Being a Simple Church
It is helpful sometime for us to take a step back and consider who we are as All Nations Baptist Church. Not only is it helpful for us, but it is also helpful as we describe our church to others when they ask. We considered this in our service last week and the next series of devotions will consider a little more of the biblical aspects of this identity statement:
Who are we?
We are and seek to be a simple, local, faithful Church
What do we do?
We confess the gospel of Christ, grow in the Lord, and go out into the world.
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.
1 Timothy 4:13
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
At the outset of considering these things we ought to acknowledge that although we state them in the indicative, they are things that we aspire to. In other words, we are imperfect in every area, and will always seek to grow in them. What does it mean to be a simple church? Throughout the course of Church history, there has always been a temptation to expand the footprint of the church beyond its end and means. As an extreme example, the Roman church, in former times, governed politically and religiously. They were ruled the papal states and (tried) to make all other secular governments submit to them. But in smaller ways churches have expanded their footprint beyond the mission of the church. Some churches have turned into social clubs where discipleship and evangelism was ignored. Weekly bible study or prayer was replaced by weekly game nights or social hours. ‘Ministry’ and ‘Programs’ replaced the central work of the church as the place and time of the gathering of the saints, the proclamation of the gospel, and the instruction of the word of God.
Although there is nothing implicitly wrong with having a softball team or other social organizations, when these things subsume and overtake the basic and simple ministry of the word and saints and the evangelization of the lost, we have lost our way. This means that as much as possible, ANBC will seek to live simply and seek to commit ourselves to being faithful to the demands of the scriptures on the church. This means our special focus is the regular, corporate worship gathering where the word of God is preached, we pray with one another, sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and stir one another up to love and good works. The main additional things that we do complement these things: small groups provide a time to sing and pray together, reflect on evangelistic opportunities, connect personally with one another, and meditate on the word proclaimed at our corporate gatherings. Other activities, like Sunday school or our seminars, disciple our children and ourselves biblically and theologically. Beyond these simple things, we individually go out into the world and do the work of the ministry in our own spheres. For some this means being a homemaker and serving especially the children. For others this means working in corporate America and seeking to be light in that darkness. For others it means laboring more diligently in charity. But to all of us it means seeking to make disciples where God has placed us geographically in the world.
We also seek to be simple in the things we do corporately, as much as possible. For example, we have simple music where another church might have more complicated music. This is a philosophy choice because it does not commit our church to one particular music style. We will sing doctrinal psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs from any era so long as they are congregationally singable. We encourage this additionally by providing music that aids in the singability of any song we sing. Many modern songs were not written to be sung as a congregation, and so textually are too busy or rhythmically are too complex. This is not to dismiss doctrinal hymns, but it is to say that poetic form and how it fits the congregational context is important for singing. This is because good poetry distills complex meaning into smaller packages and incorporates a human rhythm (we call this a catchy tune). We do attempt songs that are more difficult to sing if the words warrant it. The simplicity allows for more variation and change as we progress through time. So we are not just a church tied to a hymnal and as we grow, we will continue to seek to update our music, which is why we have introduced new songs from time to time. These emphases place our focus on the truth we are singing about and the congregation that is singing it to one another and to God.
These two things are ways we practice being a simple church. There are many other outgrowths to this principle. It does not mean that we regularly take a break from gathering (as is the habit of some) or that we don’t need to live evangelistically. Each of us ought to be burdened by the demand of the Christian life to participate in the life of a local body of Christ and to make disciples of all nations. Being a simple church still means being a gathered church and in fact it means placing high value on that gathering as the essential place where we worship, equip, encourage and disciple.