Monday, May 16, 2016

A Call to Simplicity



My husband and I have been prayerfully considering a new church home; one that was closer to our house so that we could more easily be a part of the fellowship, and to serve more effectively.

Recently, the Lord brought to my mind a local church...   One that I was familiar with through some young mom friends whose children attend their AWANA program.

I mentioned this church to my husband who it turns out knew the Pastor through seminary.   We both agreed that it would be a good idea to visit the church.

As soon as I sat down in the pews of this small, humble church, listening to the Pastor speak from his heart with such joy and humility, opening Scripture, welcoming the congregation to worship our great God and Father, followed by the organist playing a familiar hymn, music I had missed hearing so very much, I felt like I had come home...

And then the preaching...  Preaching that I soaked up like a dry sponge...  Preaching delivered without presupposition or editorializing...  Preaching spoken with power that the Word of God brings...  Preaching in the frank, purity of the Word...  Preaching that provided much wisdom and insight...  Preaching that convicted and encouraged...  Preaching that lasted for an edifying hour, that I didn't want to end...  Preaching that I thought about the rest of the day and during the week... Preaching that I desperately needed back in my life...

Fast forward to this past Sunday, Mother's Day, when I felt like I had stepped back in time...

The elderly women in the congregation, donned in their spring bonnets; the sweet children's choir of four precious ones that sang, as if there were 10, songs in honor of mothers; the beautiful Scripture embellished totes filled with a bouquet of brightly colored daisies and a ribbon adorned bag filled with delicious chocolates, given to each of the ladies present that Mother's Day morning; and then the guest Pastor, with guitar in hand, leading the congregation in some of the old Spirituals like "Do Lord, Do Remember Me; In the Sweet By and By; Swing  Low Sweet Chariot and When the Saints Go Marching In".

In the sweet simplicity of that service, I walked away feeling loved, fulfilled and rich, rich in the fellowship of the Saints and rich in the grace and love of the Lord Jesus   I felt that I experienced a glimpse of the Sweet By and By...


There’s a land that is fairer than day,
And by faith we can see it afar;
For the Father waits over the way
To prepare us a dwelling place there.

Refrain:
In the sweet by and by,
We shall meet on that beautiful shore;
In the sweet by and by,
We shall meet on that beautiful shore.

We shall sing on that beautiful shore
The melodious songs of the blessed;
And our spirits shall sorrow no more,
Not a sigh for the blessing of rest.

To our bountiful Father above,
We will offer our tribute of praise
For the glorious gift of His love
And the blessings that hallow our days.
Sanford F. Bennett

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For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, 
that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity,
 not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.
2 Corinthians 1:12


The Apostle Paul issues a call to simplicity...  Simplicity in our hearts, our minds, our actions, our homes, and most especially culminating in our churches...

...church, where the saints gather in the simplicity of the Gospel.

But it seems that the church experience I described above, in all its simplicity, is becoming harder to find these days...  Having been replaced by concert settings with brightly colored spotlights and loud music; with a bent toward pleasing the world in order to entice people into the church... That may seem harsh, but when you boil it down, isn't that what is happening?  Rather than trust in the simplicity of the Word and the Gospel, churches are resorting to all sorts of entertainment in order to "get people in the pews".   Once there, the message is so watered down, that people walk away with no true understanding of what Salvation in Jesus is saving them from!  Hell is a topic considered taboo now.  But why??   There is no Good News without mention of the very hell that Jesus death has rescued us from.

 That IS the Good News!

Jesus suffered the wrath of God's judgement for the sins of the world so that we who believe are forgiven, and our sin debt paid.  We do not need to fear death and hell because our eternity is secured in Heaven.

He Himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours alone,
 but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 2:2

 Is there sincerity in preaching that avoids topics like sin and hell??

That in simplicity - (ἐν ἁπλότητι en haplotēti.) Tyndale renders this forcibly "without doubleness." The word means sincerity, candor, probity, plain-heartedness, Christian simplicity, frankness, integrity; see 2 Corinthians 11:3. It stands opposed to double-dealings and purposes; to deceitful appearances, and crafty plans; to mere policy, and craftiness in accomplishing an object. A man under the influence of this, is straightforward, candid, open, frank; and he expects to accomplish his purpose by integrity and fair-dealing, and not by stratagem and cunning. Policy, craft, artful plans, and deep-laid schemes of deceit belong to the world; simplicity of aim and purpose are the true characteristics of a real Christian...

...Not with fleshly wisdom - Not with the wisdom which is manifested by the people of this world; not by the principles of cunning, and mere policy, and expediency, which often characterize them. The phrase here stands opposed to simplicity and sincerity, to openness and straightforwardness. And Paul means to disclaim for himself, and for his fellow-laborers, all that carnal policy which distinguishes the mere people of the world. And if Paul deemed such policy improper for him, we should deem it improper for us; if he had no plans which he wished to advance by it, we should have none; if he would not employ it in the promotion of good plans, neither should we. It has been the curse of the church and the bane of religion; and it is to this day exerting a withering and blighting influence on the church. The moment that such plans are resorted to, it is proof that the vitality of religion is gone, and any man who feels that his purposes cannot be accomplished but by such carnal policy, should set it down as full demonstration that his plans are wrong, and that his purpose should be abandoned.
Barnes Notes on the Bible

I have had several young adults, those outside the church, say to me when we visited a modern church together, "Church should be church".   They were actually uncomfortable in the "concert" type setting.

I think in general, people outside the church expect church to be different.  They expect church to be church.  Can we honestly say it looks that way now?...

I know that there are differing opinions on this topic.

I also know that there is much being accomplished for the Kingdom of God in many modern churches today.

But my fear is that church leaders are assuming that they need to reinvent church to be more relevant, especially to the younger generation, but in the process, have lost the simplicity of tradition and the Word of God.   What will become of the next generation growing up in the church?  Will they crave sound doctrine or is the modern church actually training them to be entertained?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I understand that everyone worships differently, and I don't want to come across that I am judging one way over the other.

I am just concerned that the modern church is on a slippery slope, sliding farther and farther away from simplicity, Godly sincerity and wholly depending on the Grace of God.

What if the church would return to trusting in the simplicity of the Word to accomplish what it says it will...

It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
 It will accomplish all I want it to,  and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
Isaiah 55:11

...rather than forms of entertainment, multi-media presentations and me-centered messages...

Is the church's conscience clear?

Is the church conducting itself as a body standing on holy ground, set apart, a royal priesthood, whose focus is God, not on me and entertaining ears?

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
1 Peter 2:9

I am concerned that we as believers will have less and less tolerance for sacrificial, God-centered services, with in-depth teaching and preaching, preferring me-centered wants and desires to be satisfied during the service, to the detriment of our daily walk...

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.
2 Timothy 4:3

As a result, will we look any different than those who do not know Jesus, who live only for themselves and their selfish desires??

Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform
 you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know
 God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Romans 12:2

Is my conscience clear?

Am I behaving in the world with simplicity and Godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom, but by the grace of God?


The church's one foundation 
is Jesus Christ her Lord; 
she is his new creation 
by water and the Word. 
From heaven he came and sought her 
to be his holy bride; 
with his own blood he bought her, 
and for her life he died. 
Samuel J.  Stone

We as believers are the church.

O that we would return to the simplicity of conducting ourselves both individually and corporately as God's holy bride... For His blood has bought us, for our lives He died...


You might find me on these link-ups:
Grace & Truth Link-upWoman to Woman Ministries,  Growing in Grace Link-up, 3DLessonsLif4eInspire Me Monday Titus 2 TuesdayA Wise Women Builds Her HomeA Look at the Book,  Sunday StillnessThe Weekend BrewSpiritual Sundays, Soul Survival,  Give Me GraceA Little R&RTestimony TuesdayWomen with Intention WednesdaysStill SaturdayGood Morning MondaysTell His StoryFaith & Fellowship Blog HopMotivate and Rejuvenate MondaysBe SaltyMonday's MusingsThe Art of Home-Making MondayTuesday TalkWaiting on Wednesday, Reflect His Love and Glory  Words of Comfort Link-upWholehearted WednesdaysTell it to Me TuesdayFaithful at Home Fridays, Faith 'N FriendsTGI SaturdaysSitting Among Friends Encourage Me Monday Words with Winter Essential FridaysSo Much at Home Family, Friendship & Faith House to Home Intentional Tuesday ,Wonderful Wednesday , Monday of Many BlessingsLiteracy Musings Mondays,Imparting GraceSHINE Blog Hop Dance with JesusGive Me GraceBooknificent Thursdays UNITE Cozy Reading SpotMaking Your Home Sing Monday Social Butterfly Sundays  Let Us Grow Small Wonder Link-up Winsome Wednesday Growing in Grace Thursday After My Coffee

42 comments:

  1. We are looking for a church home. I pray that we will know the beauty that you have found through humility and sound doctrine and love. Thank you for this encouraging post.

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    1. Praying the Lord leads you to that special church.

      You are very welcome. :-)

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  2. I couldn't agree more with everything you said. Church has become a place to be entertained by people that are often dressed inappropriately, if you ask me. I long for the simple times in so many ways.

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    1. Gayle, Thank you for your affirming comments.

      I appreciate your joining in the conversation. :-)



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  3. It is sad to say that so many "churches" are all about the show and less about Jesus. So glad that you found somewhere to call home. Thanks for the encouragement to keep appreciating the simple things in life.

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    1. Mindy, I appreciate you adding to the conversation.

      Thank you. We are too! :-)

      You are very welcome.

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  4. I enjoyed your post immensely! It's refreshing to hear the truth spoken with love. God's pure word can't be left out or else everything these churches do will be like sinking sand-no foundation.

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    2. Tina, Thank you for your kind words. :-)

      I agree.

      Thank you so much for sharing in the conversation. :-)

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  5. I think your words have merit. Often church leadership have turned to business models such as Jim Collins' book, Good to Great, to guide how they build and structure their churches and what the church offers. I appreciate your sensitivity to knowing that not all larger churches stray so far from the truth, but it is important to take heed to your words. We changed churches just about a year ago. It is not as small as yours, but it does have the solid preaching and beautiful music you describe that the church we had been a part of for 21 years had left behind. Happy to be your neighbor at Tell His Story.

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    1. Pam, Thank you for your thoughtful and encouraging comment. I appreciate it so much.

      Praising God that you found a church to call home.

      I'm so glad you were my neighbor! :-)

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  6. Oh, dear friend! Continue to "preach" the undiluted Word of God here! You are so refreshing to my hungry spirit...each time I come here, I am edified, blessed, encouraged, and inspired to dig deeper and walk closer to our dear Lord. Every, single word you said in this post is TRUTH. I know God laid this upon your heart, and I also know it took courage for you to hit that "publish" button. I am so grateful you did. If preachers don't start preaching the full truth, in love, we will never see the revival we so crave and long for. Strong preaching under the anointing of the precious Holy Spirit is exactly what we need. The loud entertainment will never be an acceptable substitute for "the foolishness of preaching" that our world so desperately needs. God bless you, my dear, sweet friend, for being unashamed to tell it like it is. THIS is what we need to hear. Sending you much love and gratitude.

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    1. Dear Cheryl, Your words brought me incredible encouragement and spurred me on to continue on this blogging journey.

      Thank you for recognizing the courage it did indeed take me to hit "Publish" and for affirming me with your additional insights to the conversation.

      You are such a precious friend. I prayed for you and your family this morning during my quiet time.

      Much love and comfort to you sweet friend.

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  7. hi karen, i enjoyed reading your article. i agree that the Word of GOD is certainly the important centerpiece of worship. i'm glad you have found a place where it feels that you can worship in a way that is more according to the style you prefer?

    over time, i have found that for most people, they have to give up some of their preferences when they choose the church where they plan to worship. yes, they want to have GOD's Word as a priority. they also prefer a good location that works for their family. after that, there are often other issues they are willing to sacrifice on. not everyone is able to find a church that does music in the way they prefer. sometimes there are other things they have to let go as well.

    when we get to the bottom line, we'll never find the "perfect church" we all seek here on earth. it doesn't exist because all churches are full of imperfect and broken people. we need to pray and seek GOD's wisdom when we look for a church in which to worship. it won't be perfect, but it will be the place where GOD has placed us to serve Him.

    blessings karen as you serve Him in this new place:)

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    1. Martha, Thank you for your kind words.

      I appreciate your added thoughts.

      Thank you. And blessings to you too. :-)

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  8. Hi Karen, we have been church hopping for a while now because the church we were at, it seems there is no room for the Holy Spirit, they have 3 services in a morning so its like a sausage factory, in, sing, service, out, and we just knew... there is more, there used to be more. About 2 months ago, we tried a different church and like you, we just knew, we were home. Oh such a great feeling finding a spiritual home. We actually look forward to church now. And there is no big production, no concert like entertainment, just genuine, down to earth believers, welcoming the Holy Spirit in all the time, seeking relationship with God and others, and we love it. Great post and thank you for linking up
    God bless
    Tracy

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    1. Tracy, Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts here and adding to the conversation.

      Praising God that you found a church that feels like home. :-)

      Thanks so much for visiting. :-)

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  9. This is exactly what church should be. It should be simple as you described. It should be that way always. It should not change with the times. I am noticing this same trend of adding bands and such into the church service and it is weakening the service. I am so glad to hear you found a simple church the way it should be!

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    1. Mrs. White, Thank you for your words of encouragement.

      I so appreciate your added thoughts here.

      Thank you. We are very happy. :-)

      Blessings.

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  10. This is a topic very close to my heart. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Dawnita, You are very welcome. :-)

      Thanks so much for visiting.

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  11. Finding a new church home is so difficult! I'm happy to hear you found one where you felt comfortable and where you are fed God's Word! Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Thank you Carrie. :-)

      You are very welcome!

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  12. So happy to read about the church you have found. I understand your concerns about the church today. In our flesh we have the tendency to reinvent . . . The world is trying to reinvent women's health, sexuality and the family. We need to see the influence of the world and seek God's ways. He has given us the Holy Spirit. Have a blessed weekend!

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    1. Carol, Thank you.

      And thank you so much for adding your thoughts here. I appreciate it!

      Thank you. I hope your weekend was blessed. :-)

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  13. I'm glad you found a church that feels like the right place for you. I agree with so much of what you say here. I have recently moved from a large church to a small, new church plant and it has been such a good move. The larger church was faithful in preaching the Gospel but there was also such a high standard of professionalism with everything that it lost some of the authenticity and the size made it feel impersonal. My new church is much simpler and a bit messy but real and it feels like family and is reaching out to the community.

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    1. Carly, Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences here on this post. It truly adds to the conversation and I appreciate it very much.

      I'm so glad you found a church home in all its simplicity. :-)

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  14. I love the simple hymn, In the Sweet. The words are so touching. Thanks so much for linking to Waiting on...Wednesday!

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    1. Jennifer, Indeed!

      You are very welcome. :-)

      Blessings.

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  15. This is a huge reason why I don't go to church, and I am a pretty darn liberal person. I used to go to church, a couple decades ago. Then the youth leader got arrested for having a predatory relationship with one of his teen flock, the choir director demanded a six-figure income or he'd quit, and the preaching turned into constant nattering on about building up into a mega-church.

    I was disgusted. I quit and told them to never contact me again.

    I've tried churches here and there since. Now it's all flash and wifi and coffee bars and guitars and no substance at all.

    At least the bible's still there, right?

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    1. Thank you so much being transparent and sharing about your experience.

      I'm so sorry that it has left such a bad taste in your mouth.

      Praying that the Lord will show you a church where you can worship in the simplicity of the Word of Truth. Being a part of a fellowship of Believers is such a blessing.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it.

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  16. It is in the simple that we see the essential.
    Nice!

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    1. Lux, Very well said! :-)

      Thanks for visiting!

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  17. Thanks for helping us remember what we might be losing by embracing "new and improved." Rev and I just made a similar move to a church closer to our home. I just want to see Jesus. Blessings to you!

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    1. Deb, Indeed! It truly is all about Jesus. :-)

      Blessings.

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  18. I spoke at a women's brunch at a small church on Saturday. It was simple and simply beautiful. Less production than my own much larger church. As I left, it made me reflect on how I had been struggling with the need to perform well. In a smaller, relaxed atmosphere, it was not necessary. I could be myself and let God be center stage.

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    1. Rachel, Thank you so much for sharing about your experience at the women's brunch and the insights you gained as a result.

      May God always be center stage in all of our lives.

      Blessings. :-)

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  19. Karen, so glad that you found a church that you love! I think it's important to remember that the church is a hospital for sinners, and the important thing is that the Word of God is preached, and lives are being transformed by the Gospel. If we do it simply or if we do it with flare, that really matters not. What matters is the He is glorified, and the work of the Holy Spirit to bring sanctification is alive and well.

    Blessings to you on your journey!

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    1. Lyli, Thank you. Indeed we do. :-)

      And thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      Blessings.

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  20. A timely message, Karen. I don't know who first said it or if it was my grandpa's own thought, but he used to say something like this, "Whatever we use to draw people to Christ, other than Christ Himself, we will have to continue to use to keep them." So, when entertainment is used to draw people to Christ, then entertainment will be necessary to keep them, rather than just Jesus Christ Himself. When you stop to think about that, it's tragic.

    Another reason that I think people resort to entertainment and show to draw people and convince them to stay is that in many ways the American church no longer believes that the Holy Spirit can do His job without their direct help. I have seen and heard of this over and over in many different ways. Emotional manipulation of belabored "invitations", music "shows", lighting, ambiance, "super convicting preaching", etc. It crosses all lines. It isn't about one style of worship or another. But, I think in some ways, what you are talking about here goes back to that - the lack of belief that the Holy Spirit is fully capable of working in simplicity without a bunch of "help" from us.

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    1. By the way, my husband and I also prefer the more traditional, simple type of church meetings. :-)

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    2. Mary, Your grandpa sounds like a very wise man. I would agree with him.

      Oh! How many times have is said this very same thing! They are not trusting God's Word to do what it says it will do.

      I like how you phrased that, "The Holy Spirit is fully capable of working in simplicity without a bunch of 'help' from us." Very well said!

      It's nice to meet another couple who prefers traditional, simple church meetings. :-)

      Thank you so much for your very thoughtful comment.

      Blessings,

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Thank you for taking the time to comment.