Why Do Things That Don’t Matter in the Church Matter?
While reading Tim Keller’s The Reason for God, my thoughts were provoked on how Christianity transcends cultural boundaries. You don’t have to dress a certain way to be a follower of Christ. You don’t have to meet in a certain style of building to be a follower of Christ. You don’t have to prefer a particular style of music to be a follower of Christ. These things simply don’t matter in your ability to grow as a disciple. While sin within culture is never condoned as right, among religions Christianity does have a unique ability to adapt to almost any culture. Worship with steel drums in Trinidad may sound different than the instruments we use, but it is still praise to God. Believers in India may wear different clothes than we do, but it does not hinder their worship. The meeting place for believers in China might not remind us of an American church building, but nonetheless worship takes place. Christianity maintains its integrity and values, but can be practiced within different cultures all around the world.
So if dress, musical style, or external experience doesn’t seem to matter at all, why are they so important? In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (ESV) Paul says, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” The reason these things matter is because we should be strategically doing everything possible to win more people to Christ. So when we make decisions they should all be centered upon what gives us the greatest opportunity to accomplish our mission in our surrounding culture.
So what should I wear to church? Whatever helps me reflect the culture around me and win people to Christ. How should we determine the order of service? Whatever is going to help equip us to reach the most people for Christ. What kind of music or decorations should I prefer? Whatever is going to help us reach the culture around us and win people to Christ. These things do matter, but they only matter to help us accomplish our mission. We, like Paul, must consider ourselves servants and be willing to surrender all of our wants that by all means possible people will come to trust in Christ.
It’s a joy to serve with you all,