from the world itself. The Gospel is different from the world. We are dealing with getting unsaved people to reject their natural spiritual environment and proclivities and turning to something totally different and they don’t want to do that. So, they say, give us just a little of what we are used to and we will come to your church. They fail to say that once they get a toe in the door, they will soon put a foot inside. Then the next thing one knows, their influence has taken over the church and its practices. The good church members don’t like it but they don’t want to lose all those new people and their kids and money so they slowly acquiesce to the situation and then one day, they look around and say “it’s not our church anymore.” It has been captured by the secular influence that came from the world.
I repeat something I have said in the past when I painted this picture which is very accurate. About forty years ago or at some time in the recent past, the devil looked around and said, “you know, I have been trying to destroy the church for two thousand years and I can’t seem to get it done. I have killed her martyrs, burned her Bibles, destroyed their churches and, in general, wreaked havoc on them. But they have just gotten stronger as I have tried to destroy them from the outside. I know what I’ll do. I’ll go inside and bring destruction from within making them think all the while that they are doing good.” And, that’s exactly what Satan did. He has weakened the church and all but destroyed her influence. He has cheapened her by bringing in his worldly influences. The glory is gone. The majesty is gone. The strong influence she once had is gone. Great churches of yesteryear are empty shells of what they used to be. Where thousands attended to hear great preaching and sing heart-felt hymns, there is a shallow, watered-down approach that only very faintly reflects what the churches used to be if any at all. Where are the truly great churches today? Point them out to me. Big doesn’t mean good, God honoring or proper.
The church is the only entity on earth that has been given the power to change society from the inside out. That is why it is under such attack today. Neuter the church and there is no cure for the destruction of our society. You cannot change the world from what it is by giving it more of what it wants! And, if it is to be changed it will have to be from the inside out. A person gets saved in their heart…. the inside…then the outside will be affected. We have spent trillions trying to change society from the outside and we have simply wasted that money. Change comes from the inside and Satan was smart enough to see that, so he went inside the church with his destructive methods. He couldn’t destroy it from the outside but the inside, now that’s a different thing.
I recommend that people, especially preachers and church leaders, do a study on what God says in His Word about coming before Him and how to do it. He cares about how one looks because that reflects how they feel about Him and being in His presence. Let’s take it out of the realm of opinion and listen to what God says after all, that’s who we worship and that’s who set the standards for entering into His presence. Man’s quest is to be obedient to God’s desires. One only has to look at the scripture in Exodus 26 and following to discover how particular God is about his Person and the worship of Him. Look at how intricately He describe what the priests would wear when they came before Him to lead His people in worship. Every aspect of the tabernacle design had a purpose and every aspect of how the priest presented himself before God had a holy purpose. I know the days and times have changed but that’s not the point. The point is that I believe God is just as particular about how we worship Him and how we present ourselves before Him in worship today as He was in those days. He is unchanging and yet we think that we are the ones to be happy with what we do and then surely, He is happy with it as well. The problem with this is that man’s ideas change and evolve into something that suits him and not God. And, human nature is such that it will continue to evolve because man must go further the next time than he did the last time or else he will be bored and God forbid that that would happen. When worship is something deeper than entertainment then it will not be altered to fit the desires of man but God will be the main concern as He should be.
Why would one think that the church and worship is essential when it was one of the first entities that the government shut down when the Covid situation came. Liquor stores remained open because they were determined to be essential. Auto stores were left open…. essential. And, the list could go on and on. But the church: non-essential. But it was the most essential of all! The worship of God gives the human spirit something it can acquire no where else; peace. It also gives stability in times of trouble that nothing else can provide. But our spiritual leaders ran for cover except for a few who were not such pawns in Satan’s hands.
Who loved it the most that the churches shut down? Satan. Who rejoiced the most in the fact that God’s people were not doing something which is essential to human beings and that is worshipping God? Satan. Who fooled the people into thinking that they must obey the government rather than God? Satan. He loved it and he was glad that the people felt more fear for the government than they did for God Himself.
The war against the Church and the people of God continues as it has for centuries but now those who identify as God’s people are giving up essential ground and thinking all the time that God loves it. It shows one just how easy it is for Satan to warp the minds of people; even God’s people. I know someone will say that this article is written by some retired preacher who just can’t get over the fact that things have changed. They can believe that if they want to but nothing is farther from the truth. I am basing my opinions and positions on what the Bible says and not on what man desires. Most churches are playing at worship today. They are satisfying themselves and telling God that what they are doing is o.k. They are sidelining the “Coach” and telling him; “now, coach, you just go over there and stand for a while on the sideline and we will show you how to do this thing.” “We will show you how to get a crowd and appeal to their likes and desires.” “We are going to give them what they want, spiritualize it a little, and you will see what it takes in these days and times to fill the church.” “We are going to help you by secularizing the church and worship to the point that people will not mind coming to the event.” “This is a new day coach, and it needs a new game plan. Yours is o.k. but its not really getting the job done any more.” “Let us call the plays and we will give you the credit.”
You see, people, we are on the wrong path and our church “leaders” are taking us on down that proverbial primrose path. We are losing our identity. We are losing our power that God grants to the church. We are losing our holiness for the sake of popularity. We are telling our Coach that we are going to do what we desire and that He must accept it. There was a day when the church set a standard in society and gave it the “glue” it needed to hold things together. But, not any more. The world doesn’t care what the church thinks today because we have become too much like the world to tell the difference in many cases. The church has befriended the world and the dirt has rubbed off on the church. Anyone with a modicum of spiritual discernment must have seen what I am talking about. It is so obvious that it hurts but people are going right on as if everything they are doing today meets God’s approval. It is a terrible mistake to assume that what we consider to be a proper approach to God in worship is acceptable to Him and He is just happy that you stopped by for a while to tip the hat at Him.
God, by His sheer Holy nature cannot bless anyone any organization or any church which adopts the world’s ways in order to try to do a heavenly thing…. worship a Holy God. But as I said earlier, we have Sidelined the “Coach.” And it seems that no matter how much it is warned, the church will continue it current trends. Just remember this: Jesus said in John 15:18-19, “If the world hates you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” So, from what the Lord told us, we can surmise that if the world loves us, we are not doing what the Lord equipped us to do. The greatest sign that we are who and what God wants us to be is if the world hates us. But, as it is today, the world is influencing God’s People instead of His People influencing the world very much. As long as we don’t bother the world, they won’t care if we sing hallelujah, hop the pews and swing from the chandeliers just as long as we don’t go outside our sanctuaries and do it. Stay inside. Have a good time with each other and grow a crowd by adopting the world’s ways. That is basically what is going on today and all along, the church thinks that it is pleasing God with their worship which has been almost totally influenced by the world in order to accomplish what Satan wants and that is a powerless and disrespected church. Yes, the church of today has “Sidelined the “Coach” and it isn’t paying off well at all.
Reverend William (Bill) Harrell has been in ministry 49 years. He served as the pastor of Abilene Baptist Church in Martinez, GA for over 31 of those years. He can be reached at email@example.com. You can also check out his blog at www.williamfharrell.com