Lately there seems to be some sort of program for everything that we do. There are programs for worshipping God, teaching the bible, serving the poor, being with the children, building community and taking communion. It seems to be the way of our culture to maximize and cookie-cut out something that should be natural into a pre-set way of doing things.
As Christians some things are expected or at the very least encouraged if not by the church than by the bible or Jesus himself. Christians are in a community and it is called the Body of Christ, so what we do is we create a day where we all come together, reduce it to a hour service where we cram in everything that is good for us into that hour. We start to think that belonging to community is in fact attending this one hour service once a week. If you leave this service you are accused of giving up on the fellowship of believers (which barely any fellowship goes on at since we are all facing the front). Community has been reduced to a one hour service.
Worship has also been reduced to what happens in the first half of this service. We sing songs and we call it worship music, the people that play instruments are called the worship team and we continue on with our worship service. I’ve been to churches where your involvement in this worship service (it was a charismatic church) determined your spiritual condition. Giving money to the church is sometimes thrown into this category too, the pastor will drop some line like ‘Let’s now worship with our giving.’
The biggest message that the bible and Jesus proclaim is taking care of the poor and needy. So what do we do with that? We make it to a program. Sign up to work in a soup kitchen with your church during Christmas break, or hand out hampers. How about for you rich people you add a few extra dollars to our missions fund. Give some more money to sponsor a child or in a special offering. Maybe we’ll run an event to do a canned-food drive. Anything really to come face to face with the people that we are supposedly helping by throwing money and gifts at.
Letting children come to their creator like Jesus commanded has become creating a ‘special’ service for them in another room and another night during the week for them. If they are lucky they can sing the songs with us but we have their own special thing that they can go to. Usually it’s some more songs, a felt board and another boring speaker.
None of these things are bad in themselves. I’m thankful for church services, children programs, Christmas hampers and music. What I’m afraid of is that we have taken commands and ideals and reduced them to programs and whatnot and forget that they are supposed to be inseparable with our lives. Community is supposed to be lived everyday all day with everyone around me (not just the comfortable Christians). Worship should be happening in our every action; every action should be bring worth to God and working for the Kingdom of God. Children’s programs are great but if we think that’s all our kids need to be ‘raised in the Lord’ then no wonder we are confused when most of our kids are caught up in drugs, sex and booze before they hit high school. Christmas hampers and offerings are all good but if we think by doing these annual events is actually ‘doing our part’ then we’ve completely missed the gospel. Helping the poor and even the people around us needs to flow from everything we do. We can’t escape the call of Christ to be love to the whole world and love the whole world by being selfish all year and then throwing a few bucks at someone anymore than we can expect to escape the cal of God to be in community by going to church once a week and shaking the greeters hand.
Programs are easy and deceiving. They make us think that we are doing what is right (which we are) and they make us think that we are doing what we are supposed to be (which we are) without really getting it. It makes us kind of like the rich guys that Christ’s points out that are throwing in bundles of money into the offering plate but isn’t pleased with but rather points to the lady who throws in a few pennies (which is all she had) and says that he is pleased with her. It isn’t enough to just give some of our money to God (10%) or some of our time (church service, prayer meeting, youth group) and expect to walk away thinking we did what we needed. It’s all or nothing with God and a life full of reduced programs so we can cram in everything we need to do into a few day planner slots is nothing compared to taking those programs and their intent and building your life after them.