Several years ago, I joined a worship band for a Sunday night church service. The service was fresh and exciting. It attracted many young people who didn’t grow up in the church and presented biblical truth in an interesting way to a hungry audience.
Well, as so many others I’m sure have experienced, the things that made the service attractive to this new group wasn’t welcomed with open arms by the regular congregation. I had assumed everyone would be as excited about the format shift as I was, and when they weren’t it threw me for a loop.
Before this I had spent several years volunteering in various church roles ranging from serving coffee to teaching Sunday school. At every turn, people stopped to encourage me for my involvement and service. Since I had received so much affirmation I expected the same reaction would follow for joining this new, and youth focused, worship service.
In reality, some people outright refused to support it, saying the service was too loud, it attracted the wrong type of people, and it wasn’t ministry. It was rough.
For a while the leadership persevered but once the main organizer departed, it only took a number of months for the service to fizzle out. Without passionate leadership and congregational support, the Sunday night service could not continue. It was a difficult and painful experience because I saw what could have been and watched as the dream was snuffed out.
Although it makes me uncomfortable to think about, what I experienced in this situation may have been legalism. Chuck Swindoll discusses this subject in his booklet It’s Time to Embrace Grace. He said Christians in North America are the hardest on our fellow Christians. We become controlling and place limiting expectations on each other—not allowing true freedom in Christ.
Legalism requires that we all be alike, unified in convictions and uniform in appearance, strictly abiding by man-made rules and regulations. Grace, on the other hand, takes pleasure in diversity, encourages individuality, and leaves room for differences of opinions. (15)
Chuck warns that controlling and comparing other Christians in our churches or in groups of friends does not make you spiritual, and it will not draw people closer to Christ. Actually, it will drive them away from you, from church, and from anything to do with other Christians.
The solution? Allow grace to flow freely. God created us as unique individuals and we should be celebrating, not judging, it. We’re all different and yet we’re all one in Christ.
I think back on this time with fondness. While it lasted, the service exposed many young people to the truth of God’s Word and I have to believe it’s bearing fruit somewhere. And perhaps those who organized the service have also found a place where their vision is better supported.
My prayer is I will respond with grace when confronted with something I don’t understand. I’d like to be someone known for encouraging others to follow God with confidence and passion, wherever He leads.