Traipsing down memory lane, my wife and I attended a worship service at a church I served as assistant minister right after graduation from Princeton Seminary. Was a prestigious church, with a membership of over 1500. Had a pastoral and administrative staff of about 20. Weekly staff meetings were very stressful. I dreaded them, knowing how ill-prepared I felt to handle my new responsibilities. Lots going on. Much to do. Abundant formality. Plentiful politics, church-style. But something was missing.
Back to that worship service we attended. Instead of two services, they now had one. The choir sounded good, and kept the tradition of wearing robes while processing and recessing. I recognized some church members who were there during my time. It was good to see them. But where were all the others? What happened to the church of 1500 that now had 60-70 at this service? No one had warned them that I would be in attendance that day!
Couldn’t believe my eyes. One of my former youth group members, an adult woman today, asked me why mainline churches were in decline. Imagine she had her own in mind. What had happened?
Didn’t know what to say, for I had been off the scene for many years. However, with the advantage of hindsight, I could see more clearly what had been missing which would have taken a toll on the present congregation. What was it?
I don’t remember ever hearing an altar call, an invitation to accept Christ into their lives. Seemed as if assumed that all attending must have been believers. Big assumption. Were they? How would we know? Like planning a party but forgetting to invite anyone, wondering why no one showed up. Could that be what’s missing? The invitation?
Psalm 132:15-16. Verse 15 tells of God’s provision. He cares for those going through tough times–‘I will abundantly bless her provisions; I will satisfy her poor with bread.’ The next verse is key to what’s missing– ‘Her priests I will clothe with salvation, and her saints will shout for joy’ (Psalm 132: 16).
Instead of being wrapped in polished etiquette, pastors need to wear the message of God’s salvation found only in Jesus Christ. Rather than tailored suits with silk ties, wing-tipped shoes and fancy rings, our churches should offer garments of salvation. Forgiveness and new birth for all who respond to the Gospel call.
Pastors sharing salvation. Extending the invitation. Not assuming that others know Him, fearing to leave them naked and exposed. We need His clothing. What a shame to miss out on the very best that God has for us… and our churches!
Prayer: Our Lord, may we be bold in proclaiming Jesus Christ to the lost. In His name. Amen.