CLEAR THE STAGE…

Here’s one submitted by Lee Pierce.  It was written by Gary Wilkerson, and is entitled: CLEAR THE STAGE.  Enjoy!- anita

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I’ve received a newsletter for several years from David Wilkerson’s ministry (author of The Cross and the Switchblade and founder of Times Square Church in NYC) called World Challenge. David has since gone home to Jesus but his son, Gary, continues the tradition (Gary pastors a church in Colorado Springs).

In a newsletter from this past December, Gary totally got my attention as he posed the question: In the midst of upbeat elements in our churches, such as “entertaining music, social connectedness, uplifting sermons…is the cross of Christ still our focus?” He challenges every church this way: “A lot of pastors design their worship services to uplift anyone who comes through the doors.” In Wilkerson’s view, however, “…we’ve become professionals at creating comfortable, uplifting, even pleasurable environments…but are we worshipping God in spirit and in truth?” [John 4:23-24] I like the way he puts it: “If the church today is only about positive thinking and making people feel better, we offer nothing that Tony Robbins or Oprah Winfrey can’t give.”

As a church musician, I’m humbled when Wilkerson says, “…we want to be entertained rather than to bow our knees in awe. And churches accommodate us with brilliantly staged lighting, smoke machines and choreographed worship teams.” He notes that worship music now has its own best-seller charts on iTunes and Billboard. Yet he wants to emphasize that he isn’t just “some old guy who longs for old-school worship,” but, rather, enjoys songs from young Christian writers “that send me to my knees.”

With all the emphasis on programs, open doors and growth, he asks a telling and insightful question. What if your church is “less attractive to your non-Christian friends…[and] if your congregation slowly dwindles until only half are left? What if that’s the price for allowing your pastor to be a man of prayer instead of an administrator…. [while] welcoming sermons about God’s grief instead of just pep talks?”

In his view, Wilkerson believes it’s time to “clear the [church] stage of surveys that ask people what they want from church, rather than asking what God wants.” We need to be different, not be an organization seeking to fulfill market demands. The author quotes the very prescient text from 2 Tim 4:1-5 wherein the Bible points out future times when people of “itching ears” will seek out “teachers to suit their own passions.”

There’s so much more Wilkerson has to say on this matter, but, bottom line is this: large attendance, slick programs, and charismatic preachers in a given church may not be indicators that God is being glorified in that place. “Our focus has slowly and subtly shifted from Christ and His cross to things of the flesh.” There’s a subtle, discreet line here. Programs and carefully rehearsed church music aren’t inherently bad in themselves. In fact, I believe God wants us to always give Him our best because He always gives us His best. But the object of these efforts must be always Him. Have you ever gone to a church service and left thinking, “Well, that was nice?” No, the best, most fulfilling church services I’ve attended, the ones where I’ve felt closest to the Lord, are the ones where I’ve left in tears and deeply thankful for the Lord I’ve come to know. With a heart warmed by the assurance that my God loves me.

As Wilkerson puts it: “…if pastors are allowed to be pastors…if worship leaders are allowed to spend as much time in prayer as at rehearsal and sound check…if people come seeking biblical truth instead of just fleshly comfort…then our joy …our purpose will return…[and]our mission will be clear.”

Gary Wilkerson, Lee Pierce

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