Church Redefined
April 25, 2022, 12:00 PM

I recently heard Anne Wilson’s catchy tune, Sunday Sermons. The lyrics lingered in my head long after the song was over: “Devil gonna try to take me outta that church, but you can’t take the church outta me!”

I was on the verge of sending the song to a friend when I stopped. It's been said, "A picture is worth a thousand words." How many words is a music video worth?

As I watched the official music video, I was deeply saddened at how church is being redefined in Christian culture.

On the surface, the music video seems awesome! It’s uplifting and overflowing with a heartfelt message of kindness to others. Kindness is undeniably one aspect of the Fruit of The Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), so how can kindness possibly be a bad thing? We have to examine the act of kindness in light of Romans 14:23, "...and anything that doesn't come from faith is sin."

The central issue is this: “random acts of kindness” have become not just the new way of doing Christian ministry, but now it’s promoted as the new way of being and doing church. Church is redefined as our doing whatever we see fit to do in our own eyes - completely outside the authority or accountability of a local church.

If you watch the VIDEO, here are a few questions to ponder and discuss with others:

What does the woman do with her Bible? Where does it end up? What’s the message about its value, relevance, and usefulness?

As she sings “He makes all things new," what does the imagery of the empty and old run-down sanctuary communicate? What’s the message about its usefulness beyond an abandoned parking lot to turn around in.

Are we left with the impression the guy in the truck prayed with or actually shared the Gospel with anyone? How does this compare with Acts 3:6?

What do the lyrics “ can’t take the church outta me!” communicate about redefining not just ministry, but church itself? What has the NEW church been reduced to and redefined as?

In singing “ can’t take the church outta me,” the NEW church is NOT represented by one's recognition of our inherent sin nature, our need for repentance, the necessity to be born-again by grace through faith, our receptivity to the Word, the power of the Cross, the Lordship of Christ, or our devotion as members, but instead, the NEW "church" equates to giving money to the needy (notice the big “obsolete” and “irrelevant” sanctuary in the background as he approaches a homeless guy with a wad of cash), generosity to a poor and lonely kid, and stopping to help someone in need... therefore, everyone, including kind and charitable atheists, is part of it!

What does the woman say she’s going to keep talking about? Is it the sovereignty of Christ as the Eternal Son, Creator, Redeemer, or the Lamb of God, or is it “every one of those Sunday sermons?”

What was her takeaway from those “Sunday sermons?” Is her practice of church or the ministry of it informed directly by The Word (stuffed in a glovebox along with napkins, etc.) she says she believes is true, or is it driven by feelings of nostalgia for those good ol' “Sunday sermons?”

What’s the overarching message of the music video? How does that message compare with what is revealed in God’s Word about the church?

The word “church” comes from the Greek word, EkklÄ“sia, meaning “the gathering of those summoned.” Where in the video do we see an actual gathering of those summoned by Christ to do the Father’s will in the power of the Spirit?

What does Acts 2:42 reveal about the nature of being the church? What did the early church devote themselves to?

It was only AFTER they devoted themselves to those things, AFTER all the faithful met TOGETHER daily (Acts 2:44-46) under the authority and accountability of Christ-ordained leadership (Eph 4:11), AFTER they prayed together to speak God’s Word with all boldness (Acts 4:29), only in unity as Spirit-filled and Spirit-led Gospel community were they operating as the church. It was only then they were properly equipped to partake in the privileged ministry of the Gospel (Eph 4:12), each member doing their part (Eph 4:16) to build up the Body of Christ… rather than merely “a way that seems right… but in the end leads to death” (Pr 14:12). Is that anywhere implied or taught in this song or video?

If whatever kindnesses we’re doing don’t correlate directly with Scripture, if they don’t spring forth from the leading of the Holy Spirit, if they don’t happen as an expression or extension of Gospel community, if they don’t cause the recipients of those kindnesses to overtly hear the Gospel, if they don’t cause people to see the Christ of Scripture in us, if they don’t cause people to gather, grow, give, and go as members of His Bride… then whatever we’re doing isn’t ministry, and it certainly isn’t church.

We should take seriously King Jesus’ recurring word of correction spoken to the misguided churches in Revelation chapters 2-3, “Repent… as many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be zealous and repent… let anyone who has ears to hear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Scripture never defines church as physical buildings or structures. It’s only ever defined as the gathering of born-again faithful followers of King Jesus devoted to one in unity (John 17:21-23) to reveal the Father’s love for depraved humanity, advancing the Gospel to the ends of the earth… “and the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it!”

The devil does a great job of scheming and posing as an angel of light to steal, kill, and destroy. He’s a master of the counterfeit. He can’t take us outta church. He simply prompts us to redefine it, then we do the removing all on our own.

Let us not reduce the gloriously privileged ministry of the Body and Bride of Christ to independent, autonomous “random acts of kindness.” Let us not reduce church to warm-fuzzy feelings of nostalgia about “Sunday sermons” prompting us to do whatever we see fit to do in our own eyes (Judges 21:25).

Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. -Hebrews 10:25


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