I would not be a Christian today if there were no experience of the risen Christ to be had on this side of heaven, and it all had to be taken on faith.
The Bible tells us to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps.34:8) and thankfully there are hors d’oeurves from the smorgasbord of heaven to be enjoyed on this earth. “In your presence there is fullness of joy,” King David wrote (Ps.16:11). Jesus promised we would hear his voice, and receive an outpouring of love, joy and peace in our hearts if we followed him.
But…(in true Christianity there must always be balance)…we must be careful with our craving for experience. We live in an age which idolizes experience. You can’t just walk into a coffee shop to buy coffee. You must experience coffee, which requires a certain atmosphere when you walk in, and certain music, and certain decore.
So we must be careful, because this same need for experience which our culture has instilled in us can easily transfer over to our walk of faith, and we’ll subconsciously make the experience of God our focus, and not God.
So why is this so bad? Here’s an important reason:
When we’re obsessed with experience it may make us forget that at the center of our faith is a cross.
Back in the first century, there were groups of traveling speakers, much like today, and what the believers did is they became groupies of their favorite preacher or teacher. Whoever put on the best show, became their favorite speaker. Paul has to rebuke them for this. “My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’, another, ‘I follow Apollos’, another, ‘I follow Cephas.” (1 Cor.1:11-12)
Here is where Paul steps in to remind them in verse 18 of something they had apparently forgotten. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
Yes, the pastor and the worship team need to do the best job they can to make sure things are done with excellence, and not call attention to themselves by being too sloppy or too boring. But when it’s all said and done, it’s not about you-in-the-pew experiencing a good show. It’s about a band of brothers and sisters in a local community gathering around the cross of Jesus Christ, to worship Him, to confess sins to each other, to pray for one another, to hear his word simply taught.
It’s a dagger to any pastor’s heart to watch his people flock to the latest, greatest megachurch because they put on a better show. It’s a dagger to any pastor’s hearts to hear his sermons compared to Charles Stanley or Chuck Swindoll or Rick Warren. Few pastors can compete with this.
But when believers treat going to church the same way they treat going to the movies – where are they going to get the most bang for their buck? – this is what you get. There is a time and place to be looking for a new church – don’t get me wrong – but this is not it. These are not the reasons.
Paul says, “It’s not about signs, miracles, flashiness, eloquence – it’s about Christ crucified.” Which is not a very glamorous thing – but that’s where all the power is at – it’s you at the feet of a splintered, blood-stained cross.