The Proper Church

Pastor Mike will be speaking on The Proper Church.

(Eli Torres) I’m Eli Torres, and I’m here with Pastor Mike Sanders of the Open Door Church, thank you for joining the Hope Worth Having podcast. Today we’re going to be talking about the proper church, or how a church should work biblically, and I think it’ll be a great conversation. And I think you have a lot of perspective on that with your years in ministry. So my first question for you is, what is the church?

(Mike Sanders) Wow, that’s a heavy question right there. But, you know, the different theologians throughout the centuries have kind of defined the church as being a place where God’s people gather, the Word of God is taught, and the ordinances are practiced. And so I think in one sense, that is the church, but also it is that we know the Greek word is ekklesia, which means called out ones, and those who are called out of the world to gather and to worship the Lord. And so that’s kind of the way I see when I think about the church as far as a definition that would be official or something like that.

(Eli Torres) You know, if you walk down any random street, you’re bound to find one, two, three different churches with all types of different names. So how does someone, you know, find a church that aligns with what the Bible says? Can I just look at a sign and say that’s the church, or how do I go about that?

(Mike Sanders) Well, I definitely wouldn’t make my decision based on the name of the church, the sign of the church, or the website of the church. Because there are a lot of times that what is really happening has nothing to do with what the church sign says, or even the website. And what I would be most interested in is… is the word of God being taught. And of course, for me, I would be a big proponent of being expository in their preaching and teaching God’s word verse by verse or chapter by chapter, at least by an understanding of the text and the context of what is being proclaimed. And then a place where the gospel is proclaimed. And, uh, that Jesus Christ has lifted up on a regular basis. Now there are many different names out there for churches and denominations. And sometimes people struggle with that and they see that as a barrier. I don’t because I feel like that, um, first of all, that they, Sometimes these church’s names or their denominations define their theology. And I think that’s helpful because if you don’t fit into that particular theology, at least you kind of know what to look for, what not to look for. And then second of all, it might define, uh, the style. A lot of the church names now are about their style. And so, uh, look, there are different styles of worship. There are different styles of even teaching the word of God. Um, but that’s because there’s different, there’s, uh, there’s so many different types of people, and what works for one particular person may not work for another. So I welcome it all as long as they’re teaching the Bible.

(Eli Torres) Yeah. So how do you distinguish between, you know, cause, uh, Jehovah’s witnesses, that’s a little bit more than style. Um, whereas, you know, another denomination might be style. So how do you determine the difference between style and substance?

(Mike Sanders) Well, I think that it begins with what is their statement of faith. Okay. And so I would want to know their statement of faith and then I would want to know second of all, is that statement of faith being taught in the pulpit? And then thirdly, is it being practiced by the people? Okay. All right. And so for me, some people might want a style, uh, that’s more liturgical, more formal, more, uh, reflective in their worship service. Others may want a lot of energy and excitement and perhaps even noise. Um, but either way, it doesn’t matter to me. The most important thing is that we are focused on what are the true tenets of the faith and that the word of God is being taught and the people are living out what they’re being taught.

(Eli Torres) So, uh, this is kind of going to go down a little. bit of a rabbit trail, but if you follow me, I have a question in there. So there are some churches out in California. They claim to be Christ-following churches. They claim to be believers, but at the center of their worship, they use Beyonce lyrics. So Beyonce is a pretty wide-known singer, and I wouldn’t say that her songs are moral, but they say that her songs bring people to God. So is that possible to use the secular to worship God?

(Mike Sanders) Well, that’s a trick question. First of all, I don’t want you to be under the assumption that I don’t know who Beyonce is. And I see that in your countenance, but I do know who Beyonce is. I’m not saying I agree with Beyonce, nor do I even listen to her music, but she has ran across my screen probably a few times watching a football game or something. But, so, I guess the way I would understand this question is because you said, can the secular, uh, be a gateway to bringing people to God?

(Eli Torres) Yeah.

(Mike Sanders) It’s kind of like what you’re saying. So I would say this that, um, in general, no. Okay. Because you see the spirit speaks to the spirit, the spirit of God speaks to the spirit and the flesh appeals to the flesh. And so if you’re going to use fleshly means to try to awaken a soul, to repent and believe in Christ, ultimately it’s going to be a failure. But on the flip side is that, you know, certainly I’m not opposed to using things in this world that are secular and churches do it all the time. Even if they deny it, they do, uh, secular things to try to appeal or be winsome or to attract unbelievers to their congregation or to their ministry or their outreach programs. And again, we see this a lot. Now, where is that threshold? I mean, I heard about a church one time that had a cage fighting that was their evangelism outreach. Okay. Now I just, you know, I struggle with that because you know, uh, the great, um, Adrian Rogers, the pastor in Memphis, uh, he’s now in heaven, but he was at Bellevue Baptist church. And he used to tell us at pastors’ conference that whatever you attract them with, it’s going to take 20 times more to keep them. And he would always tell us to attract them with the word of God, attract them with the truth of God. And that’s what I feel like is that if you’re bored with church, if you’re bored with God, if you’re bored with the word of God, there’s, it’s not the word of God. That’s a fall. It’s not the preacher. That’s a fall. It’s not even the style of the worship. What’s at fault is your heart. where’s your heart that has been awakened by God and drawn to God and you have a desire to grow in the knowledge of the Lord and his grace.

(Eli Torres) yeah yeah so these people at these services where Beyonce is being sung yeah some of it it’s even going as far as to incorporate it in worship so they’ll lift their hands and there isn’t a verse about Jesus in the line because you know it’s Beyonce lyrics, can you use that to bring your spirit closer to God?

(Mike Sanders) no, I don’t think so I think that there is your secular I think it’s fleshly I think that all they’re doing is moving people emotionally and yes there are millions of people that respond emotionally but they have never been truly born again It’s the spirit that quickens the heart. It’s the spirit that draws us. It’s the spirit that awakens us to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. So I wrote a paper on, I need to turn it into a book, but it’s called The Theology of Evangelism. And so your theology of evangelism is going to impact your methodology of evangelism. And if you believe that you can be saved by the means of emotions and flesh or secular, then obviously that’s what you’re going to use. But if you believe that only the word of God and the spirit of God can awaken a heart to new life, then that’s what you use.

(Eli Torres) Yeah, yeah. So in that same vein of just worship, how does a church determine what is right and wrong? So obviously Beyonce lyrics are probably way on the one side of wrong, but I think there can be some songs that are close to right, but then they miss it on the mark.How do we know like, okay, this form of worship is good and this probably we should stay away from.

(Mike Sanders) Yeah, I think what you’re trying to say, are you more interested in the music or are you more interested in the whole worship service?

(Eli Torres) Yeah, the whole worship service. So not necessarily just the music, but.

(Mike Sanders) Yeah, so I think a worship service should be pointing us to Jesus. So every means ought to be doing that. Second of all, I think that worship should be supported by the word of God. So the apostle Paul told Timothy to make sure that he did not forsake the reading of scripture. And so it’s not just personally, but corporately. And so I think the church needs to read the Bible and unbelievably, I know this is hard for a lot of pastors to grasp, but I would say that 80% of your people have never read the Bible that week. And at this point, this is the first time in their service that they are actually reading scripture. You know what I’m saying?

(Eli Torres) Yeah, how do you think then a pastor or a leadership team counters that? How do we get people motivated to, don’t just wait till Sunday to read, but be engaged?

(Pastor Mike) Well, I think maybe, again, it begins with evaluating scripture, teaching scripture, and then making it a part of the service, okay? So there are many ways you can do that. But once you demonstrate it as leadership, that we are centering our worship around what God’s word says. And we don’t want our worship service to be man-centered or people-centered. We want it to be God-centered. And we want it to lift up Christ. Jesus said, if I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me. And what he means is all kinds of people will be drawn to him if he’s lifted up. And then I think there needs to be an undercurrent of discipleship and Bible studies that are teaching God’s people. how to read the scriptures. I just did a class on Sunday night teaching people how to read the Bible and giving them step-by-step plans.

(Eli Torres) Yeah, I remember when I first got saved and thinking I’m gonna start in Genesis and I’m gonna go all the way through and I do that. I fizzled out. How would you say then? How should a new believer, how should someone who’s just getting into faith, you know, they hear you in a church service saying we need to be Bible center, we need to be focused on the Word. So where would you, you know, kind of gauge them and start them off?

(Mike Sanders) Right at the beginning, as I would even an unbeliever, is to read the gospel of John. I would really encourage people because not only of its simplicity but because that John takes these unique miracles and confirms and validates the deity of Jesus Christ and that’s where it begins with God’s people and we have a low view of God. We have a low view of Jesus and that’s why we don’t reverence God and we don’t reverence His teaching and His Word because our perception is that, well, it’s just one of many things but no, it’s really important. It’s a priority. It’s a discipline in our life that needs to be practiced regularly.

(Eli Torres) Now what would you say to the person listening today and they’re thinking, man, my church isn’t Bible-centered and you know what, we do have a low view of God. Do I stay there and continue to worship or do I go somewhere else?

(Mike Sanders) Well, you’re trying to set me up. So I would first sit down with the pastor, maybe the elders, whatever your leadership team is, and just ask them some of these questions about how they feel about incorporating scripture into the worship service and how that when they sit down to organize a worship service, what are some of the guiding uh, philosophies, um, and values that are important to them. And if they simply talk about that, they want to make sure that the unbeliever is, um, you know, uh, able to relate or maybe the unbeliever can only understand, uh, then I would be alarmed and I would be careful about that because I think that’s a slippery slope. I don’t want my service to be man-centered. Now, of all people, Mike Sanders loves to be welcoming, loves to talk to people, wants it to be, you know, one, I don’t want it to be dead. I want it to be some energy. I want people to sense an anticipation, looking forward to worshiping the Lord together. But when we sit down together to organize the worship service, we want it to be God-centered. I want it to be exaltation of Jesus Christ.

(Eli Torres) Yeah.

(Mike Sanders) And if I’m not hearing that then I’m probably going to not make it in that church.

(Eli Torres) So in in a lot of as I was watching some of these videos and reading on some of these churches as they you know had some weird worship times One word that kept popping up was this idea of inclusivity. So how far should the church be going to be inclusive?

(Mike Sanders) Well, the gospel is inclusive in that it invites everybody to come Repent and believe but it is exclusive in that it only is applicable to those Who repent and believe. So we have to keep that in mind Now certainly we should be welcoming. Certainly, we should show um Uh hospitality to unbelievers and even the apostle told the Corinthians man, you gotta stop this crazy tongue speaking uh Because it the unbelievers are going to think you’re mad. They’re going to think you’re crazy. They don’t understand what you’re doing So he was trying to bring some Structure and order all things should be done decently in order anything that’s confusing And chaotic is not from heaven because God is a God of order. He’s a god of structure He’s not the author of confusion Yeah All right So I think that’s important that we are welcoming and that we are friendly and Jesus was a friend of sinners But it doesn’t mean that I have to compromise God’s truth or retreat from proclaiming the word of God as it is taught word for word and Uh, if I back down from that then I am really Uh compromising and I am not Um being faithful to teaching the word of God.

(Eli Torres) Yeah. Yeah I hear some people talk about, you know, loving them in and hoping that they you know fall in love with Christ eventually Do you see a downside to that? Me just bringing in someone and saying well I’m just gonna show love but never drill down on anything too hard.

(Mike Sanders) Well, let’s understand love. I’m not against loving people to Christ and loving people to the church. I’m not against any of that, but let’s be real with love. Love is sometimes tender and love is also truthful and love is also tough. And again, 1 Corinthians 13 helps us understand what love is. So the most loving thing I can do is to tell the truth. And sometimes the most loving thing I can do for my child is to discipline them because if I don’t, then A, I don’t love them and B, I’m setting them up for failure down the road.

(Eli Torres) Yeah, that’s a good answer. Cause I think sometimes we think love is just this fluffy thing. And it’s always happy, always go lucky, but love does require you to do the tough thing. And if that’s speaking on what God believes, what God tells us to believe, then that’s important. so we hear this idea that scripture is alive. What exactly does that mean if scripture is reaching us where we’re at?

(Mike Sanders) Well, I think that the most important thing about the scripture is that it can awaken the heart, and the Bible says it doesn’t return back void. When we talk about it being sharper than any two-edged sword, or we talk about the Word of God being alive, is that it is able to cut through all the fluff and to lay open clearly the heart and expose where we’re at. The scripture is a light, and it’s a light under my path, and it not only tells me where I’m at with God, but it tells me where I need to go with God. That’s the power of the Word of God, and so anybody trying to use any other tool to reach people apart from the Word of God and the power of the Spirit is only going to have emotional responses to God, and so that’s why the Word of God has to be central.

(Eli Torres) So again, in my research in some of these churches, they would say that because scripture is alive, because it’s this double-edged sword, there’s an aspect of the Bible that changes with culture. So as culture changes and shifts, so then our interpretation of scripture needs to change and shift. How would you respond to someone who believes scripture in that light?

(Mike Sanders) I think that the Word of God is, in its application, can be broad and it can be relevant, but as far as what the original authors meant under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, that its context can not change, that it cannot be different than what they intended it to be. So I think that we have to be careful that we don’t become so pragmatic that we are drifting from what was originally taught in the Word of God. And the way to cut through the pluralism of our society that wants to be inclusive and receptive to every wind of doctrine is to just get up and be bold and courageous to proclaim the truth. And that’s exactly what the Apostle Paul did.

(Eli Torres) So still in track with the idea of what church is and worship service, I kind of want to shift a little bit here and talk about something that’s common. In today’s culture and that is AI intelligence or artificial intelligence, you know, it’s sweeping everything You can get AI to make you coffee. You can get AI to do anything But should we be making AI run our churches? There’s a church in Germany who just had the entire service preached by an AI What are your initial thoughts there?

(Mike Sanders) Well, first of all, I want to say to everybody that you know AI is like any other technology if there’s good and there’s bad Okay, and we got to be careful that we don’t throw the baby without that, you know Throw the baby out with the bath water or whatever you call it But anyways, my point is simply this that I think AI can be helpful to the church I don’t think AI should replace the pastor. I don’t think that AI is gonna be able to encourage you and help you through your trying times and I don’t think AI is going to be something that is going to be able to provide the council that you might need as a from a pastor and things like that But I think in relating to technology and trying to get the message of the gospel out I think AI can be powerful I think AI can help streamline some things and maybe a church doesn’t need as many staff members and Can save some money and use more of it to reach their community?Because we got AI taking care of some of this stuff that used to require a staff member to do it So, you know, the church sometimes needs to streamline some of its Responsibilities and its activities going on so I see AI as an asset And I think that pastors and churches can use AI as a tool to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ, you know, but I don’t see it really replacing You know the pastor or the elders or the deacons I don’t think it’s possible.

(Eli Torres) so would you say and you know again this is in Europe that we’re hearing stories like this yeah not so much in the States but if I walked into a church right and it had a screen up and it had all the right things you know biblically centered and everything would you say that that’s a church that isn’t operating correctly.

(Mike Sanders) I would say it’d be impossible to say the two things that you just said and that it was operating biblically correct but it had AI as a pastor and I don’t think those two things go together so I feel that churches need to understand AI is here to stay is not leaving and not going and where it’s gonna be transformational and it’s educational impact it’s helping automate things and there’s things that need to get done I really believe it’s gonna be a valuable tool But if, but if I went to a church where AI was the pastor and AI was doing the teaching, I would get out of there as quick as possible because you see, God doesn’t redeem a technology. He doesn’t redeem a AI robot, but he does redeem real people with fleshly hearts. And God does speak through his word through the pastor and the preacher, uh, to the people through someone who is authentically real flesh on them bones.

(Eli Torres) And that makes sense. Um, so I like what you said before about having, you know, uh, using these tools to further the kingdom, not being afraid to, you know, use what is at our disposal as a church and being, well, if it wasn’t here in Paul’s day, then I shouldn’t use it. That would limit us with, you know, so much, right? We’d, we’d be without email. We’d be without all sorts of things. Um, so one verse that comes to my mind is whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God. Um, and you, you kind of hit on that with, this is how the church run, um, with a real pastor who loves the Lord, who is committed to, and I think the draw to AI and some of these, as I was reading, it was they don’t mess up in the sermon. They get the history, right? They get all this, they can, you know, use all their, um, computing to get out an even better sermon. But I think you hit on the point of the spirit is what awakens the man. And I like that. Um, do you see a danger in people who allow either technology or celebrities or figureheads or anything, politicians to govern the way that their church is going to go?

(Mike Sanders) Absolutely. I mean, the, our rule of faith is the word of God. And so we should seek God in prayer. We should seek his wisdom through the word. We should strive and desire the power of the spirit of God to lead us, to walk in the spirit, to be led of the spirit, and that is what should guide us. And the way God organized the church is there would be pastors and elders and deacons and teachers who would lead the church, and they would help the church to follow the path that God has for them. Now they may have a unique ministry to a particular people group, or they may have a particular ministry to a particular need, and that’s fine. I have no problems with that, but ultimately we need to not get our marching orders from celebrities, politicians, but we get our marching orders from God Himself.

(Eli Torres) There’s no better place to end than that right there. So thank you guys for joining us here on the Hope Worth Having podcast. Be sure to join us on Spotify, on YouTube, Apple Music, wherever you get your podcasting. Thank you. Have a great day.

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