“Come as you are!” How many times have you heard or seen that phrase in a church setting? I think we would all say PLENTY. Now…how many times have you felt the church you are attending or were visiting really meant it? If you’re like me you would have to say very little or maybe even none. In many cases I am sad to say you could probably see if the “come as you are” mentality is true within 5 minutes of being in the building and looking around. If some were truly honest their sign would read, “Come as you are as long as you leave like the rest of us and if not, come back next week and try again.” Ouch, right? Don’t get me wrong on this; obviously if folks need salvation or life change, we want them to leave changed…that not what I am referring to.
I’m referring to manmade assessments people feel they should unleash on people, for example: Come as you are as long as next Sunday you:
- Leave knowing you need to wear your “Sunday best.”
- Listen to our style of music.
- Use our preferred (sometimes required) translation of God’s word.
- Reach our preferred social and economic standard. (Which no one will openly admit this.)
- Know “how to act” in church.
- Don’t have any ideas on how to change the mentality of the above.
If you are trying to reach the unchurched and prescribing to the above list… I got news for you, you’re pushing them out the door and back into the world faster than you can say “traditionalism.” We wonder why the church is shrinking in America and we love to blame the liberal universities, the media, the government, etc. When in fact the main people we have to blame is ourselves! It is us that have devised manmade requirements for attending church. Manmade mandates on Christian music and Bible translations and traditions. At what point around the 1950s and 60s did we as Christians say…”Well… this is how the church is going to be ran and for the rest of our days we’re never going to change.” Commonly people will take Bible verses out of the context and refer to it as the “old way” or “old path.” I’m sorry but the old way in the Bible is not God’s way of saying; in order to keep my word you have to put on your suit, sing from your Baptist hymnal, use only your preferred translation Bible, while only using a set list of approved instruments when singing said hymnals. In fact, if we wanted to use that analogy we should all come to church wearing robes & sandals, beating on drums, and reading from scrolls. Just saying…it doesn’t make sense.
If any church strays from those manmade boundaries they are ridiculed and referred to as “that church.” Quite often myself and some church friends chuckle at the fact that Peace Haven has and forever (pretty much) been known as “that church.” As you know most mean that term in a negative connotation but as a Deacon of this church body I carry that term as a badge of honor. Why? Because I will proudly be a part of “that church” that God is using to:
- Send missionaries and teams to Southeast Asia, Japan, Burma, New Orleans, Costa Rica, etc.
- Contribution funds to help teens and cowboys/farmers across this country hear the word of God.
- Provide food and clothing to hundreds of families each month.
- Provide Jr. Camp for 150+ kids in order to hear the gospel and give them something to do at no cost to their families!
- Provide outreach events to the community in a judgement free zone!
- Teach English as a second language to the Hispanic community for FREE!
- Provides free use of a building to schools that are already strapped for cash!
- Love you like family from the time you come in the door!
- Eliminate the “I can’t come to church because I don’t have good clothes to wear” feeling people have been slave to.
I could go on and on with that list. That list is not to brag, it is to show that God uses Peace Haven just as much as any other church. Is a traditional church bad? No! Is a non-traditional church bad? No! AS LONG as we each prescribe to true Biblical preaching and teaching! In a world with so many unique people with different tastes in clothes, cars, music, food, etc. Why are we now choosing to limit God’s own people with only one “approved” way of doing church? If you like traditional church, go to a traditional church! If you like non-traditional church, go to a non-traditional church! It is really that simple and whether you want to believe or not, God uses BOTH!
If we (the American church) can’t come together for the greater and true cause. We ALL in the end will fail because a house divided will never stand. What I do know with 100% certainty, when the sign in front of Peace Haven Baptist Church says… “Come as you are.” We mean it!