The weekend of New Years 2017 I posted this article on the church website as many desire to ‘check out’ a church at the beginning of the new year. I have written many things through the years that go unnoticed. This article, in contrast, got a great deal of attention, both good and bad. Having received several phone calls and even emails from around the country about its content, I thought I would share it here for posterity and engagement. May the Lord honor our conversations and grow us in our understanding of what the church should be doing.
Why Worshipping with GraceTruth May NOT be for you…. 21 Reasons
I’m not kidding by writing this article. It’s not a ploy or a play on words that will be tongue-in-cheek and cause you to want to join us for worship. It is a serious reflection over the last four years and why so many people just cannot get to the point where they want to be a part of our fellowship.
- We are NOT creative. Well, we have many creative people, but when it comes to what the church should be doing, how she should be doing things, and why; the bible is clear. God hates when man brings traditions and selfish desires to the table of His gathering. We are not going to be swayed by the next new idea and frankly, make no apologies for it. If you are interested in seeing what the church should be doing from a God-commanded point of view, then check us out.
- We are NOT seeker sensitive. Scripture teaches that the church (called out, gathered) are those who are alive in Christ Jesus. The world has no place in the church because it really hates the Lord and His word. (Evidenced by all the traditions and creative efforts to make worship services “better” than how they are prescribed in Scripture.) People are not really seeking God in the first place according to Romans 3. We are not going to revamp, retell, rework, or retool anything we do in hopes that droves of people come running through the doors. We want to be a people for the glory of God and as we reach out to the lost and the missing, God will bring us together for His glory by His grace.
- We are NOT assimilators. There is really NOTHING to do at GraceTruth Church except learn together, pray together, live together, worship together and give our lives for each other’s growth and joy in Christ. We don’t have anything else to do. No programs for the kids, no children’s church, no manifold praise bands and no ministry of the arts. We do simply what we are told to do in scripture and have unlimited space in our lives for anyone who wants to be a part of our family. As a family, we will do things together, but we aren’t going to find your area of “fit” and stick you there.
- We are NOT easy on Sunday. I mean, there are easy parts of life, but worship, prayer, the Lord’s table, fellowship, hearing the word and discipline is not easy all the time. Sometimes we have to get real and sometimes scripture puts us in a place of discomfort. The good thing is, every time God’s word gives us a good rebuke, it gives us the glorious grace of God to grow from it; so our Joy is full!
- We ARE full of kids. All ages! Birth to college, there are kids galore. BUT, they are always with us at all times. This is the way the church is supposed to be; worshipping as a family and learning together. The traditions of man are damned by Jesus in the gospels, and the ripping apart of the family has devastated the glory of God in saving families. So, we don’t divide our families and it is tough some days when kids are crying or going to the bathroom every 10 seconds or dropping crayons or staring at you while you try to listen. It can be tough, but it’s worth it, even though we know it costs us some very good people through the years; we will not budge on this grand conviction.
- We DO take the Bible seriously. No, we are not the silly millies that pluck out our eyes, the Spirit gives us sense to know how to read literature, but we do take seriously the word of God. So, everything we do and everything we believe is regulated by the bible. There are no philosophical invasions in our teaching. There is no room for cultural segways or external ‘supports’ to scripture. We preach through letters, talk about teaching that is needed, and really put ALL OF OUR HOPE in the scripture to bring about ALL life change, all salvation, all worship and all unity.
- We will love you too much. Back to my original statement, this isn’t a ploy. You’d be surprised at the people who come and go because they want to just hide in crowd. Now, there is always space and margin, but if you join us, people are going to introduce themselves and ask who you are, it’s just common courtesy. And if you come twice, you may get taken out to lunch or invited over for dinner! If this sounds horrid, better stay away.
- You will NOT be asked to work. After 15 plus years in the mega-church market, Pastor James knows what burn-out looks like. Well, I do. 🙂 And I know that life is tough enough without having mundane and constant requirements to be at “the church” all the time. Now, for folks who want to convene and fellowship, sweet! But we are not going to be so busy that when you need us we cannot come. We are all suffering saints, living in this life sometimes hanging on by a thread. We want you to feel the peace of knowing that you can be available to minister to others when the time is right.
- We do NOT mandate the KJV. (King James Version) There is great value to this version of Scripture (which is derived from Erasmus’ greek) but we have people who utilize this version as well as four others: The ESV, the NASB, and two versions of the Greek NT. When preaching we will read out of the ESV and commonly utilize both majority and non-majority Greek texts for clarification. The church is allowed to consider their own versions, but we do steer away from modern variations and paraphrases.
- We do NOT dress up. Well most of us don’t. We may not come in our flippy floppies… (some may), but we don’t wear suits, hats, canes, and high gloss shoes. But, if you must, then please do, just do not impose the idea that we are supposed to wear such lest we bring on men something God has not commanded. Many people throughout my life have never owned “dressy” clothes and God forbid it that one must have a new suit to attend the worship of Christ. Please don’t be offended, but I do not wear a suit, tie or slacks very often. When I do, people ask where the funeral is located.
- We believe people who are WITH US should JOIN US. This means that if you stick around, you need to publicly align with us for growth, accountability, discipline, prayer, ministry etc. It is a burden on a church who loves a family who has a hangup on being an official part of the family. Everyone always wants to be a part, then say they are not a part when things don’t go their way. Well, we love each other and being committed is a big part of that.
- We do NOT mandate tithing. If we did, we’d have nearly 30% of everyone’s gross weekly. But, since we don’t, we teach that everyone should give according to the prayerful consideration and be sensitive to the Lord’s leading. Now we do believe that giving is an OBVIOUS example of God’s spirit in a believer and that scripture teaches clearly that each member of the church is responsible to financially support the work of the church and its pastors. We are just not going to mandate an amount. Many members just follow a simple 10%, some more and some less. It’s up to you and Jesus.
- We ARE creedo. Uh oh. It just means that we have a statement of faith that we hold to and everyone who becomes a part of our fellowship is required to read it, ask questions about it and take the truth contained within as truth. This confession of faith is what we see the bible says about certain things that are vital to the local church. We believe doctrine matters greatly, because without it, we really are not the church.
- We don’t have drums. I know this seems silly, especially toward the end, but while we have a piano/keyboard, and some guitars, we feel that drums are out of place in the music we prefer in service, and drums are also very likely to offend some, so we don’t have drums. We are supposed to bear with others and while Jesus probably isn’t going to scourge us if we had drums, He would surely want us to give up our right to play drums for the unity of the church. That being said, our decision to not have drums is a direct result of our love for each other and our desire to never offend a brother.
- We sing THEOLOGICALLY rich songs. We do sing new songs, but not contemporary “adult christian” type songs that have no bearing in Scripture. If we sing a song, it must teach us something true about Jesus, reflect on those things, or reflect on the work of God, His attributes etc. For example, we love “It is well” and we also love, “In Christ Alone.”
- We do not ENDORSE false teachers but rather call them out. I have had numerous times through the years a visitor state, “I wish you hadn’t said _____ taught error, it’s unbecoming.” I understand beloved that many people do not like the tension of hearing false teaching being called out. But, when I am teaching in John 3 and the same week on TV/Radio a preacher was teaching that Jesus was not God, we have a problem and it must be corrected because Jesus commands it in Titus, Timothy, Galatians, etc. We are not on the witch hunt, but from time to time we have to address error in a biblical way.
- We are NOT perfect. Sorry. We are not going to fulfill your fantasy of a perfect church with no sin, no problems, no pain, no suffering and no long sermons. All of these will be a part of who we are. The difference is that we will submit to the Lord Jesus through His word in dealing with them. (maybe not the long sermons).
- Speaking of sermons. We DO preach for an hour each week. I do confess that I am trying to truncate my messages to 45 – 50 minutes, but often they are 65. There is little time to introduce, exegete, apply and close an argument from scripture in 20-30 minutes and I would suggest that most sermons in that length are probably not contextual. We stand to make sure it is thorough. Maybe too much at times.
- We do NOT preach politics or life’s lessons or cultural events. While there ‘may’ (once in 10 years) be an issue that needs to be addressed, it can be done briefly in the beginning or at the end of a service. We will not rob the feeding of the flock for the fodder of pop culture. We aim to live life by faith and doing so, we will all have ample opportunity to engage on these matters.
- We DO have planned Q&A times. Often we have these times where the church can ask questions of me, the other elders and each other relating to life and scripture. It’s a good time and we think it is very helpful, especially when someone is dealing with a serious issue, it can bring the church together. We also value constant learning and provide opportunities for the church to grow and learn weekly.
- We do NOT think we are professionals. Sometimes we have no music, sometimes we have no lights, sometimes we have no sound, etc. These things happen and we go on as usual. We are not going to change the mood to manipulate your feelings. We are not going to stand at the end of the service and work your emotions to make some decisions. We are not going to pass a plate to get your money. We are not going to miss out on ministry. We are not going to be afraid to weep, pray, laugh, hug, get firm, or whatever else the Lord would have us do in our intimate time of worshipping Him together.
It is surely best you stay home unless you think this list sounds a little inviting. Who knows, I may write an article on why you may want to join us…