Have you ever gone to church and left the worship service angry? There are numerous reasons why this could happen on any given Sunday.
Sometimes it happens when attempting to worship in a toxic environment. Unfortunately, toxic churches are more prevalent than we realize. In many cases these are fellowships where factions and divisions have developed. Oh, in case you think that is just a symptom of unhealthy 21st century American churches, take a look throughout church history and read the letters of Paul. This was happening from the very beginning.
When the fellowship of believers is at odds, it sometimes leads to sermons and musical experiences that feel more like personal attacks than worship. I remember one church I was in as a child where the pastor and deacons were having a "disagreement." So, the next Sunday a guest speaker was preaching and he ranted about "demon deacons" for about 45 minutes. No, he was not referring to Wake Forest University. Needless to say, lunchtime wasn't fun that day. Everyone left angry. I was only angry because I saw that everyone else was and thought that was what I was supposed to be feeling. Amazing how kids mimic what adults model.
Sometimes people get angry after a worship service because the sermon was more of political speech or candidate endorsement. There are people in our church, and probably reading this, that wish I would speak more plainly regarding the politics of the day and especially the presidential election. There are others in our same fellowship that wish I would never allude to anything that has to do with politics. It's a tight rope of sorts. My conviction is that the time we have set aside for the preaching of the Word and the corporate worship of God on Sundays must not be clouded with anything else but a focus on Him. This is not always easy. Some churches, especially on holiday weekends such as Memorial Day and Independence Day, appear more like a political rally or convention than a church. I am so very proud of our nation and those who have worn and do wear the uniforms of our military. However, to "wrap the cross with a flag" seems inappropriate at so many levels. We cannot ignore the warnings of our "jealous God" about putting anything else above or equal to Him. Well, that's a message for another day. Simply put - be a good American (if you are reading this in America and you are an American) and be involved in the community, civic and even political venues of life. Just remember, as a believer, you cannot divorce your faith from these areas. So, be the church in the world. Just make sure to not elevate country or patriotism or political drive to that reserved only for God.
Sometimes people leave church angry on Sunday because someone sat in their seat, parked in their parking spot, ate the last doughnut in small group or other such serious infraction. To these people, we lovingly say "get a life."
There are those who leave angry every week because they do not like things about the worship service such as the music, volume of the music, the temperature of the building, being asked to sit closer to the stage, etc. These tend to be preference issues and will most likely be issues as long as human beings are the ones attending church. We have a hard time remembering that the worship service is not about us. All of us struggle with this. It's a constant battle.
There is an appropriate time to get angry. When false doctrine is being taught from the pulpit, that is cause for righteous anger. When this is the case, the one teaching the false doctrine should be removed.
Then, there's the big one. I received a message Monday evening from a mom whose son attended worship on Sunday. He came with his girlfriend and neither had been in church for over a year. The son grew up in church and had heard the truth of the Gospel over and over again. The young lady does not have the same type of church background. After greeting and welcoming them and others, our service began. Sunday's message was pretty pointed. Well, most of them are. The focus was on what is often considered the most intolerant statement in Scripture. The passage in John 14 where Jesus stated this. . .
There it is, plain as day. Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father. There's no other route to salvation or heaven or hope or peace. It's Jesus and Jesus alone.
Apparently, this statement, along with explanation and other verses in John 14 offended our guests. They left angry. The Gospel had angered them. I was informed I angered them by the mother. She was not angry at all. In fact, she called it clearly. The son is running from God and avoiding the truth. The young lady is not a believer and doesn't understand the message of the Gospel. The sad thing is that this past Sunday, as is the case every Sunday, I shared the truth of the Gospel clearly and with a plea to respond in love.
Yet. . .some left angry.
Angry at the Gospel.
Angry at the narrow way to God.
Angry that there are expectations of those who call themselves children of God.
Angry that we cannot use Jesus like some type of "good luck spiritual accessory" and truly believe in Him.
Angry that we don't get to write the rules.
Angry that God so loved.
I also heard that one young man asked his mother throughout the message why I was so angry. She kept trying to explain that I wasn't. . .and I wasn't. I listened to the audio recording of the message. I did get loud on occassion. I did clearly state some things that were challenging. However, I wasn't angry.
Look at it this way. Apart from Jesus Christ and being fully devoted to Him, there's no chance for people. Heaven is not an option for those who do not know Christ. Those who are "good people" in this world do not get heaven. Those who are "sincere" and "devout" in this world do not get heaven. Only those who take that narrow way and receive and believe in Jesus Christ will know the Father and have heaven as an eternal home.
So, I'm passionate. If God can use me to shake us from our complacency and a cultural Christianity that just sees church as something good to attend every now and then, then so be it. I proudly receive that task.
Maybe to some the cross is offensive, but I believe what is more offensive to the unbelieving world are those who claim to believe in the cross and have faith but live nothing like the one who hung on that cross.
If I offend you because I preach the truth, so be it.
If I offend you because I preach the truth, yet do not live it, woe to me.