At Church To Have A Good Time?

people in a clubI posted a blog-post some time ago entitled: “The Crazy Things We Say In Church.” In that post, I listed some of the things that are commonly said in church that really don’t make any spiritual and in some cases, any common sense. Well, there is another saying that I’ve heard so much that I think it deserves a post all by itself! How many times have you been in a church service and heard an MC, a deacon, a preacher, or even a pastor say: “We’re here to have a good time”? Now, I wouldn’t have a problem with the saying if I hadn’t heard it somewhere else and it was theologically accurate!

Can you think of anyplace else where you have heard this statement? Hmm? Isn’t that what we used to say in our pre-Christian days when we were into the nightclub life? It was Friday night and we had just gotten paid so off we went to the clubs; to have a good time! Now, what’s so amazing to me is that many of us, although we now profess to know God, we go to church with a “night club mentality!” Let me show you what I’m talking about! When we were going to the club, we did not expect anything to happen at the club that would cause significant changes in our lives. We didn’t go to the club with an expectation of our lives changing for the better, we just went to have a good time! It was a hard week at work, so we went to the club to relax, forget about our troubles for a few hours, and to enjoy ourselves. Well, there are some people who go to church on Sunday mornings with the exact same expectations! They don’t expect any significant changes to occur in their lives. They don’t expect anything to happen while they are at church that will cause any significant change in their lives. They just come for an hour or two to “get their praise on!” They just come to have a good time! They left “hell” to come to church and then leave church with the full expectation to go back to the same hell they left! They don’t expect any changes. Sunday morning for them, is just a two-hour- reprieve from the hustle and bustle of everyday life!

But there is so much more to coming to church than just having a good time! Now, if you have a good time while you’re there, that’s all fine and well, but having a good time should not be the main purpose! Why should we come to church? Well, the main reason is to worship and experience the presence of God! And when we worship God, it is not about us; it’s about God! When we give God the praise and adoration of which God is worthy, our “good feeling” is just a by-product. But not only do we get a good feeling, God also moves on our behalf in our various life situations.

A good model of what should happen when we go to church in found in Isaiah’s temple vision in Isaiah 6. Isaiah “saw” the Lord, high and lifted up! When Isaiah saw how high the Lord was; he also saw how low he was! A true worship experience helps us to see the majesty and glory of God and recognize our own faults and failures. That experience caused Isaiah to exclaim (in the language of my fore-parents) “It’s not my brother! It’s not my sister, but it’s me, O Lord! Standing in the need of prayer!” Finally Isaiah was touched, cleansed, and commissioned. That’s what a real worship experience is all about! After a true worship experience; we don’t leave the same way we came! We leave with a sense of our sins forgiven! We leave with a determination and will to do the will of God! We leave stronger than we were when we came! The time we spend in worship at church is so much more than just for the purpose of having a good time!

When Praises Go Up, Blessings Come Down. . . .Really?

arms of praiseAs a pastor, I teach the congregation I serve to be critical. Now mind you; I didn’t say that I teach them to criticize, I said I teach them to be critical! Critical in the sense of not repeating whatever they hear just because “everybody” is saying it! Or even singing a song because all the popular choirs are singing it! Critical in the sense of really analyzing and correctly processing what they hear. I teach them to be like the Bereans were in the days of the Apostle Paul. The Bible says in Acts 17:10-11: “The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (ESV) As Paul preached and reasoned with the Bereans from the Scriptures, they didn’t just take Paul’s word for it; they searched the Scriptures daily themselves, to see if what Paul was preaching was actually true. There are a lot of sayings and practices that are being said and done in and around the church today that are simply not biblical! Some are not only not biblical, some are even anti-biblical! Yet, many say and practice these things simply because they uncritically take someone else’s word for the validity of the act or saying.

There is one such saying that I have heard that really makes my spiritual liver quiver! I cringed whenever I hear someone say: “Praise the Lord everybody! Because, when praises go up; blessings come down!”  After I have analyzed the statement and the implications of it, I hope to convince all who read this post that this statement really has no place in the mouths of believers! First of all, the statement sounds like a bribe or a business transaction. It gives one the impression that no matter how unrighteous a person may be; God will send a blessing down to them if they would just simply praise him! But God cannot be manipulated into blessing by praise! By the way, praise is empty and vain if it is just coming from the lips and not from the heart! Our praise is also empty and vain if we are not living in submission and obedience to God’s revealed will! That is what is meant by the requirement that in true worship, one must worship God in spirit and in truth.

Secondly, not only is the idea of praises going up in order for God to send blessings down indicative of a vain attempt to manipulate God, it is also biblical nonsense! If you were to do a search on all of the Hebrew and Greek words that are translated in both the Old Testament and the New Testament as the word; “praise” or some word equivalent to the concept of praise, you would discover that there is not a single recorded instance in the Bible when anyone praised God with the intention of being blessed because of their praise! What you will discover is that people in the Bible didn’t praise God to try to get something from him, but rather they praised God for what he had already done for them! In others words, they didn’t praise God to be blessed; they praised God because he had already blessed them! In the Bible, they didn’t praise to get something from God; they praised because they had (already) gotten something from God! In the Bible, praise was not a tool to get; but rather it was a response of thanksgiving for what God had already given. In the Bible, people didn’t praise God to get blessed; they praised God because they were (already) blessed!

So, if it’s not biblical or not even sensible, where did it come from and why do people keep saying it? It came from the lyrics of a song and people (even preachers) keep saying it because they don’t really think about what they are saying! They heard someone, who they felt wouldn’t lead them wrong, say it. And because that person said it, they took it to be “Gospel Truth!” But it is not! It cheapens God by portraying him as being so praise-starved that he would gladly send down blessings to whoever sends praises up to him no matter whether they are real Christians or not. It always gives a false picture of the purpose of praise. Praise is not a tool to “get” but rather it is the proper response of gratitude for what God has given.