Expectations on Christians


“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by people.” ~ Matthew 5:13

One common assumption among evangelical or protestant Christians is the regular attendance of church on Sundays and the “bonus points” one gets if they attend additionally during the week , such as small groups. In one small group I was attending during Lent this year, it was expected that I attend every week. Since other things have come up and I was unable to go, I started receiving emails from members of the group asking about how I was and why I missed last week’s Bible study. There is already an expectation that I attend every Thursday night for Bible study. It is as if Bible study should be first on my list of priorities and the lack of attendance means that something is wrong with the absent “member”. Since when has God expected this of me? Since when has it been OK for others to assume something is wrong when I don’t attend or that it is every good Christian’s responsibility to attend extracurricular events with the church?

The small groups at this particular church advertises themselves as “open to Christians and seekers” yet in every Bible study they begin with an awkward a cappella worship that would embarrass any “seeker” as it already made me feel embarrassed among my fellow brothers and sisters. I do not understand how this style of worship has become so unquestionably accepted as if it is a real requirement made by God that all Christians must open up every Christian event with singing.

Church is very similar to small groups except that their expectations are often more rigid. Church begins with worship—everyone standing and singing. Then there is the uncomfortable pause in the middle where people “turn to greet their neighbor” which is always too long and too short at the same time. After worship is over, there is often the release of children to Sunday School, announcements, a prayer, a scripture reading, another prayer, the sermon, another prayer, the worship team plays a song, the offering, communion, and benediction. Altogether it is about an hour and a half. Everything is so well timed and ordered. This makes me wonder what the purpose of it all is and why it is vital for every Christian to attend every single week and then some, and shameful if they don’t.

I believe in the importance of having a community of faith to share struggles and encouragement, yet not everyone should be expected to express or share or worship the way others do. Just as we are beginning to understand now that children learn in all different ways in school and that a standard teaching method will not work for every child, so it is with our spiritual growth. Church attendance should not be mandatory—although no one dare says it is, the expectation to attend is just as much there as it is for students to go to school.

I personally enjoy a more traditional liturgy style in churches as I like attending lectures and hearing lessons. The formality of more traditional services entices me because I know what to expect. I prefer order and structure, and I occasionally will attend church to have it. This may be true of many people as well. Yet repetition bores me and I purposefully do not attend weekly for the sake that I will not become complacent. The modern U.S. protestant church makes it easy to feel like one is a Christian if they do XYZ but nowhere in the Bible does it require Christians to have this rubric.

In a way, I feel that this can scrutinize a spiritual life. If one is in the mindset that God favors them if they do ABC, such as following a rigid church program, or subscribing to certain social/political assumptions, then what room is there for real growth? There becomes too much church involvement that there is little real world application. We are to be the salt of the earth, but if we retreat to church in all our free time, we are only making ourselves exclusive to the world and tasteless. Non-Christians start seeing believers as boring, unadventurous, and following a list of rules. Is this really the liberation God has given us through Christ? Did he suffer so that we feel guilty if we do not do not get involved in church ministries or raise our hands in church worship? The standards the Church upholds on its congregation can be burdensome as well as mundane. People begin to lose their appetite for Scripture. Outsiders notice this and have no interest having a taste of bland culture.

I find it humorous that evangelical Christians often proclaim that unlike Orthodox or Catholicism, the protestant churches do not have rituals and that salvation does not depend on works.

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    • Contrariwise
    • September 10th, 2010

    I was just thinking today about how odd worship really is–that is, not worship itself, but the cultural adaptation that has become the standard in most churches: singing. I know that the Bible speaks of song as a form of praise, but probably not for 20 minutes every single Sunday, communally, and with lots of cool tunes. I do find importance in using music/song for worship–but I suppose I don’t think it should be a requirement in the church liturgy. It isn’t wrong to worship this way, but it’s wrong to think that it’s a must.

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