Recently I saw a church sign that invited people to come because their church was “simple and fun.”
That sounded great! Who would not want to go to a church that was “fun” and keeping things “simple” in the chaotic times we have been experiencing sounds like a good idea.
But is it? Is that the purpose of the church – to keep things fun and simple?
I grew up in a very legalistic church. The furthest thought then was for church to be fun. Often I joke when I wondered if some activity would be sin I just had to ask myself, “Would I have fun doing it?” If the answer was “yes” then clearly it would be sin.
Of course I am exaggerating a bit, but church was never simple. There were many man-made rules to follow. Those of us who questioned were considered in danger of losing our salvation.
So, believe me – I never want to go to a church that is not fun or that makes the message of the love of Jesus Christ complicated.
But seeing this sign that seemed to be attempting to appeal to people as a place that would be fun and simple, I could not help but wonder if we are moving too far away. Have we thrown the baby out with the bath water?
It seems churches, like political parties, social norms and fashion all move like a pendulum.
Webster defines pendulum as:
a body suspended from a fixed point so as to swing freely to and fro under the action of gravity and commonly used to regulate movements (as of clockwork); something (such as a state of affairs) that alternates between opposites.
As I have watched my church it seems like it started swinging away from the legalism that was so wrong toward a practice and teaching that was based more on the Word of God rather than man-made laws. That is good.
I cannot help but wonder if the pendulum is swinging too far in the opposite direction. In the desire to free us from the rules of man and to make the gospel of Jesus Christ appealing to others, are we moving too far once again from the Word of God – in a different direction – but still away?
On the one hand, the message of salvation through Christ is simple. Acts 16:31 sums it up very simply.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.
However, any reading of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount would tell us that following Jesus Christ is anything but simple. Jesus called his followers to a much higher standard than any they had heard before. To be a true believer requires much more than a simple “I believe.” It calls for a change of heart. That is not easy or simple. On the one hand following Jesus can be fun. There is no greater joy than having a heart filled with God’s joy.
However, again I do not think the death of Jesus was meant for me to have fun. Listen to His words:
Matthew 16:24 – Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Luke 14:28-30 – Don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’
Perhaps I am being too hard on this church sign, reading more into it than was meant. Still, I wonder – are we swinging too far away – are we more interested in what is “new” forgetting that while much of what was “old” should be discarded, there was much there of great value.