Unwritten Rules in the Modern Day Church

New Covenant Grace – Graham Prinsloo

th-3“If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference. The average church has so established itself organizationally and financially that God is simply not necessary to it. So entrenched is its authority and so stable are the religious habits of its members that God could withdraw Himself completely from it and it could run on for years on its own momentum.” (A.W. Tozer)

The way in which modern day churches are set up, it works so well for most people that the issues which plague them about their local church seem small and insignificant when set against the backdrop of how much good they believe their church is doing. Some folks wonder about where all the money goes that disappears down the offering baskets on Sundays. Others wonder what their Pastor gets up to during the rest of the week (apart from preparing his next sermon). Some ponder about the young couple who got kicked out the previous week for disagreeing with something that the Pastor preached two weeks ago. There is also the flashy new sound system that booms the Pastor’s voice right to the back seats, while everybody is whispering about the beggars who were evicted from the isolated corner of the church’s property for squatting. But surely every church has its problems, right?


There are scores of unwritten rules that are deeply embedded in the minds and the core belief systems of people who are involved in any form of secular church. Any form of structured church has ethical boundaries (however subtle they may be) and the liberty of letting Christ express His life through us is always limited by those boundaries. More often than not, the boundaries of “order” and “reason” within structured church gatherings extinguish the promptings of the Spirit. People then rather choose to back down for fear of being corrected or judged by those who govern that institution.

Although it’s very general and obviously non exhaustive, the following list resembles many of the unwritten rules found in today’s secular church world:

People are not allowed to interrupt the preacher while he is delivering his sermon. The sermon has been elevated to the position of being the pinnacle of a Sunday morning. There are people who sometimes drive for over an hour to get to a certain church to hear a specific Pastor deliver his sermon. Nothing can detract from the sermon – it’s unheard of and will probably have consequences for the person who raises their hand to ask the Pastor a question about something they’ve just said.
In the majority of churches people are not allowed to disagree with the preacher’s sermon after he has delivered it, whether he talked nonsense, quoted scriptures out of context, mixed law in with New Covenant theology, or not. This greatly subtracts from the preacher’s accountability towards the message that he conveys and allows the doctrine in that church to remain unchallenged, even by the most spirit filled, devoted and truth-seeking members sitting in the pews.
If somebody in the church has not been formally ordained within a certain capacity or obtained a formal qualification from a recognized religious organization, they are not allowed to regularly bring teaching and instruction to the congregation. Being filled with the Holy Spirit and having a deep, personal relationship with Jesus are not considered as adequate criteria to be able to effectually communicate our faith.
It is not commonly acceptable to conduct a church service without singing some songs as well.
Only trained, talented and formally appointed musicians are allowed to lead the crowd in music.
The musicians are mostly given a certain allocated time slot within which to complete their rehearsed list of songs. If the Pastor allows them to continue for longer than originally planned, the worship is generally considered to have been very anointed.
It is generally unacceptable for church members to teach and share the gospel to other church members without the approval or outside of the “covering” of somebody in a leadership position in their church.
It’s the duty of the church members to financially contribute to their church to ensure its continued existence, due to expenses such as salaries, building maintenance, utility accounts, rent or mortgage, etc.
All church members are expected to actively engage themselves in the church’s activities and programs.
Regular church attendance, a strong personality, frequent involvement in church activities, consistent financial contributions and an appearance of a moral lifestyle are all pre-requisites for being formally appointed into a position of leadership within a church.
Formalism and legalism are not prevalent in all churches. Yet in the secular church system, especially those with a charismatic flavor, people tend to think they are free because they are allowed to clap or jump up and down at the appropriate times during the carefully planned program. The very fact that we are actually able to classify our “brand” of church by being able to place ourselves within a certain flavor of corporate structure, is overwhelming evidence that we are in fact, controlled by a system.

This is a distant cry from the dispensation of where every believer has the freedom to be able contribute to the church meeting. If the “Christian life” is viewed by outsiders as going to a building on Sunday mornings to listen to the same guy’s opinion of God week after week, to sing a few happy songs and throw some money in an offering basket, it’s vital that we need to get to the bottom of the problem! For too long has this issue been covered up under the banners of “love” and “unity”. But true love isn’t simply a pacifying, soothing call for unity. It isn’t just a “let’s get along despite our differences”, watered down, “turn a blind eye to this or that issue” emotion. It’s not conducive to just play nice, hold hands and sing “ring-a-rosies”, hoping that the problem will go away automatically with time. Somebody’s got to stick up their hand and say: “Hold on guys, something’s wrong here! What can we do to fix it?”

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