We like formulas. Formulas are easy. We can complete them and feel accomplished. Especially Americans. We like to look at charts and graphs to gauge our progress in business and our lives in general. It’s should come as no surprise that American Christians prefer a formulaic theology to one of relationship. Relationships take time, they take maintenance, they take deference… and, when it comes to a relationship with God… it requires submission.
Submission. We don’t really love that word in the U.S., and our church services reflect our disdain for submission.
Burned out by the modern formula of church that is often no more spiritual than “Concert + Motivational Speaker = Worship,” I decided to visit a nearby Anglican Episcopal Church. Sit, Stand, Kneel… Pray, Recite, Hear… all practices of a now seemingly outdated form of worship were present. It was meaningful. It caused me to wonder about which role, if any, submission plays in the lives of modern churches today. After all, it seems like churches are constantly bragging as to their “independent” and “nondenominational” identities (attributes found nowhere in Scripture). It’s odd that a faith built on reconciling all of creation would pretend as if a point of pride could possibly be their divisive aspect. If a church’s entire identity is founded in its promotion of rebelliousness, then it should come as no surprise that a formula would be preferred over submission.
Here’s the problem…
Christianity is submission to God. However, our churches reflect our self-centered culture more than they do biblical faith in Christ. I’m not bashing any specific music style or service style. What I’m asking is, Do our services reflect our selfishness, or our submission? We can hop from place to place when we aren’t happy with even the most minute aspect of a church community. Something seems wrong about that. We treat churches in America as if they were something we frequent in the same manner as a restaurant.
When our commitment to our faith is no deeper than would be our commitment to a rock concert with a motivational speaker and a quick snack (of some really crappy tasting crackers and cheap grape juice or wine), then we must come to the realization that we are not practicing Christianity. If the extent of our service does not go beyond the building in which we gather on a weekly basis, the we are only serving ourselves…
If this is the case, we may as well just put our picture on the altar and admit who it is we worship. It may be the pastor who fancies himself to be an author, motivational speaker or “entertainer,” it may be the music team that perfectly imitates the favored Christian industry persona of the week, or it may simply be ourselves who we worship.
Christianity is not a formula that, if followed, creates a sense of accomplishment. Christianity is submission to God lived in relationship with others. I’m just as guilty as anyone else for creating worship “experiences” that are more about people than they are about God… and I’m just as guilty as anyone else for complaining when a service doesn’t meet my own stylistic preferences.
But, what we should be focused on is submitting to God and loving others. Our services should reflect those two things, and be a launching point for serving others… not for more to attend our church, but to bring glory to the King who deserves our submission and allegiance.