Having been baptized into the Lord’s Church at the ripe age of 11 (fifteen years ago!), I’m proud to say that I’ve missed very few church services since that time. It’s no secret that being a member of the Church of Christ comes with a reputation. One common misconception I’ve heard is this: “You people just take away all the feelings from worship.” Well, in all those hundreds of worship services I’ve attended as a member of the Church of Christ since becoming a Christian, I have experienced many, many feelings, and my heart has been pricked a number of times by lessons I’ve heard or songs that I’ve sung. One thing I will admit, however, is that many members of the Church of Christ have a sort of, well, fear of experiencing too many feelings. It is true that worship is not about our personal satisfaction and how happy a church service can make us. If we go to worship simply to “feel” things, we are there for the wrong reasons. Worship is, well, worship. It is not an entertainment service. It is not a place for our children to have childcare on Sunday mornings. It is not a place where we go to have our guilt removed. Worship, when done our way instead of God’s way, is vain.
Matthew 15:8-9 says, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
But back to these feelings. I had the pleasure of listening to a preacher Sunday who our congregation is helping support as he attends the Tri-Cities school of preaching. He is a mere 20 years old, but he is full of a zeal that was absolutely refreshing, and to be perfectly honest, restored my faith in the Christians of my generation. He was unafraid to speak the Truth. The unperverted, this-may-step-on-some-toes, gonna-stir-up-some-feelings kind of truth. He was unafraid to speak out against things the Bible speaks out against. For instance, he gave Biblical examples (in the New and Old Testaments) that speak out against homosexuality. (See Leviticus 20:13, 1 Tim. 1:8-10). He boldly shared God’s Word with us in it’s entirety, pointing out the error of worship as presented in the denominational world. It was obvious that many faithful members of our congregation became uncomfortable with his boldness, and at times, I will admit, I thought “Whoa!”. He ignited in me feelings of zeal and fervor that, I am ashamed to say, have been absent for a long time in my heart. 1 John 4:18 – There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We cannot afford to be afraid to teach others, even when the topic of discussion makes all parties involved uncomfortable.
It’s okay to feel. It’s okay to force others to feel, too. When we spark controversy, we plant seeds. In fact, Jesus warns strongly against becoming “lukewarm” or complacent. Revelation 3:15-16 says, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” In the book of Galatians, Paul told the Christians there “But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.”
Note #1: Sparking controversy does not mean debating for the sake of winning an argument. The whole purpose of starting a conversation that will inevitably become uncomfortable is so that another soul can be won for Christ. No one is marking lines on a hypothetical chalk board under your name every time you prove someone wrong. Everything we say and do in the name of the Lord must be done in love and with the purpose of bringing a lost soul to Christ. Ephesians 4:15 says, “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, [even] Christ:”
Note #2: Do not mistake tolerance for love. God teaches us to love one another (John 13:34-35), but to hate sin (Romans 12:9, Psalm 97:10). We are not taught to tolerate the sins of others, but to teach them, with meekness, how to obey God (2 Timothy 2:25).
This young preacher, so full of energy and passion for the truth, helped me to remember one of my favorite verses:
1 Timothy 4:12 – Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
I hope that I will from now on zealously look for opportunities to boldly speak the truth in love. I am so thankful for my brother in Christ, and I pray that he has many years in the service of the Lord.