A few weeks back, I was at Singapore attending Ravi Zacharias' two evening talks held at Singapore Bible College. The wisdom that God has given Ravi is really a blessing to those that have the privilege of hearing him speak.
During Ravi's first talk, one statement he made really stuck to my mind. He said, "No Christian is in secular work." At first, you get the idea that Ravi was suggesting that every Christian should be in ministry work and no one must be found working for profit-oriented companies. But then he explained that a Christian, although working in a company owned by a non-Christian, must work still with Christian values in play. His work must still be "Christian" in all aspects. This means that as Christians working for non-Christian companies, we have the power to make that company "Christian" in how it makes business with people. It's all about "Christianizing" the secular world of business. Wow! Imagine if we can do that in every corporation we Christians are working at? That's influence to a high degree.
But as I was pondering on that thought, I then realized how the opposite is happening. I'm not talking about secular people secularizing Christians in workplace, although that is a sad scenario. I'm talking about how we, Christians, have secularized the Church. And that's what makes the current state of our churches more disappointing. It is not even secular people who are secularizing the Church. It's us, the Christians, who are secularizing what's supposed to be sacred.
How have we secularized the Church? First, is how we do things in worship. Our worship services have become more of an entertainment instead of pointing people to the majesty of God. A few years back, I heard a pastor who was starting a church say that he eventually wants a full musical band because that's what's appealing to young people. I'm not against using different musical instruments in worship services especially if the goal is to enhance the kind of worship we offer the great God that we have. But if enhanced music is what makes you enjoy going to church than the person of Jesus, then you have it all wrong.
Another way we have secularized the Church is by giving less priority to the study of God's Word. I once heard a story from a prominent Christian leader of his experience in one church that invited him to be the guest preacher. He recalled how the senior pastor and the worship pastor were arguing about how much time will be given to their guest speaker. The worship pastor refused that their time leading the singing be reduced in favor of the preaching. The worship pastor said that "singing time is the 'worship' in the worship service." The prominent Christian leader ended up speaking for just 20 minutes with him not having a place to lay down his Bible as the whole stage was occupied by musical instruments. This is tragedy! Truth leads us to true worship. Truth is in God's Word. Truth is Jesus. Therefore, true worship must be a response to an understanding of God's Word.
It's not only the dominance of music that has pushed the study of the Bible further at the back seat. The social programs of our churches is also a culprit. Because social programs are quite enjoyable like weekend picnics, sports fellowships, food festivals, etc., Christians have preferred more of these. I have nothing against fellowship. God, Himself, told us not to forsake it. But we must remember that just like how worship must be fueled by the truth coming from God's Word, fellowships must also be based on God's truths. But somehow, Christians find less enjoyment in finding truths from God's Word. This is the reason why when a church invites their members for Bible study, less of them attend but if a weekend picnic is announced, that event is right away a big hit. The sad thing is that pastors have observed this and so, they organize less events that focus on God's Word.
But the most unacceptable thing that we've done to secularized the Church is in how we have re-written the Gospel message. The message must always talk about sin, righteousness and judgment to come. But today, the message is "Come to Christ and you'll have a wonderful life, with all your dreams coming true." People are made to think that Christ has no problems with sin as long as they believe in Him. God is love, that's what the Church only preaches today. They don't preach anymore about His holiness and justice. This is the reason why so-called "converts" are not led truly to the foot of Jesus' cross as they never realized that they need to repent of their sins together with the faith that they must have on Christ. This is tragedy! The Church should be leading people to a genuine encounter with the Savior. But what the Church is giving people is a gospel that has been re-written to the approval of what man wants.
Yes, we live in a secular world. But it does not mean that we should live as such. We must hold on to what is truly Christian, not only in our personal lives but likewise in our churches. The Church must reflect Christ in all its aspects. And the secular world must see that.
Dennis Aglosolos, the Director of Living Waters - Asia, will be answering questions.