Preface: I have tried my very best to explain that I am proud to be an American. Please read this blog with an open mind and heart. I am by no means seeking to slander the church or the United States.
This Tuesday our Nation celebrates the Fourth of July, an annual holiday in which we celebrate our independence as a nation and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. I love this time of the year! It’s a time when families gather together and grill awesome food, shoot fireworks and celebrate the freedoms we have in this great nation. And don’t get me wrong, we live in a great nation! Yes America has its problems, serious problems, but it is still the greatest place to live in the world. I am proud to be a citizen of America. I thank God that He created me and allowed me to exist at this time in the greatest country in the world. I am also thankful for the men and women who gave their lives for the freedoms we currently enjoy, many of whom I call family. Furthermore, I would have no problem serving in our Nations military if my country needed me. Truly.
That being said, I must confess that as a churchman, I have always been uneasy about how many churches conduct their worship services this time of the year. It’s typical for churches (especially in the Bible-belt) to conduct what is known as a “Patriotic” service. The traditional Patriotic songs (sometimes printed in the hymnals) are sung, like “America the Beautiful“ and the “Star-Spangled Banner“. Some churches even begin their services by reciting the pledge of Allegiance, as a large American flag adorns the front of the sanctuary. Red, white & blue decorations cover the sanctuary from the pews to the pulpit. Those who have served in our Nations military are typically honored, sometimes by performing a flag demonstration. The Pastor typically preaches on our Nations history; how the puritans came to America to escape religious persecution or how the founding fathers were Christian or how we need to get back to where we were at our Nations founding or how the mess we are in as a Nation is because they took the Bible out of the schools.
Let me be clear: I have no problem reciting the pledge of Allegiance nor singing our Nations patriotic songs. I have no problem with Ministers voicing their opinion on our Nations history and progression. I do have a problem, however, with churches forsaking the worship of God for a “Patriotic” service.
I want you to ask yourself something: Why do we gather for worship on Sundays?
- To share the gospel with the lost
- To sing hymns and give tithes
- To be reminded of what the church teaches
- To gather together with friends and family
- To celebrate the freedoms we possess; our Nation
- To earn favor with God and man
If you answered “yes” to any of the above statements, I strongly encourage you to reconsider. Just think about the meaning of the words “Worship Service/Gathering”.
Yes, churches are to share the gospel with the lost, gather together as friends and family and collect tithes, but that is not its primary purpose. The purpose of the church’s gathering on the Sabbath is the worship and adoration of God by the administration of the sacraments, the expository exultation of Gods Holy word, and the singing of praises by Gods people. The worship gathering is when the community of faith gathers to glory in and find hope, peace, assurance & joy in serving our God.
To put it simply: the Sabbath is not about you. It’s not about us. It’s not about America. God created the sabbath for us to worship Him. It is a time for the redeemed of God to rest in the excellencies of our Savior.
Why would we model our services any other way?
Who are we gathering to worship on Sunday?
As a Children’s Pastor I have caught flack over the years for not having our children recite the pledge of allegiance during Vacation Bible School. This year I finally caved and gave in, not wanting to cause any unnecessary division. I have tried repeatedly over the years to state my case (it’s not due to lack of patriotism, but rather I find no Biblical basis for it), but to no avail. As a young minister, this church/patriotism conundrum disturbs me greatly. It is not the church’s job to honor our Nation. It’s certainly not the church’s job to forsake the worship of God for the worship of our Nation.
We also have to remember that as faithful followers of Jesus, we are citizens of a greater country: the Kingdom of God. The United States of America is nothing but a drop in a bucket compared to Kingdom of God, which is composed of every tribe, people and Nation throughout human history.
Imagine yourself before the throne of God, singing hymns to God along with the angelic host. After singing “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD God almighty”, do you think you would turn to the hymn “America the beautiful”?
I highly doubt it.
Not because you are not a patriot or “un-American”. You would not sing that hymn in the presence of God because…you are in the presence of God! It’s not appropriate to sing praises to anyone else before the throne of God. When we gather for worship we are called to celebrate our sovereign, gracious, merciful God…and nobody else.
But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. -Hebrews 11:16
Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
and are accounted as the dust on the scales;
behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.