Donald Miller, whom I mentioned in an earlier article (Black and White—Unlike Jazz) is increasing in popularity as an author. Miller is an evangelical writer with a wonderful gift to express by the written word lessons he is learning as he journeys as a Christian pilgrim. I enjoy much of what he writes and have benefited from it as well. However, in recent days Donald Miller has shaken up the evangelical blogosphere with a post titled, “I Don’t Worship God by Singing. I Connect with Him Elsewhere.” He argues that “traditional church gathering” on the Lord’s Day is not for him and that we should stop expecting Sunday worship to be the norm for all Christians. He writes, “It’s just that I don’t experience that intimacy in a traditional worship service. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of sermons I actually remember. So to be brutally honest, I don’t learn much about God hearing a sermon and I don’t connect with him by singing songs to him. So, like most men, a traditional church service can be somewhat long and difficult to get through.” My response to this is simply, “Then, Donald, don’t be ‘like most men’ and rather man up and do the hard and biblical thing: Commit yourself to corporate worship.”
For Donald Miller, and sadly for far too many, Sundays are not about giving of himself and serving others in submission to God. Rather, it appears that, for him, the Lord’s Day is “Miller Time.” I don’t know his beverage of choice on the Lord’s Day, but it clearly is not the refreshing and nourishing waters of local church life. And this is very disturbing. I am deeply concerned about this increasingly popular “brand” of Christianity. It feeds an unhealthy autonomy which, fundamentally, is an authority problem.
Miller, in his earlier years, was associated with the so-called Emergent Church movement, but wisely moved away from former colleagues such as Rob Bell and Brian McLaren. Those men, along with other well-known authors, have clearly abandoned historic orthodox Christianity, and apostate is a fair description of where they now stand. Again, Miller thankfully, along with his childhood friend Joshua Harris, has remained well within orthodox, biblical Christianity. But sadly he seems to be losing his grip on historic ecclesiology; he is moving away from a love for the church as evidenced by a lack of love and commitment to the local church. As further evidence of this “backslide,” he asks and answers the self-imposed question, “So, do I attend church? Not often, to be honest. And I am fine with that.”
With all due respect to a brother in Christ, this is one of the most careless and irresponsible statements I have read in a long time. And gathering from some of the comments following his post, such words are merely reinforcing others in their similar narcissistic tendencies when it comes to church life. For instance, consider this comment by one reader: “Nothing like taking a shot at the church’s sacred cow to get a lot stirred up. Like you, I do not connect with God by singing or getting preached at.” This man was commending Miller for what he calls attacking a “sacred cow.” That is verging on the precipice of being blasphemous.
The Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself for the church (Ephesians 5:25); He walks amongst the local churches (Revelation 1:12-20); He feeds His churches (John 21:15-17; Acts 20:28); He loves the local church! How dare anyone call His Bride a “sacred cow”?! Yet this is precisely the consequence of writers like Miller who approach the Christian life as though we get to make the rules. Thankfully, we don’t.
When it is “all about me and what I get out of church”—when the motivation behind corporate church life is about “my feelings” and “my preferences”—then you have missed the plot. God is wiser than Miller and He has designed and prescribed local church life, including Lord’s Day assembling, for the purpose of hallowing His name, for the advancement of His kingdom and for the accomplishing of His will on earth as it is in heaven. In other words, Sunday is in a very uniquely designed way, God’s time; it’s not Miller time—nor Van Meter time for that matter.
In the penultimate line of his article Miller says, “I’m fine with where I’ve landed and finally experiencing some forward momentum in my faith. I worship God every day through my work. It’s a blast.” Well, no Christian that I know would argue that we should not worship God while we work. But an informed Christian would make the rejoinder that we are to do so six days a week after corporately doing so on the preceding first day of the week. And when I say “corporately,” I mean as in gathering with the local church to sing with others—even when you don’t feel “connected to God”—as well as to connect with others as we are being “preached at.”
At the end of the day Miller’s advice reminds me of what was at least at one time a best-selling beverage: Miller Lite. I suppose that a beer with less alcohol and less kilojoules is desirable, but a “skinny” version of local church life is destructive to the soul.
May God deliver us from “Miller time” as we grow in our appreciation for the full-bodied flavour of “Body time” each Lord’s Day.