Have you ever spent three or four hours in a church service and at the end of it you could not list one positive benefit resulting from your being present at church that Sunday? Apparently, that is not such a strange phenomenon these days. I must confess that this strange occurrence has been my experience several times in my life. At one time, it was occurring so frequently that I had to do something about it. But when does church-going become a waste of time?
- The worship is too long and repetitive and lyrics do not inspire faith in Christ.
The congregation stands for close to an hour singing choruses and songs that most of the time bear no resemblance to scripture. Some of them are like secular love songs. Each song or chorus is repeated ten to fifteen times for no better reason than to make one sick and tired. From an onlooker’s standpoint, it seems like the people up front are “worshipping”, laying on the floor, raising their hands with contorted faces and obviously are experiencing an altered state of mind. Those closer to the back are less involved. Some were sitting, while others were singing or raising their hands or both, but the activity of the front does not reach the back rows.
The whole worship experience is based on emotion rather than on faith in Christ and the living hope that Christ has promised. Karen Clark summarises this emotionl abandonment in one of her songs that they sing. Let us forget our worries and have a good time the songg encourages.There is no corporate reading of scripture.
The word of God seems not to be too critical in the life of this congregation. Every little thing is taken care of during the service. They allow time for announcements, birthday and anniversary greetings, visitors with connections to the ministry are allowed to address the congregation, the taking of the tithes and offerings is never left out, but the word of God is not read corporately. Neglecting the corporate reading of scripture during church serices is disgraceful, especially when they claim to be listening to and following the Hol Spirit.
Substituting for the word of God, some man who calls himself a “prophet” gets up and rattles off some illogical foolishness and at the end, he says, “thus saith the Lord.” I often wonder which lord is intended.
- The sermon has little Christian teaching.
The preacher gives a motivational speech laced with empty promises of prosperity and/or encouragement to “take authority”. He gives messages that provoke noisy responses from the congregation but he neglects to emphasise to the congregants the importance of holy living. Often the preacher wanders off into babbling in “tongues”. Who knows what he is saying? He does not want us to know. He seldom takes time to teach the major doctrines of the Christian faith. There is also evidence of inadequate sermon preparation and often he is recycling old worn out, irrelevant topics sermon preparation and too often they are recycling old worn out, irrelevant topics. There is no proper exegesis of scripture.
When there is a chance to listen to a visiting preacher, the hope is always that he would bring some relief by watering the flock with the precious word of God. Instead the preacher gives a talk about his books that would be available for sale after the service. Is this what Christians must endure (2Cor.11:19-20)?
- Nonsensical culminating activities
After the sermon there is more mood altering music and a call for those who want more of the Holy Spirit to come forward. They are asked to perform some stupid ritual like pulling down blessings from heaven or pretending to be drinking the Holy Spirit. Sometimes there is a healing “show” where no one receives healing, yet persons testify that they are healed. Then the preacher, under the influence of the “anointing” imparts power for various purposes.
By this time three or four hours have passed and one can only think of getting home to eat and rest. There can be no meaningful time for fellowship with the brothers and sisters. Generally, everyone is out of the building at the last word of the benediction. All these things make church-going a waste of precious time.
At some convenient time after a church service, I sit and reflect on the time spent at church. I ask myself these questions. Did what I hear, see or participated in at church assist me in having a closer walk with Jesus? Was I inspired to greater love for God and my brothers in Christ? Have I been challenged to let the Holy Spirit change me into the image of God? Did any of the unbelievers who were present convicted that he was a sinner and that Jesus Christ was amongst us (1Cor.14:2-25)? If these questions cannot be answered positively on a regular basis, then church-going has become a waste of time. Any Christian, serious about his relationship with God, and caught in such a situation, will have no choice but to take immediate action. The Holy Spirit will guide you accordingly.