I stepped back in time on Sunday January 17th 2016. Literally. For a moment. About 2 hours. It wasn’t painful, boring, anxious or a drag – it was exhilarating, refreshing, bright, happy and most importantly I felt that it was Christ-honouring.
How was time travel Christ honouring? Well, I attended an independent Baptist church. I was early, by half an hour, but warmly greeted in the car park by a member of the church. I immediately felt welcomed, loved and wanted in the church. I was ushered in to the entrance and warmly greeted by their preacher for the morning. He was incredibly well dressed, as was every single other person in the building. I was the most under-dressed in the entire room wearing skinny jeans, an ironed short sleeved shirt and canvas shoes. But this man who was preaching had a great conversation with me. We talked about Tarot card readers in our local shopping centre, Bible teaching, families, work, the jobs we’ve done, where we’ve lived, our passions and our love of Christ. We even talked about creation. When the service began, I knew I was in for hymns (there was a hymn book next to me on the seat) some good preaching (there was a sense of this already) and some wonderful fellowship. Little did I know how completely different, in a good way, this service was going to be than what I’m used to. My way of “doing” church is – dimming the lights, having a pastor tell jokes for 10 minutes, talk about parenting and then pray for everyone, do communion, put the kids in creche and listen to a sermon via speaker. Then have coffee. It has to be cappuccino otherwise the Holy Spirit isn’t present… yet this service did everything differently. Like people used to before the self esteem reformation. This church had reverent dress. Everyone knew they were there to worship Christ. Jesus was mentioned many, many times. As was missions. There was even an entire prayer and news section dedicate to their missions team overseas who were facing some big challenges. The singing was, well, old fashioned. But in a joyful way. One man led worship from the pulpit, but every member of the congregation sang beautifully and with gusto tear inducing hymns such as “Be Thou My Vision” and others I had heard, others I had not. All exalted our risen Lord. This sense was there from the outset.
The preaching was phenomenal. The preacher opened up the sermon by diving in and preaching from a portion of text! A large portion, mind you. The story of the woman at the well. But instead of the preaching being about us being more extroverted or applying water to our bodies for health, or even Jesus being the “master communicator,” this preacher put the text in context saying the story was about Jesus divine appointment to speak to this woman, a Samaritan, about sin, repentance, living water and salvation through Himself! This was the most refreshing part of the entire day! Listening to someone explain the importance of Jesus doing the will of His Father in speaking with those who were completely dead in trespasses and sins is a total far cry from the preaching I heard in my upbringing, or in any church I attended during my formative teen years. It simply emphasised how important it was to know how much God valued us and thinks we’re awesome. That’s essentially, in a nutshell, modern evangelical preaching in the charismatic movement. Be yourself, God has a huge purpose for your life, achieve your dreams, shoot for the sky and God will give you a big tick of approval and materially bless you to boot! How far we’ve come…
The great conversation I had with a church member after the service about word-faith theology and correct Bible interpretation was wonderful, and we couldn’t stop talking until the kettle boiled for a coffee afterwards! We were talking about how simple it is to see from scripture that faith, rightly believed, is trust in Christ for salvation. Faith is not a force that is a container filled with goodies we need to positively confess to break open. It’s reverent trust in Jesus for salvation from sin and death and hell! This alone was worth the trip to Murray Bridge. Yes, the building was a little “old-fashioned” but it didn’t glamourise the service. It served to house us, keep us cool, covered and indoors whilst we heard preaching and teaching from someone who really were equipped to teach, showing themselves approved. They ploughed at our consciences until we responded. The preacher knew that the uncomfortable issue of sin had to be dealt with when sinners come to Jesus. It truly was, for a moment, a step back in time. And it was enjoyable!