Pretentious Churches


For Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces.  Hosea 8:14

            It’s easy to read of Israel’s idolatry and point my finger at them in condemnation.  As soon as I do that, I turn into a Pharisee.  Is it possible that our present day church has forgotten its Maker?  Are we leaning more on palaces and programs than the living Word of God and the Spirit of Jesus?  Has pretension replaced authenticity?

            John Piper has shaped my life spiritually as much as anyone.  I’ve flown to Minneapolis many times to attend his conferences, seminary classes he’s taught, and just to sit and enjoy the worship services at his church.  But I have to admit, the first time I went, I arrived early at the church and thought I had the wrong place.  It was a downtown church, not in a great part of town.  When I walked in the lobby, it was so understated, even a little tired.  No flash.  No chic colors.  Nothing at all that would indicate that a high profile author and pastor made this his home.  Over the years, I’ve come to understand how Desiring God (the ministry he started) views ministry.  Most every resource is channeled into disciple making and spreading the news about the glory of Christ to the world.

            Perhaps it would be good to ask ourselves some questions about our corporate worship.  Would people come to church if there were no PowerPoint?  Would they attend if there were no sound system and someone led in acapella worship?  What if church consisted of a small group meeting in a living room?  What if there were no youth programs, no nursery, no children’s church?  Would we yearn to go, count the minutes till we could go, if we had to hold a toddler on our lap for the entire morning’s worship service?  To narrow the point even further, is there enough of Jesus in our churches to make us hunger for community, even without all the trappings?

            It’s a good sign when you see a fellow believer across the lobby and think, “Oh good, wait till I show them what the Spirit showed me this week.”  Or, “Oh, I’ve missed praying with her!”  When one loses track of time in a service, when three hours feels like forty-five minutes, when tears fall without embarrassment, when repentance on your knees is encouraged instead of judged, then we are on the right path.  We will be able to truly testify that Christ’s coming must be near for we see enough evidence of a purified bride.

            May Hosea’s words burn where they need to burn for the sake of Jesus.

You are purifying your church, starting with me. Amen

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