Oh! men and brethren, what would this heart feel if I could but believe that there were some among you who would go home and pray for a revival, men whose faith is large enough, and their love fiery enough to lead them from this moment to exercise unceasing intercessions that God would appear among us and do wondrous things here, as in the times of former generations.
A lot of our activity often mistaken for revival is just the church turning over, but not waking up.
Lord, may Utica Baptist Church not just turn over, but truly, truly wake up. Lord, I want that for myself--in so many areas and dimensions of my walk with You. Please help me not to mistake all the activity of our "getting ready" for revival for the actual revival, but to truly seek Your Face, O God.
The pews were full this morning at Utica Baptist Church. There was room for a few extra people, but not many! The music was great (as usual), the people were filled with excitement, there were several visitors, and as the sermon began, there was an air of expectation.
At least, that's what I felt. I'm the preacher, so it could be I was feeling what I wanted to feel.
Anyway, I went past time a few minutes. I don't do that often, but today was one of those times.
As people were leaving, one of our visitors came up to me, a man whom I had met just before the service began. He said, "Pastor, you can't do this."
Huh oh, my brain said. What do we have here?
"Do what?" I asked.
"You can't pack out the church like this. You don't have a rock band, a set of drums, and you didn't wear a ratty old t-shirt and jeans with the knees out of them."
I realized then that he was speaking "tongue-in-cheek," as he went on to say, "At least that's what I've been told."
We both laughed heartily, me out of relief, and him because of my reaction (and it was a good joke)!
We spent a few minutes talking about how our church is still a very traditional church. We have an organ, a piano, a robed choir, a pastor who still wears a coat and tie, and though we sing an occasional chorus, we pretty much sing the great hymns of the faith. We talked about how preaching in many churches has become an exercise in "relevance," as if the Word itself cannot speak for itself.
Our visitor, a pastor from another state, told me that he has told people that "God's Word is relevant--right off the page." He meant that when you first open the pages, it is relevant right at that moment. It doesn't need all of the fancy trappings that so often accompany sermons today.
I'm not saying that a church should never use modern methods to communicate the Timeless Message. PowerPoint presentations may actually help people "get it," and I'm all for anything that will help people better understand the message and take some of it home with them. (In fact, there are times that I've thought to myself while studying, "I wish I had a way to help them 'see' this. PowerPoint would be wonderful right here.")
And I'm not saying that the only music God can bless is already printed in a hymn book somewhere. I'm not saying that He cannot bless music presented by a band with guitars and drums.
But what I am saying is in many cases (not all, for sure) those who utilize all of the contemporary methods listed above have fallen into a ritual of their own. Those in traditional churches have rejected the use of contemporary methods, but those who never sing "Rock of Ages" have rejected anything that even smells like it's more than five years old.
It sort of reminds me of the Samaritan woman who, in an effort to change the subject, asked Jesus "Should we worship God here on this mountain, or in Jerusalem?" Which one is right?
Jesus' answer tells us what is right: "The ones who worship the Father must worship Him in spirit and in truth."
I really do enjoy our traditional style of worship! I guess that's to be expected of someone my age (56) and background. However, my son and his wife attend a church, just a few miles from here, where there are no hymnals, no organ, and where they use a worship band to lead music.
They, too, are packed every Sunday. And they are reaching people for Christ, same as we are.
So, should the criteria we use to judge our effectiveness be the style of music we use, or how we dress, or which instruments are played while we worship?
I don't think so. Let those of us in both camps determine that we are going to worship in spirit and truth--wherever we are, however we're dressed, whichever instruments are used.
And not look down our noses at the others.
Dr. Rocky Henriques is the Pastor of Utica Baptist Church in Utica, Mississippi.