Last summer I met with a pastor who serves a church near a large campus. As the university grew in prestige, it attracted thousands of international students, many of whom had little exposure to Christianity. So the church began to reach out to them with language classes, tutoring, and members who “adopt” students into their homes.
The church also changed their Sunday morning worship service. They threw out anything that doesn’t support outreach. Their Vision Statement reads: Each and every element of our Sunday worship service must revolve around the ultimate purpose of the Church: which is mission. Nothing in their worship service is sacred:
Prayers of Confession and Assurance
Whether to use a Call to Worship, Apostles’ Creed, or a Benediction
I applaud their service (which is great), but their vision statement is wrong. Mission is part of our purpose, but the ultimate purpose of the Church is worship. And our passion for service is our biggest barrier to unadulterated worship.
Jonathan Edwards said, “It is true that by doing great things, something is worshipped, but it is not God.” When we turn our hearts from worship to deeds, we forge the idol of mission.
Last week I read an alarming passage in Hebrews: “See to it … that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.” I thought: Who would ever condemn in the same sentence both adultery and poor, hungry Esau?
Then I remembered a blogger I read. Last fall he urged followers to sign up for a goal-setting course called 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever. He shared his own goals for 2015, and I quote:
Publish a bestselling book and sell at least 50,000 copies in the first year.
Get a six-figure advance for my next book contract by the end of the year.
Make a million dollars in revenue from my business.
If these were the goals of a secular entrepreneur, I’d merely pity him. But he’s a Christian writer. His perverted goals didn’t stop at numbers. He dug his grave deeper when he said,
Now, please hear my heart on this. All of the above is not about money. Money has never made me any happier. What has changed my happiness … is my belief in myself.
I suppose I still feel sorry for him. He’s a young man, unsure of how to handle success. He’s hungry for something—money or fame or self-esteem—but I pity him the way I pity Esau.
He’s selling his soul for a bowl full of gruel. Which God equates with adultery.