There is a big debate raging among Christian reconstructionists over whether membership in a local church is mandatory for Christians. I’ve been thinking about the value of church attendance for a couple of years before this debate even started.
I love my pastor. He is a kind, generous, tough-as-nails guy and he’s a better man than I’ll probably ever be. That being said, I’ve been listening to him preach for about 50 minutes on Sundays about 40 weeks a year (he’s out of town sometimes and I’m out of town sometimes) for the last 11 years. I’ve also listened to him speak many times during Bible studies and Wednesdays. I’ve come to the conclusion that all of that has been a huge waste of time. I learn way more from reading a book or listening to an online sermon or podcast.
We are currently going through Genesis for the third time since I’ve been there, and I guess it’s a Calvary Chapel thing to go through a chapter per week. I’m sure he puts in a lot of time preparing the sermon, but we have these projectors in the sanctuary, and the ability to show videos, with thousands of sermons to choose from. Is my pastor the very best one to deliver a sermon on a certain chapter in Genesis, when there are many sermons to choose from on that very chapter? Like I said, he’s a great guy, but he isn’t a world-class teacher. Is his current rendition of Genesis so much better than his last rendition? Why does it have to be live? Why shouldn’t we just play a sermon from someone who is a world-class teacher?
Do you know all the fascinating topics there are to discuss in Genesis? There is so much stuff about creation, the flood, the tower of Babel. No one man can present that information, and even if he could, it would be a waste of his time to prepare a regurgitation of someone else’s content, and a waste of a perfectly good projector system.
When you’re in college, it’s the worst professors that lecture non-stop for the whole class. Not many people learn best that way. It is much better to have a professor who draws on the chalkboard or provides pictures, graphs and diagrams to illustrate the topic. Why has anyone ever thought that it would be a good idea for one guy to stand at the front of the church and drone on? Even the worst professors probably reference a textbook or something, but Christians don’t even have that luxury. But there are people who not only believe that it is a good idea for it to be done this way, and that anything else is a sin.
There are some who believe in the regulative principal of worship that think that anything out of order in the church service is a sin. But they have pulpits (not in the Bible) and they have one guy who preaches every Sunday (not in the Bible). I admit I don’t know all their arguments, but they ignore the clearest description of a worship service in the New Testament–1 Corinthians 14. There is little correlation between that chapter and their Sunday morning ritual.
I understand that the projector and access to thousands of sermons is a somewhat new phenomenon. But I don’t understand why it hasn’t dawned on anyone that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every Sunday and Wednesday. Even before there was projectors and free content, there was VCRs and before that, cassettes and records for audio. To have access to the best teaching is a decades-old capability.
Sunday morning doesn’t have to be a waste of time, and it shouldn’t be Christianity 101 forever.