Friday, May 09, 2008

A More Excellent Way

"And yet show I unto you a more excellent way." (1Corinthians 12:31)

Recently I attended one of those churches where seemingly anything goes . Actually, I was invited to preach a message there. It turned out to be one of the more difficult challenges I have faced in ministry.

The evening was disordered, and the service was disjointed. Starting late and going long, the worship music was a steady drone of thumps and shouts, peppered with occasional exhortations thundered forth by the spike-haired minstrel, ever bit of twenty years old; a good-hearted guy way out of his depth. In time I'm sure he will walk a more excellent way.

The congregants interacted with the musicians in a variety of responses. Some were individually dancing about the room, apparently oblivious to anybody else, twirling like the ballerinas you see in one of those wind up music boxes. Others were doing handstands and assorted gymnastic moves in sync with the songs. Some were giving what looked like karate kicks against the Gates of Hell, and then stabbing imaginary swords into the heart of their dark foes. A few were swooning near the stage, almost trance-like in rapturous bliss, while still others were bouncing about like pop-corn in a cooker when the songs picked up speed.

All in all it was a sight to behold.

And then, a full hour and a half later, the time came for me to preach. Yeah, right. In the words of Tony Soprano, "Forget about it."

The problem was that nothing had prepared the people to receive the Word of the Lord, nor did the boisterous and untempered burst of prolonged enthusiasm help me with any real sense of anointing for the message I was there to bring. Instead, it was all quite distracting, having no clear purpose other than providing several individuals a vast array of sensational experiences. There's got to be a more excellent way!

Paul the Apostle cautioned us long ago to be careful of irresponsible extremism in our worship. "If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues," he wrote, "and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?" (1Co 14:23). The word mad here means "to rage about with cravings; to rave as a maniac; appearing to be out of one's mind, or senses."

Anytime we go to an extreme in anything there will be problems. Those who are extreme in the "preaching of the word" all but quench the Spirit; while those who jettison the Scripture for the sake of the sensational, grieve the Spirit. And vice-versa. Those who are extreme in seeking signs and wonders, transgress into the forbidden and converse with demons disguisied as angels of light; while those who dismiss the supernatural altogether transgress by trusting only in human wisdom and ability. They are the builders who reject the Cornerstone.

There is a more excellent way. And we all would do well to press on until we find it.


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