Posted by: pastormikemcdowell | September 28, 2014

September 28, 2014 “All Things To All People”

“I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22)

Good Morning and Blessed Lord’s Day, My Dear Friends!

If you are attending a worship service today, (or have already done so), what did it look like and sound like? Was it a service many call “traditional”, with familiar hymns and a choir, corporate and pastoral prayers, meaningful statements of faith…perhaps a sharing of the Lord’s supper…scripture readings and a thought-provoking sermon? For many, that is the very definition of worship, and the preferred style. Others of you or those you know may be attending a service that looks and sounds very different from the one I just described. Such a service may be full of contemporary praise music, not played by an organist, but by a praise band with guitars, vocalists, and drums. The pastor is not robed or wearing a suit and tie, but dressed casually in jeans and a shirt. The message shared may be one accompanied by slides or a movie clip. Some attendees may raise their hands in praise, others not. For those unaccustomed to such worship, it may seem inappropriate and loud, while others find it to be refreshing and vibrant. Just as our cultural preferences have changed with the passing of time, worship expressions have also evolved. Even traditionalists of today would find their particular worship preferences significantly different than those of a century or so ago.

As a pastor, I have experienced such changes in preference in my own lifetime. I was raised in a more traditional worship environment, yet thoroughly enjoy worship in a more contemporary atmosphere. I see value in both. I also understand that in another generation or two, even those things considered “contemporary” today may appear dated. Yet, there are things about these changes that trouble me. When a church drifts away from what I would consider to be the “essentials” of the faith in order to appear more contemporary and accepting to the masses, I am concerned. Inappropriate behavior which scripture identifies as sin should never be embraced and sacrificed at the altar of “inclusiveness.” At the heart of the Gospel stands the holiness of God.

Another aspect I find troubling is a disdain that boarders on hatred by traditionalists who believe that there is no good to be found in modern worship expressions. People who would not likely set foot in the doors of a traditional church are coming in droves to contemporary worship settings where the language of  God’s love and grace is being conveyed in ways they can understand.  The late theologian, author, and Presbyterian pastor Francis Schaeffer wrote,

“Each generation of the church in each setting has the responsibility of communicating the gospel in understandable terms, considering the language and thought-forms of that setting.”

As time passes and preferences change, it is of utmost importance that the church understands the vernacular of the age. The Gospel hasn’t changed. People still hunger for it and need to hear it in their own language. Paul understood that centuries ago. Consider his words: “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” Paul understood the life-changing importance of conveying the gospel to his particular audience and their own cultural differences. He could speak to a Jewish audience in ways they could understand, he himself being a Jew. He could witness to the Romans, he himself being a citizen of the Roman Empire. He could share the gospel effectively with the Greeks, not offended by their particular cultural customs, but incorporating them into his message that they might come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. No matter how you choose to worship, understand that there are many other brothers and sisters who, though their worship style may not be the same as your own, are nevertheless praising the same Lord, and He is pleased. Let’s pray!

Heavenly Father; Your own guidelines for worship are that I worship you ‘in Spirit and in Truth.’ May my worship be pleasing to You as I give You the praise of my lips and the love of my heart. This I pray in Jesus’ Great Name! Amen!



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