Summary: Jesus did die, but He didn’t stay dead! So a church service should not be like a funeral. Someone suggested that it is a memorial service, not for the dead, but by the dead! Perhaps that explains it.
A Tour through Acts ~ part 8
A Great Church is a Joyously Worshiping Church
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. (+ NIV)
I read a story about someone visiting a small Baptist church in Houston. Back then it was a small church, located downtown. He said that when he walked in there were few people in a dimly lit sanctuary. The service was very depressing. They were singing songs that were like funeral dirges — "Day Is Dying In The West." Later that day he was walking around the downtown area and saw a jewelry store having a grand opening. He went in and it was bright and cheerful inside. There was upbeat and happy music playing. There were friendly and enthusiastic people who greeted him. They offered him some punch to drink and showed him around the store. He remarked that if they had given an invitation, he would have joined the jewelry store, not the church.
Have you ever wondered why so many church services are so morbid? What is the reason that we think that when we come into a church building we need to act in some religiously solemn way. Church, for many, is more like a memorial service than a celebration. But it isn’t a memorial service for the dead. Jesus did die, but He didn’t stay dead! So a church service should not be like a funeral. Someone suggested that it is a memorial service, not for the dead, but by the dead! Perhaps that explains it.
But I think that there are other explanations as well. The primary reason we do what we do is that we have always done it that way. Most of us were brought up in churches that followed the traditions handed down by other churches, who followed the traditions handed down to them. Tradition has a great deal to do with why we do what we do.
We are all creatures of habit. We’ve become accustomed to doing things the same way. All you have to do is think about your own personal ritual for getting up in the morning. Most people go through the same motions every morning when they arise. Some cut the alarm clock off and lie there for just a few moments. Others sit on the side of the bed for a minute or two. Still others immediately spring forth to greet the new day. I’ll bet you put your socks on the same way every morning. I’ll bet that you put a shoe on the same foot first every day. We all get into our routines. There’s nothing wrong with that. It simplifies life somewhat and it makes us feel more comfortable.
Now there is nothing wrong with tradition. Some traditions are important. They are valuable in communicating to us truth about God and truth about ourselves. One of my favorite movies has been "Fiddler on the Roof." I particularly like the opening scene when Tevya sings the theme song, "Tradition." As he does, he explains to the audience the value of tradition as he sees it. He says, "Our tradition tells us who God is and who we are." When tradition can do that, it is good tradition.
Back To the Bible
Unfortunately there are traditions which are not necessarily Biblical traditions that permeate most churches today and tragically are thought of as essential. In fact, some things become almost holy and unchangeable. When those things are changed, people become very upset. It is as if we have willfully flaunted a commandment of the Lord when we tamper with these things. I have known people to be upset over where the piano was placed, where the Doxology was sung, even how the offering was taken. It is amazing the baggage we can build up in the church, and it doesn’t take long to do it.
Our challenge today, as in any other day, is to be faithful to the Scripture. Some people like Baptist churches because they are known for sticking to the Bible. They’ve been called "People of the Book" because of their stubborn determination not to have any other rule than the Bible to live by. Yet many times they’d rather have tradition inform us concerning "doing church" than the Bible.
Think about this. If we did not have any previous tradition, no denominations, or anyone to tell us how to do things; if all we had was the Bible, how would we do church? I know that we would do things differently. But that is the point! We should be doing things because we have been informed by the Bible rather than by traditions, however well intentioned.