Friday, December 28, 2012

Personal Preferences or God's Word

Earlier this week I got involved in a discussion on Facebook. The discussion was started by an honest question asked by an innovative church planter serving a very traditional part of the nation. The question was whether he should hold his worship service on Sunday morning, or some other day of the week.

While I want to be very careful not to be judgmental of those who participated in the online discussion, it was obvious which ones were “traditional” in their thinking and which ones were “evangelistic” in their thinking. Though I would like to think that a person can be both, in that particular discussion, there were no such examples.

It is not the point of this article to promote the best time for a new church to hold a worship service. The point of this post is to address how self-centered many of the responses in that particular conversation were and how common that is in the Christian community. I have a growing concern, both about my own spiritual walk with the Lord, and regarding the walk of other Christian leaders I observe, who seem to think that our personal preferences are the same as God’s preferences. Let me give some examples from that specific discussion.

One person said they attended a church for a while that had a Saturday night service, but for a variety of reasons, it was just not convenient for them, therefore, it was better to have church on Sunday morning. The reasons they listed for why a Saturday night service was not convenient were exactly the same reasons people who do not attend church on Sunday morning often give. So the argument had nothing to do with spirituality, but became a discussion about what was convenient. The person wrongly concluded that what was convenient for her was the also the best way for everyone else.

Another person felt empowered to speak for non-believers, saying that they preferred a particular thing. However, in supporting the supposed views of non-believers, he only offered his own preference as a committed believer. I had a bit of trouble following his logic, but it almost seemed like he was saying, “If non-believers want to come, they need to get with the program and not expect us to make it easy for them.” That is extremely close to the attitude of the Pharisees in the New Testament, and Jesus did not speak highly of it.

Perhaps my favorite response was the older lady who tried to appeal to the Bible to prove her personal preference. She listed several verses that said the apostles worshipped on Sunday, and therefore we should too. I know I probably should not have taken the bait, but I just could not resist chiming into the conversation to remind her that the Bible says that the early Christians worshipped EVERY DAY of the week and that Paul directly addressed the issue of how some people held up one day as special, while others looked to a different day as being special, and that the important thing was to hold every day as holy unto the Lord. She never responded. Apparently only the verses in the Bible that support her position are important and we can conveniently forget the rest.

Though my readers may think I am promoting worship on alternative days of the week, remember, that is not the point I want to make. The point I want to make is how easy it is those of us who have grown up in a traditional Christian environment to substitute their own preferences for God’s. It is also easy for us to make selective use of a scripture or two in the effort to prove our viewpoint is right without looking at the whole canon of scripture. I believe this is why so many older established churches are stymied in their growth. Without realizing it, they have fallen into a rut of self-absorption and called it spirituality. Though they claim the Bible is the basis for why they do what they do, in actuality, their actions have a lot more to do with their personal preferences.

If we expect to reach America for Christ, we are going to have to give up our personal preferences and stop assuming that our opinion is God’s opinion. While our preferences may indeed work for us, they may not work for others. Though we must hold firmly to scripture, we must read those scriptures in context and apply them the way the Spirit wanted them applied, and not through the lens of our own private interpretation. If lost people think that Sunday morning at 11 AM is the time to meet God, then hold church at that time. But since increasing numbers of lost people are not showing up at that time, perhaps we should consider a different time. It may be inconvenient for those of us who have built that into our weekly schedule, but whoever said serving Jesus was supposed to be convenient?

Though this particular conversation may revolve around the best time to hold a worship service, it applies to anything a church does. When is the “best” time to hold small group Bible studies? What is the “best” way to support missions? What is the role of deacons (or elders)? How should the church budget be allocated? What kind of building should the church meet in? What kind of music should we use in our church? What version of the Bible should we preach from? The lists of questions go on and on. The answers are not always easy to discover. But if we are to see America reached with the Gospel, our answers must not be based on our personal preferences with a thinly veiled facade of spirituality over it. These questions must be answered by a complete study of God’s Word, with a commitment to leave our personal preferences out of the conversation. If we can do that (and it will not be easy), we may find many lost people responding to the Gospel because the Gospel itself is not the problem. It has always been the solution. Our self-centeredness is the problem and I think it is time we start admitting it.

You may enjoy this post on a similar subject, entitled, Tradition Idolatry, which can be found at:


  1. such challenging thoughts!!!!

  2. We build fences around ourselves and our churches and expect nonbelievers and the "formerly churched" to find their way though a very small gate at a specific time with the right clothes and the toll for the gate. Sounds ridiculous but that is our time. Preference vs conviction. Challenging topic.

  3. Very challenging topic Walt. But worth talking about again and again so that we can let the Spirit change us.

  4. I agree. Holy Spirit change is the driver in the Christian life.