We have had some vigorous discussions about worship on the posts on The Alley church this past week. One of the scriptures often cited in defense of “contemporary” worship is I Corinthians 9:22 where Paul says “I have become all things to all people that by all means I might save some.” It happens to be the Epistle reading in the three year series this week and my sermon text so I thought I would share a few thoughts from this text on the blog today.
This text is also used by President Kieschnick to defend his assertion that today’s church is not his grandfather’s church. In his Leadership News insert in the Reporter last March, President Kieschnick quoted I Corinthians 9:22. His point is that we just can’t do church like we used to. The culture has changed. That is either the most meaningless truism (someone on the comments section this week said that we liturgical sorts should be consistently traditional and stop using blogs and return to parchment paper) or it is a challenge to totally re-work church. I believe it is the latter.
By the way, as long as we are on the subject of President Kieschnick’s insert, I am reminded of a personal e-mail I got from him a few months ago after I had asserted that he was a practitioner of the principles of the Church Growth Movement. He objected that he was not. When you title your insert in the denominational newspaper “Leadership News” you are clearly supportive of the Church Growth Movement. “Leadership” is or was all the rage in the movement. It is code for “get your pastor to be a leader, i.e. a CEO and an agent of change who can lead your old traditional church out of the dark ages into the new measures.” This of course squares with his mantra that this is not your grandfather’s church. Back to the point.
If you study I Corinthians you will see that Paul is describing his lifestyle with those he is trying to convert. He is not talking about worship or how church is to be done. It is a stretch to apply this to either of those concerns. Amongst the Jews Paul would not walk around with pork fat dripping from his face nor with a ham bone in his knapsack. He was careful not to turn them off with such stumbling blocks. If he were to go over to a Gentile’s house for dinner, someone he was sharing the Gospel with, even though by birth he was a Jew, he would not go immediately into their refrigerator and throw out any bacon or sausage. That would be an unnecessary action that would harm his presentation of the Gospel. However, when it comes time to talk about worship in chapters 1, 11, and 14 he has a lot to say that does not sit well with folks. He is not all things to all people when it comes to worship. He rebukes them for not preaching Christ crucified, for disorderly worship, for sinning against the body and blood of the Lord, for women speaking in church, for babbling in tongues that are not understood, etc.
I had someone tell me a while back that if you just look at Paul’s practice, he changed the way he presented the Gospel everywhere he went based on the locale. That is just not true. Read the book of Acts starting at chapter 13 and you will see that he did the same thing over and over and over again. He even preached the same sermon with possible exception of when he was with the philosophers in Athens. But even in Athens he begins in the very same way (Acts 17:17) and only goes to the Aereopagus because he was invited!
In our personal interactions we ought to be accomodating to others. There is no need for us to put up offensive behavior that is not needed. But let’s not misunderstand Scripture and turn Paul’s advice on how to act around Jews and Gentiles into a cause for re-doing the church.