I hate opera. And Brussels sprouts. And spiders.
But I'm glad they exist. Because they all serve important functions.
Saying I don't like something is not the same as saying it's bad.
Opera isn't bad. In fact, it's artistically important and brings joy to many people. It just doesn't float my boat.
But sometimes we have a hard time distinguishing between things we dislike and things that are wrong. For too many people, "I don't like it" is virtually indistinguishable from "this is bad."
This lack of discernment is bad. Really and truly bad. Especially in the church.
When we elevate matters of taste to the level of right and wrong, we undercut our moral authority. It causes others to distrust us when we speak on things that truly are wrong.
As mature believers in Jesus – especially as Christian leaders – we should be able to tell the difference between our personal preferences and moral absolutes.
For example, here are five things I dislike, even though I know they have value. (Plus a few bonus mentions at the end.)
1. Theological Disagreements
It would be great if we all agreed on exactly the right theology all the time. But we don't. And we never will this side of heaven.
So I've learned to appreciate the value of disagreeing agreeably – you know, without calling someone a heretic for having a different Second Coming timeline than I have.
In fact, I've come to be distrustful of any group of Christians who seem to be too agreeable on every fine point of theology. It makes me wonder who's hiding what – and why they're afraid of speaking up.
When non-essential theological disagreements are vocalized strongly, but respectfully, it's usually a sign of a healthy spiritual and theological environment.
2. Blended Worship Styles
Musical styles are changing.
What inspires one generation bores the next one. And what excites this one, confuses the previous one.
Some churches are attempting to smooth these waters and please everyone by blending musical styles within the same church service. Mix in the new with the old.
The usual result? Neither style is done well and no one is happy.
I can't stand it.
Pick a lane.
I love a church that knows their identity and expresses it unapologetically.
- Liturgical? Let's hear that pipe organ roar.
- Southern Gospel? Turn up the twang.
- Contemplative? Bask in the intimate solitude.
- Contemporary? Rock it.
- Hipster? I'll have a Chai Latte – no foam.
We have to stop referring to worship styles that don't appeal to our ear as shallow, out-of-touch or any other negative epithet.
Especially when it comes to music. Music is very personal. When you criticize someone's songs, you're criticizing them.
You don't have to like it. But the fact that it doesn't work for you doesn't make it wrong.
So, I have to swallow hard and say this. If blended worship works for your church, I'm thankful that it does.
3. Politics from the Pulpit
I almost never speak about politics in the pulpit. And I’m never partisan. This has nothing to do with avoiding hard subjects or fear of reprisal. It's just not what I'm called to do.
I cringe every time I hear a pastor make partisan political statements – even ones I agree with.
But I believe every church should always have the right to do so, and any law that infringes on that right is unjust.
So preach with heart, preach with passion, and even preach politically if you feel called to do so. I'll be over here cringing – even as I support your right to do it.
4. Narrow Demographic Churches
Most people like hanging out with those who look and think like they do. Churches are no exception to that. That's why it's easier to grow a church when you target a narrow demographic group.
I'm not a fan.
I prefer a church that reflects the ages, races, ethnicities, political parties (and more) of the community around them.
But I also understand that not all churches will be like that. In heavily populated areas, for instance, there will be a lot of churches that lean heavily towards a specific race, culture, language or something else.
So, while I think we should have less segregation in churches, I also appreciate celebrating a specific culture and history in churches with a narrow demographic.
5. Dressing Up for Church
I cut off my tie in the pulpit over two decades ago. Literally cut it off with scissors. And I've never looked back.
I wear a suit and tie when the situation calls for it (some funerals, weddings, ordination services and so on). But I don't like it. And nothing you can say will make me like it.
But I get those who do like it. For many people, wearing your Sunday best is a sign of respect.
But please know this. While dressing up may be a sign of respect for you, dressing casually is not a sign of disrespect from me.
I worship more freely when I feel more comfortable and less self-conscious. A suit and tie makes me think about the suit and tie. Casual clothes help me forget about what I'm wearing (or what anyone else is wearing) and concentrate on worshiping Jesus instead.
If that works differently for you, great. For you.
I don't like a suit and tie. You don't like dressing casually. I'm not disrespectful. You're not stuffy.
Let's just worship Jesus.
(Not Dis)Honorable Mentions:
While I'm on a roll, here are a few more things that I don't like, but I'm grateful we have them.
Megachurches: they're great for a lot of people, they're just not for me.
House Churches: some people love them, but I prefer worshipping in a neutral third place, not someone else's (or my) house.
Fake Flowers on Stage: cuz they're fake.
Smoke Machines: too smoky.
Steeples: too poky.
Neckties: too choke-y.
Readers Without a Sense of Humor: they can't take a joke-y.
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