pref·er·ence – noun \ˈpre-fərn(t)s, ˈpre-f(ə-)rən(t)s\
: a feeling of liking or wanting one person or thing more than another person or thing
You know what it means, right?
When you want a hamburger, you have a preference of which hamburger you’d like to have. McDonald’s. Wendy’s. Burger King. In-n-Out Burger. Take your pick……..there’s plenty of places that will provide you a hamburger. You get to select which franchise will provide your good eats based up upon what satisfies your appetite.
For most, the power to choose that preference affords reaches into just about every facet of our lives. For instance, the clothes we wear, the brand of care we drive, etc…. Take your pick. Choose the things you like or want and the things that are best suited to your tastes.
Sadly, most believers treat “church” with the same practice. The power of preference prevails when it comes to a believer selecting a church.
First of all, the concept of carefully choosing a religious organization as being the best or most suitable for you and/or your family really isn’t even a biblical, New Covenant concept. But that has never gotten in the way of the Western world continuing to practice religious preference.
I chuckled here because all of the conversations that I’ve had with people (mostly pastors) about such an idea not being supported scripturally came rushing through my mind. I chuckle so that I don’t actually cry. But I digress…………
Due to born again ones being taught the practice of preference, which is actually a carnal exercise and works symbiotically with the spirit of this age, this whole “church” thing has become a floundering, splintered enterprise that is quickly losing any relevance in the world.
Please understand that I am NOT referring here to the CHURCH that Jesus is building according to His Nature. The CHURCH is doing just fine and will continue to be sanctified and mature based upon His Headship. No, I am attributing irrelevance to the forms of church that have been developed to appeal to people’s preferences. (you can visit God’s Growth if you want further clarification)
While “church” attendance continues to decline at a rapid pace here in the U.S., those who are continuing to participate in such ventures are doing so by further fragmenting the existing church structure according to preference.
First things first. The decline of the church system is readily apparent unless you have your head buried in the sand and are praying for God to “send revival” and revive a form/structure that He has no desire to revive.
The following words are not mine. They are the words of Christian researcher extraordinaire, George Barna:
Very few of America’s unchurched adults are purely unchurched—most of them, rather, are de-churched.
The majority of unchurched individuals (76%) have firsthand experience with one or more Christian churches and, based on that sampling, have decided they can better use their time in other ways.
Barna tracking research has seen significant shifts in church involvement over the past decade. During that time, the number of adults who are unchurched has increased by more than 30%. This is an increase of 38 million individuals—that’s more people than live in Canada or Australia.
So, as a result, there you have 156 million U.S. residents who are not engaged with a Christian church.
To put that in context, if all those unchurched people were a separate nation, it would be the eighth most populous country in the world, trailing only China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the remaining churched public of the United States (159 million). (Source: Barna)
The good news is that a large number of the people bailing out of “church” aren’t bailing on God. I also quoted Barna in a previous post, Oh, Vision@ Where Art Thou? (emphasis mine)
Barna says, “A large and growing number of Americans who avoid congregational contact are not rejecting Christianity as much as they are shifting how they interact with God and people in a strategic effort to have a more fulfilling spiritual life. This suggests that we are on the precipice of a new era of spiritual experience and expression.” Hmmmmmm, interesting!
Did you see that? Barna said, “a strategic effort to have a more fulfilling spiritual life.”
When someone is being strategic it means that they have identified long-term or overall aims and interests and purposefully calculated the means of achieving them. So, this isn’t people leaving the “church” systems on a whim and might maybe, perhaps one day return to the previous way of doing things.
Nope. These are people who have considered things and have made principled decisions to stop beating a dead horse and expecting it to go somewhere. They are looking for The Way found in Christ.
However, there are those who persist in what they’ve known and seek to tweak it a bit. That tweaking leads to further fragmentation based upon personal preference.
Back in the good old days, strife, contention and divisions were reserved for theological/doctrinal divisions. Mainstream denominations (Latin meaning: division) were pitted against one another in getting their gospel out to the masses because, after all, their gospel was the correct one and just had to be heard. Such topics as God’s Trinitarian (or not) existence, Baptism (both by water and of the Holy Spirit), Salvation (whether by faith or by works) are just a few of the myriad of hot topics debated that brought division. This crusade to be RIGHT rather than treating one another RIGHTEOUSLY resulted in splintering a few denominations into over 40 thousand different representations of the ONE TRUE GOD.
Within all of that, go ahead and add ethnicity into the mix. White churches. Black churches. Hispanic churches. So, now we have churches being formed based up race.
Decades later, the same issue is on the minds of many pastors who still claim that houses of worship are among the most divided institutions in American society. Digging a bit deeper, in a separate poll of 994 churchgoers recently surveyed by the research firm, 67 percent of respondents said their church has done enough to become racially diverse. (Source: The BLAZE)
Preference doesn’t stop there. Oh, no! Preference marches on placing little segments of people here, positioning another little segment over there and all in the name of God!
Style of worship is a biggie in the preference arena. Why, you can find one congregation with an early service that is “traditional worship”, while the late service is branded “contemporary worship”. So, now you have one congregation being separated from one another based upon their preference of music style. We won’t even talk about the different genres of music that people prefer for their “worship”.
Did you know that there are churches that only permit attendance based upon AGE? Absolutely! Only those believers who are 55 and over can attend. I mean, who wants those pesky little children hanging around. This probably doesn’t bother your average Christian since children have been shuttled off to “children’s church” and “youth group” for years while the adults huddled in the main auditorium for real church. (?)
There are churches in existence based upon sexual preference. Gay and Lesbians congregate to enjoy great contemporary praise and worship, a message that’s geared just for their lifestyle and the welcoming fellowship.
There are churches that have been formed based on the draw of a cowboy lifestyle. The lure of family style gatherings in the beautiful countryside on horseback, cool Country Music and the REAL Biblical Truth of God’s Great Love is the calling card. Yeeeeehaaaaaaw, Jesus!
Let’s see………….anymore interests and/or hobbies available to gather around in Jesus’ name?
Motorcycles. Yep. There are motorcycle churches. As a matter of fact, there are Motorcycle Church Networks.
The list continues…….it goes on and on. I won’t take the time to swim through the “simple”, “organic” and “emerging” church preferences. Preference abounds and fragmentation is proliferated. The idea is, “Let’s gather around Jesus AND (fill in the blank.) Meanwhile,
Now, before the “God is a God of variety” argument is hurled at me, please let me say that I am all for and about the multi-faceted, unsearchable-ness of God. I just don’t think that Father intends for any members of the Body to dis-associate with any other members of the Body for any reason, let alone personal preferences.
And, let’s head off the “There’s no perfect church” explanation for our failures in what we’ve produced as church and offered up to God. Of course there’s no perfect church because we think that something that originated in the flesh is going to be perfected in the Spirit! It isn’t going to happen BECAUSE the nature of what we do and call church is carnal. No matter how well intentioned, it’s remains fleshly and not born of the Spirit out of Father’s heart and Nature.
We add things to “church” based upon personal preference so that we can get somebody to attend and be involved. I mean, if this thing is going to be successful, we have to have the numbers…….both people and mammon…..right?
No. NOT right. Which, I guess, makes such a mentality wrong! But, because the church subscribes to worldly standards and measures, it employs worldly techniques and methods to achieve its goal. I will insert here a statement I made waaaaaaay up top at the beginning of this post.
this whole “church” thing has become a floundering, splintered enterprise that is quickly losing any relevance in the world.
Rallying people to the cause of Christ PLUS SOMETHING of PERSONAL PREFERENCE isn’t edgy, it isn’t culturally relevant or apt to mature believers in their character or faith. Whether the dilution comes from preferences in doctrine or interests, the Lordship and Pre-eminence of the Head of the Church suffers.
A man much wiser than myself wrote the following words regarding the preference of doctrine and the preference we add to Jesus. You can read his full writing by viewing Jesus Plus Nothing.
The list is extensive! The deception is subtle! The consequences are enormous. These are the issues that divide us, enslave us, harden us, and lure us away from our first love—Jesus.
Jesus plus something is why we have a New Hope Church on one corner and an Old New Hope Church on the other. That is why we have Southern Baptist, Primitive Baptist, Reformed Baptist, Missionary Baptist, and numerous other Baptists on the list. That is why we have two churches of the same denomination in a small town with one believing it is scriptural to have a kitchen in their building and the other believing it’s not, damned you are if you go to the wrong one.
We veer off the narrow way that leads to life onto the broad way that leads to destruction once we embrace one of these “somethings.” The contemporary seeker-friendly churches have gone so far around the mountain that they can no longer see Calvary from where it all began.
Think about the last religious argument you heard. The issues being argued were most likely over one of those “plus something” things. Both sparring partners were in error if they were contending for something other than the simplicity and purity of devotion to Jesus. Have you ever fallen out with another believer over your love for Jesus?
That’s enough for now. In a future post, I think I will a bit more about this topic.
Until then, keep your peace!