If you’re a regular reader of OITC, you know that I mentioned the other day in the Preface to the 10 Things that a few people have asked me recently what I would change about the church, if I could change anything. I’ve made it no secret that I’m pretty disheartened by this institution we call church today. Quite a few leaders – pastors, bishops and apostles that I have a tremendous amount of respect for – have suggested that instead of complaining about it, those who are disgruntled should do something about it. I’ve asked in response, what are the lay members to do? I have yet to come up with an answer, nor has anyone else provided me with one. But what I did come up with is a few things that church leaders can do.

  1. Stop preaching fluff! (I Corinthians 2:1-5) Today’s churchgoers have become so accustomed to foolishness that many of us can no longer discern between nonsense and sound teaching. Sermons are full of clichés, lyrics and false assumptions masked as revelation, and we’ve accepted it for so long that we actually developed a taste for it, and think that’s what makes good preaching. Preachers are trained (formally or through observation) to appeal to the emotions, and we are trained to want our emotions to be satisfied. So we respond to the fluff, and in return, preachers give us more. They modulate because it makes us jump higher, they climb pews because it makes us scream louder, they offer clichés because it makes us take off running… it’s a vicious cycle, and someone has got to make it stop! The gospel of Jesus Christ stands on its own and does not need any marketing tricks, rhymes or fillers. Preach the gospel, and then sit down.
  2. Quit having these 3 hour services full of fluff!! (Acts 2) Don’t get me wrong; I’m not the type to get bored in church or want the 1-hour Catholic express service. I don’t care if the service lasts four or five hours if you can give me all service, no fluff. It’s not the length I hate, it’s the fluff… it’s the 20 minute greeting from the pastor, who is then going to preach for another hour, lay hands for 30 minutes, and then give closing remarks for another 20 minutes. Or the 10 minute standing ovation for the first family’s entrance. Or the 45-minute praise break (which would be great if someone actually got up from the floor CHANGED). Most of these lengthy services are only lengthy because someone loves the mic and wants to be in the spotlight, or want to trick the people into believing they had “good church” by letting them run and cry and shout for an hour, and tickling their emotions with general “prophecies” that could apply to any random person anywhere. That’s the part I don’t like. And none of this stuff we do today was a part of the first church’s worship gatherings anyway. They testified, exhorted, preached the word, prayed, worshiped,broke bread, and went home. That was the order of service. Let’s try that. God’s way is still the best way.
  3. Stop with the gimmicks, tricks, and manipulation!! (II Corinthians 9:7) I declare I believe there is a special section in hell for people who LIE (and yes, some of those appeals are full of lies) or manipulate the people to get more offering. I’ve heard preachers talk about a “gift” of raising money or share tips on how to raise money. How many times have you heard “grab your checkbooks quickly, don’t think about it, just do it.” (<— not Biblical).  Or “while the spirit is moving, I want you to grab a 2011 seed to sow into this anointing. If you don’t have $2011, bring $211. This is the seed that’s going to change your financial status in this year. You’ve got to sow into this move of God.” (<— not Biblical).  And we wonder why the unbelievers have no confidence in the church. If your members tithe and give liberally, and what they bring still isn’t enough, then you’re probably churchin above your means. The Bible says “you must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” Enough with the fundraisers and chicken sales and building funds and special services and “revivals” (just to raise money – ain’t nobody stupid). Enough of that. In the New Testament churches, the people brought gifts, and that was enough. Let’s try that. God’s way is still the best way.
  4. Stop teaching emotionalism in exchange for the Holy Ghost! (II Timothy 3:5) As I said, we have accepted this replica of the Holy Ghost for so long, that I fear the current generation and those to come won’t even know what it means to be touched by the Holy Ghost. Our churches are full of manufactured tongues, dancing on cue, rolling around on the floor in angst, and all kinds of other emotional displays that people mistake for “the glory of God.” I’m a praiser and a worshiper, and I’m fine with any form of praise or worship. But for too long, pastors have allowed members to think that the “good feeling” you get is the Holy Ghost, when it’s just an ineffective substitute. This is why people go home after 4 hour services and are still mean, still hateful, still gossipping, still sneaking around with gay lovers, still fornicating, still smoking, still getting drunk, still wounded from the same hurt that had them on the altar 5 years ago… because they didn’t have an experience with God, they had an experience with their inner selves.
  5. Shift the focus back to Jesus. I could be wrong, but I tend to think this is more of a problem in the Black church (or maybe it’s just the charismatic church?) than in other churches, but I’ve had enough of it. If the purpose of the worship service is to worship Jesus, why do we spend so much time worshiping the pastor? Don’t get me wrong, I love my own pastor, and I have many pastor-friends whom I also love. I honor and respect the calling, and having worked so closely with pastors, I know how difficult their labor is and how many sacrifices they have to make for the call. HOWEVER… Sunday at 11:00 is not about Pastor John Doe, it’s about Jesus. If you have to honor and celebrate the pastor, do it on your own time, not on God’s time. How crazy is it to be in GOD’S HOUSE at an hour designated specifically for worship to him – and have to beg people to stand up during Praise & Worship, but those same people pop up like Orville Redenbacher when the pastor and his entourage enter the sanctuary (fashionably late, of course). The P&W leader tells you to stand to your feet and lift your hands in worship, and you stare at him like he’s crazy. The exhorter gives honor to the pastor and the “crowd” goes wild! Jumping, screaming, whistling, clapping hysterically… God is a jealous God and He wants ALL the glory, not most of it. ALL of it. In fact, his NAME is Jealous. It is the black tradition that causes us to vehemently defend this practice. Don’t let tradition cause you to offend God.

Okay, this is longer than I thought it would be, so I’m going to stop here. Click here to read Part II with #6-10.

As always, I welcome your feedback. Do you have something to add to the list, or a comment on something on my list? Feel free to comment below; I’d love to hear it.