Bags of Bran


Giving and Worship
March 10, 2014, 10:06 pm
Filed under: Bible, Destined to get me in trouble

So Gad came to David that day and said to him, “Go up, erect an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” David went up according to the word of Gad, just as the Lord had commanded. Araunah looked down and saw the king and his servants crossing over toward him; and Araunah went out and bowed his face to the ground before the king. Then Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?” And David said, “To buy the threshing floor from you, in order to build an altar to the Lord, that the plague may be held back from the people.” Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take and offer up what is good in his sight. Look, the oxen for the burnt offering, the threshing sledges and the yokes of the oxen for the wood. “Everything, O king, Araunah gives to the king.” And Araunah said to the king, “May the Lord your God accept you.” However, the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price, for I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. David built there an altar to the Lord and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. Thus the Lord was moved by prayer for the land, and the plague was held back from Israel.

2 Samuel 24:18-25

Worship that costs something: what a concept! I was reminded of this passage after reading The Purpose Driven Church (or PDC) again for a class. If you are thinking poneros didaskolos, you are thinking what I am thinking. But it was not all in vain. It evoked some memories of being in a church when PDC first came out, and the mad scramble to get on board with the next latest greatest thing guaranteed by celebrity endorsers to transform the church forever, again, just like last month.

It was 1995 or so. Churches very publicly burnt their hymnals with fire, cast their Hammond organs into rivers, and ran their neckties and skirts through mulchers. Churches quickly slapped together bands, occasionally recruiting musicians from local tavern scenes (and I am not exaggerating here). Church funds found a new home in hot-rodded PA equipment. Mature believers collectively smote their foreheads, cried “The Philistines are upon you!” and waited for their sleepy churches to shake themselves free of the evident worldliness that was flooding in. But those churches seemed to be enjoying the fun, so mature believers had to take their tithes elsewhere.

One cornerstone of the PDC franchise is making potential customers feel welcome, and so those in the know within the church are supposed to yield the best parking places, the best seats, the bathrooms, their toothbrushes, their pens, locks of their hair, and even their children to visitors in order to make the visitors feel welcome. Just like in a retail environment, these measures are all about removing unnecessary obstacles to a mathematically predictable outcome, per Rick Warren. One thing visitors hate even more than having to walk all the way across the parking lot or find their own seats in a half-empty auditorium, Warren would assure you, is being asked to give money to the church. That, they are to be told, is the responsibility and/or privilege of the members of the church. The members, on the other hand, are to be told that it is their privilege and/or responsibility to support the work of the church, and that it is an integral part of their worship. Suckers! They could be getting all this for free!

I’ve never been in a PDC-tinged church where they failed to discourage visitors to give, or where they failed to remind members to give, even if the buckets were out in the back of the auditorium. I’ve also never been in a PDC-tinged church where they failed to encourage visitors to sing the songs, pray the prayers, participate in the responsive readings, listen to the sermon, etc. Furthermore, I’ve never been in a PDC-tinged church where they failed to encourage visitors to take communion, provided that they thought themselves to be saved, and possibly baptized.

If you’re keeping score at home, giving is only for members, but is an integral part of worship; while singing, prayer, communion, and fellowship are for everybody. If I’m reading this right, does this mean that such churches are discouraging visitors from participating in an integral part of worship? A part of worship where it is much more difficult to break the Third Commandment than, say, the singing part? A part of worship where you don’t run the risk of death if you violate the symbolism like, say, the Table? A part of worship where you don’t run the risk of accruing greater condemnation for (ideally) greater light, say, listening to the preaching of God’s Word?

But what is the alternative? “We’re going to be singing a hymn now: it’s called ‘Jesus Lover Of My Soul.’ If you don’t believe the words of the hymn; or if you are living of unrepentant sin, as illustrated by our church covenant, I would invite you to refrain from singing, in honor of the Third Commandment.” Or, perhaps: “In a moment, we are going to hear a sermon from God’s holy Word. It is the whole point of preaching that some moral imperative or another from the Scripture will be either implied or expounded in your hearing, for which you will be accountable as God gives you understanding. I would like to offer our visitors some complimentary earplugs lest they accrue to themselves greater condemnation for greater light given.”

No. PDC-tinged churches get “If you’re a visitor here today, we make no financial appeal to you today, but the church extends its welcome to you.”

It seems fairly disingenuous to pretend to be looking out for the interests of visitors when discouraging them from participating in what is probably the safest part of the worship service, while simultaneously encouraging the risky bits. But The Purpose Driven Church is not a book written for men unwilling to take risks with other people’s well-being.

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3 Comments so far
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I never bought into the hysteria and resisted reading the book (even for class).

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Comment by Lotus

Lotus,

It’s interesting how you worded that. Hysteria is a great term for the madness that ensued in that 1995-1997 time frame. I hadn’t been a believer for very long, so it sure was confusing to see stalwart members of churches leaving in droves, and those same churches growing like weeds. At the time, I didn’t really have the bandwidth to analyze it too deeply, but I smelt a rat.

It is interesting to think about how things change over time: I never personally bought into lengthy, badgery invitations at the end of evangelistic sermons: they merely were, and I accepted them as normal, without a qualm, until I read Revival and Revivalism. That was a “scales fell off” moment. I wonder how many people will have “scales fell off” moments with respect to some of Warren’s destructive innovations that will have become a new tradition.

Alas, I’ve had to read Warren twice now, and both times I have accepted it as a non-Catholic form of Purgatory. I just get all itchy when profs try to say “there are good things in this book.” This particular prof probably won’t do that, but I’ve had some try.

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Comment by christopheram

[…] to church with me sometime. We have a great preacher. And our worship leader can really groove. And the offering is only for members! And there’s a great all-you-can-eat buffet right down the […]

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Pingback by Should I Invite My Unsaved Friends to Worship With Me This Easter? | Pastor Ham




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