The church should be a place for people toand worship God. Yet, in recent years, our church has become society, the choir has become our church’s cash cow, and even the celebration of Passion Sunday has lost its meaning. The church is no longer a place where God is worshipped. What can we do?
By Xie Xinmin
In 2001, I believed in theand joined the church choir. Afterward, I usually sang hymns and danced to praise God, living in the joy every day.
The “Theater Troupe” of Our Church
One afternoon, several years later, while we were holding a rehearsal, the pastor said to us, “Make a preparation after going back. Tomorrow we’ll attend a man’s ninetieth birthday party.” Hearing his words, I thought that there would be many people to see our programs tomorrow, so we would surely bring more people before the Lord, which made me feel so delighted. Early next morning, I came to the church, singing hymns that praise God all the way. After putting on make-up and costumes and getting our properties and instruments arranged, everyone was vigorous and ready. At that time, the pastor said to us, “Thank the Lord! Brothers and sisters, we shall testify the Lord’s love and bring more people before the Lord through our programs. Therefore, in order that people can see the peace and joy of us believers in the Lord, we must apply ourselves and face audiences with a smile.” We all shouted: “Amen!” Then over twenty of us set out with beating gongs, sounding drums and singing loudly and sonorously.
Then the host guided us to a spacious hall enthusiastically. After the pastor’s offering his congratulations on the stage and leading us to recite the Lord’s, we started our programs. A series of activities gone over, the host invited us to have an abundant feast. During the meal, brothers and sisters proposed a toast, sent wishes and offered cigarettes and drinks to each other. Meantime, they said, “We don’t drink at ordinary times, but nor do we observe regulations. Today is a special case. Let’s make an exception.” Seeing their drinking and smoking, I felt so uneasy in my heart, thinking: How is the likeness of believers in God?
Afterward, whenever anyone held weddings or funerals or gave a feast for his new house or birthday, we would be invited to perform. Every time I would take an active part in it and do my best to perform. Until one day, a sister told me that the pastor received the money for every performance secretly. Hearing her words, I felt very upset and couldn’t calm down, thinking: Our singing and dancing are in order to testify the Lord’s name, spread Hisand gain His approval but not to make money. However, the pastor receives the money by it. Is his behavior after the Lord’s heart? What difference is there between his behavior and unbelievers’?
One day, I read these words in the, “You are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his flavor, with which shall it be salted? it is thereafter good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it gives light to all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Mat 5:13-16). These words of the Lord allowed me to see that we, as Christians, should have pious hearts to praise and worship the Lord and live out the likeness required by Him. Only by doing so could we glorify the Lord’s name. However, acting in the name of “believing in the Lord and spreading the gospel,” the pastor leaded brothers and sisters to attend wedding feasts of unbelievers, but received the money in secret and gained benefits from it. Moreover, it resulted that brothers and sisters were occupied by worldly stuff, following trends to smoke and drink, and became dissolute and unrestrained. How could this be being the light and the salt? The Bible says, “You adulterers and adulteresses, know you not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (Jas 4:4). Now we obeyed pastors’ and elders’ words to follow worldly stuff. Consequently, the choir that praised God was turned into a theater troupe that extracts money, and the church became a social group where we conduct our own business. Wasn’t what we did evildoing and a dishonor to God’s name? I couldn’t help thinking of the later period of the Age of Law. At that time, the Pharisees lost their reverence for God. They turned the temple into a den of thieves where people sold cattle, sheep, and doves, and exchanged money. At last, they suffered the curse of the Lord. Similarly, now we believe in the Lord but can’t keep the way of the Lord. Is there any difference between the church and the temple at the end of the Age of Law? Can we be approved by the Lord if we continue with such manner of faith? Will we become the evildoers that the Lord Jesus spoke of? Just as He once said, “And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity” (Mat 7:23)? For this, I was filled with anxiety.
One Sunday afternoon in April, brothers and sisters went to the church to attend the memorial ceremony of the Passion of the Lord Jesus. After the pastor’s prayer and our singing hymns, he led us to read the Bible, “And he took bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and gave to them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you” (Luk 22:19-20). Whenever we read the Scripture after a series of ceremonies, we were so moved by the Lord’s great love that we cried bitterly and kept praying and crying out for the kind Savior Jesus. Then, two servants of the church came up to us with a plate carried in their hands. There was grape juice and unleavened bread on the plate. They demanded that each of us couldn’t get the juice or bread unless we put 20 yuan in the plate. If we didn’t have enough money by us, we could borrow it from acquaintances. As a last resort, we could put 10 yuan in the plate. Then the crowd was thrown into chaos. Some people looked for their acquaintances all over to borrow money. The pious atmosphere of people’s remembering the Lord before Him all disappeared, and instead the meeting place was in a mess. When the two servants came up to me, because I didn’t get any money by me, they didn’t allow me to take the holy meals and directly walked past me. This scene made me feel unspeakable sadness in my heart: Is this thinking of the Savior? We must pay before taking the holy meals. This practice is not after the Lord’s heart. How could this happen? I really didn’t see it.
At that time, brothers and sisters began a discussion, one brother of whom said, “What happened today makes me think of the words of the Lord Jesus, ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess’ (Mat 23:25). ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like to white washed sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness’ (Mat 23:27). I think our pastor is similar to the Pharisees exposed by the Lord Jesus. The Lord shed His blood for us to save us. Why must we pay before drinking the cup of the Lord? It isn’t the church where people worship the Lord Jesus. Are they not extorting money openly? Is it the Lord’s church?” One sister continued, “Right! Now in our church the pastor collects money in different ways. On the exterior wall of the church is a piece of big red paper, on which is written the amount of the money each believer donated. As a result, everyone donates more money for the sake of self-respect, comparing himself to each other. At the same time, the pastor uses this opportunity to receive more money. The Lord Jesus said, ‘But when you do alms, let not your left hand know what your right hand does: That your alms may be in secret: and your Father which sees in secret himself shall reward you openly’ (Mat 6:3-4). It’s clear that their behavior contradicts the Lord’s intention.” Another brother said with indignation, “It’s much more than this. I heard that a new pastor would be transferred to our church. He put forward his demands for a well-decorated house equipped with air conditioning, color TV and other furniture. Besides, he demanded that his whole family live in the church. Is it not just as the Lord Jesus says, ‘For you are like to white washed sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness’ (Mat 23:27) ?”
After hearing these words, I was full of emotional thoughts: Alas, the church is turned into a place of social trade and the pastors treat believing in God as their bread and butter. Are they not the modern hypocritical Pharisees? Is this the church where people worship the Lord Jesus? Then, several brothers and sisters all said, “These things are so discouraging. In my view, this’s not the church where people worship the Lord. In our church there is no the Lord’s presence. We should look for the church with the presence of the Lord.” They said that which was in my heart: Right! We must look for the church with the work of the Holy Spirit.