I want to start off by giving the biggest shout out to Coastal Church in Daphne, Alabama for not only touching my heart, but countless others. This non-denominational church stands for the fundamentals of the Bible and the ways of Jesus. Because they proactively follow God, the church has grown from 3 members to over 2,000 in just 5 years. I would encourage all of you to visit their website and watch Pastor Chad preach online at coastalchurch.tv. Although I am blessed to be a part of a wonderful church, I feel as though it is difficult for people to find a church that comes close in comparison. I feel sorrow for the fact that there are many problems with a wide variety of churches today. My prayer is that one day there will be solidarity in the fundamentals of the Gospel. I want to discuss some of these issues.
I want to start with the most extreme problem churches. Many people have heard of Westboro Baptist Church. Unbiblical hatred spews from this congregation towards mainly homosexuals. They go around the country holding up signs and shouting that God hates sinners. It’s painful to see these people give Christianity a bad reputation among non-believers and believers alike. The message of this hateful church is incomplete. The Lord hates the sins but not the people. The Lord seeks to save people not condemn them. Unfortunately, many people have probably been lost to the evil one because these hateful messages have shunned people that could be saved. If the Lord hated us, He wouldn’t have given us the gift of salvation by sacrificing His Son Jesus. Here’s a verse to remember his love for us by:
1 John 1:8-9 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Most churches aren’t as blatantly hateful as Westboro Baptist, but there are still problems to deal with. Many churches have rules that either do not stem from the Bible or are misinterpretations of the Bible. If you personally hold convictions about certain things that you feel lead you astray, then by all means, do what is necessary. However to preach to congregations your cookie cutter version consisting of additional unbiblical rules of how the church should act is wrong. Nowhere does it say that women can’t wear pants, makeup, or use any other beauty products. They claim these are means of maintaining “modesty” in the eyes of God. Obviously I’m not condoning excessively provocative clothing in the church, but normal everyday clothes are fine. It’s not the responsibility of women to dress excessively modest for men to be able to stifle themselves and deny the flesh. Women should be able to dress beautifully and classy. Another example is the use of instruments when worshipping God. Some churches consider it a sin, however, it is purely a matter of preference. Singing hymns or rocking out for Jesus is praise regardless. The consumption of alcohol is not a sin. Drunkenness is a sin. The Lord commands us to be drunk in the Holy Spirit and not in the wine. I touched briefly on some of the unbiblical practices of the Catholic Church as well in “Do Not Be Deceived Part 2.” There are countless other examples. People that abide by these rules often present prejudice and even anger towards other Christians or non-believers that don’t follow the same rules. If we project hate and disgust to others, how will we win people to Jesus and expand the margin of defeat of the evil one?
The next problem that I see in many churches is that feeling that it’s dead. Just to give an example, when I was dating this one girl, I went to church with her on a Sunday morning. After the pastor had called for a time to repent and pray to be saved, no one came forward. As the service was about to end he said, “Guys, we are doing a great job with worship and preaching, I need you all to help step it up and get people saved.” This was a slight paraphrasing, but the fact that he had to ask the congregation for an odd request like that is shocking to me. Compared to my church, they had a spark and we have a wildfire of passion. This is due to a complacent nature of the leadership and congregation of many churches. Church should never be boring, but unfortunately for some people it truly is. The message has to be engaging and powerful and that’s possible with the help of the Holy Spirit. However, all too often people are going through the motions by just paying their tithes, listening to a message and just going home without a change of heart and edification. How are we to win people to Jesus if there isn’t a proactive approach to reaching out to communities, church members inviting friends, among other things? The book of Acts has a passage that my church is modeled after saying:
Acts 2:38-47 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. 40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. 41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. 42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. 44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
The commonly used phrase of “it’s a relationship not a religion” is abundantly true. I’ve shown examples of how hatred, unbiblical rules and standards, and a lack of passion can chain us down and hinder our growth in God. The Lord is the judge, not people. We are the defendants. Jesus is our lawyer who proves us innocent before God through salvation. Break free from the bondage of religion. It is of man, not God. As a child of God, walk hand in hand in your relationship with The Almighty as He leads you through life.