A very revealing study was done, leading to a book detailing how 300 churches went from declining or dying, to growing. In Comeback Churches, written by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson, there is a list of 30 different barriers to church growth. Having received permission from the publisher (B&H Publishing Group), I would like to discuss a different barrier each week.
Traditional practices are done without a heart for God (Malachi 1:6ff).
A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name? – Malachi 1:6 NIV
In a reading of Malachi 1:6-14 it is obvious that God is greatly offended by priests who care little about the One to whom the sacrifices are being made. They offer “polluted” and “blind” offerings, and for what? To gain His approval?
In verse six God was saying, “Look, you give more honor and respect to men than Me. Am I not greater than mere men?” Of course He is, so what was their problem? Did they not care what God would think of inferior offerings?
Essentially, God views giving anything less than one’s best nothing more than an insult to Who He is. God deserves better than the best we would give as a present on Father’s Day. He deserves far, far better than we would give to an employer on Boss’s Day. He is God. We should give Him our best. Period.
“But how have we despised your name?“
Maybe we should ask the same question. Are our churches not growing? It might be because we “despise His name” with our poorly executed traditions, our just-getting-by attempts at worship, or our whatever’s-in-my-pocket-besides-the-big-bill offerings.
Notice that Stetzer and Dodson are not putting down traditional practices, only those which are done “without a heart for God.” For many in the church, these practices are only a list to check off, not a means to express appreciation to our Father and LORD. And without true worship, traditional practices suffer the neglect associated with only doing what is necessary to get by. Our God deserves so much better.
Who gets the best effort?
Just take a moment and compare they way we do things on the job, or at school, as compared with worship. What if God gave a paycheck each Sunday based on the way we fulfill our worship duties? What if he gave a grade for how well we listened to and studied His word? Would we even care if poor performance would result in getting fired or expelled?
We say, “God is good – He wouldn’t do such a thing!” And that is one reason why many churches don’t grow. We do enough, we give enough, we sacrifice enough to get by; but without a real heart for God. We never stop to consider that He might be offended…angered…hurt.
What a shame. Why would He want us to multiply?