In the spring of 2021, Adam and I did a series with the teens called, "Simplify." Our idea for the theme came from how the previous year had gone down. Almost everything in our world shut down, including churches. Our teens were dealt a difficult situation when all of their favorite summer trips were cancelled, and for some of the teens, that meant their last opportunity to go on these trips was taken from them. While Adam and I recognized that this was indeed a difficult situation for our teens, we felt the Lord urging us to take this opportunity to challenge them in their faith.
At the beginning of our Simplify series, we asked them this question, "Do we as Christians love the events that our church puts on more than we love the God our church worships?" As I asked the teens this question from the podium, I could tell it did not quite hit home with them until I phrased it this way, "If Twickenham Youth Ministry's events were no more, meaning no IMPACT, no camp, no Ecuador, no game nights...would you still be hungry for a relationship with other Christians and a relationship with God?"
And at that moment I felt the uproar. The teens' eyebrows raised, the jaws dropped, and the nervous laughter occurred...I wish I was exaggerating. We had some discussions about what our faith walks would look like without the productions of church, and many of the teens admitted that they would not be very interested in a church without these productions. I was grateful they were honest, but it opened my eyes to a mindset that desperately needs to be addressed. The truth of the matter is it's not just teens who struggle with this idea: many of us will spend our lives mistaking faith in church events for faith in God.
This week in our Reread series we entered the first few chapters of the book of Acts. It is important to note that this church was made up of sinful people just like today's churches, but I still believe there are many things to be learned from this church. The church in Acts kept things pretty simple. Acts 2:43 says, "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer." And later in Acts 4:33 we read, "With great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them."
I hope I'm wrong, but I think if every church in America scaled back to operate exactly as the church in Acts operated, we would find that many church members are more interested in what the church can do for them rather than what they can do for God through serving the church. My goal in writing this is not to say every major church event should be cancelled, I only want to remind us, myself included, that there is beauty in the simplistic nature of the church in Acts.
In David Platt's book Something Needs to Change, he tells of his journey through the Himalayan Mountains in Asia where he went on a short-term mission trip. On this trip, he witnessed devout Christians traveling miles on foot to and from church simply to be together and worship God. His experience with this church greatly inspired him, so much so that he decided he needed to write a book about it. The most convicting portion of this book is when he states,
"It's surprisingly simple when you think about it. Not easy, but simple. This church has so little of the things you and I think about when it comes to church in our culture. They don't have a nice building. They don't have a great band. They don't have a charismatic preacher. They don't have any programs. They just have each other, God's word in front of them, and God's Spirit among them. And, apparently that's enough.
I wonder if that would be enough for us. I wonder if that would be enough for me. Would you and I be content with belonging to a community that is simply committed to seeking God, loving each other, and sharing the good news of God's love with the world around us no matter what it costs us? Isn't this the essence of the church according to God's design?"
The productions of today's churches are not by any means sinful if they are intended to lead people to Christ. It only becomes sinful when a believer's faith cannot operate without the church's production. While many would argue that the year of 2020 shut churches down, I would argue that it simply brought churches back to our simplistic roots. As we continue our reading through the book of Acts, I want to challenge you to ask yourself the same question we asked our teens, "Do I love the events that my church puts on more than I love the God my church worships?"