I am the pastor of an awesome church. It is 125 years old and located in the Southern United States in Houston, Texas. It has been a very patriotic church in the past for great reasons. We are a church in transition in an American culture that is changing. Our theology has been the same for 125 years but our practices are morphing. Why? This is the first in a series of posts addressing common hallway questions. Welcome to the “Why Series.”
Recently I was asked a great question. Why don’t we sing patriotic songs in our worship gatherings especially around the 4th of July? It’s not a lack of patriotism on my part. I fly our flag in my yard each day and I think there’s no place like America on earth. We (my family) will gather with friends and watch the fireworks and celebrate our country’s freedom on the 4th of July. We (my family) choose to be missionaries in the country of our first love: America. There are however, two reasons for this shift in our approach to traditional expressions of patriotism in worship as a church.
First, we reserve Sunday for the worship of God and the exaltation of Christ and His Kingdom which, if you read the scriptures, includes all nations.
Secondly, and maybe the clearest reason, is that America is not the country of our past. It is impossible for me as Pastor to lead us to sing songs like “God bless America” in corporate worship when I realize that we are a culture that is much like Israel in King Hezekiah’s day. “So these nations feared the LORD and also served their carved images. Their children did likewise, and their children’s children – as their fathers did, so they do to this day.” (2 Kings 17:41) As long as America continues to reject God and embrace idolatry we cannot hail a great America in the presence of God in corporate worship. We will thank God for our freedom. We will support the men and women who serve and protect our freedom. We will hope in our God whose gospel can change the American culture. We will pray for our nation and we will seek repentance in corporate worship times. We can’t confuse the America we remember that enjoyed God’s blessing and the America of today that is rejecting God completely. We will raise one banner in corporate worship. The banner of Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith. After all His kingdom is the hope for our nation.