A 4th of July church service (and I dare hope, atypical)

Discussion in 'Preaching' started by cris, Jul 5, 2010.

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  1. cris

    cris Puritan Board Freshman

    I was so saddened by what I saw in the church today (4th of July). I don't think I'll go there again. It is a big church in San Diego, affiliated with SBC.

    The "sermon" was about John Adams and some other founders and the music, apart from "The battle hymn of Republic", had nothing to do with Christianity. You know, the "America, the beautiful", and "This land is my land" kind of songs. They even sang "Lean on me"!!
    The close friends I was with "explained" to me "once you'll become an American you'll understand". And that it was actually a thanksgiving to God.

    But what I saw there was not a thanksgiving to God, nor did it have God as the central point. It was a celebration of America, the flag, the pioneer spirit, the freedom, founding fathers, soldiers, war veterans, etc.

    For me, it was no difference to how non-Christians celebrate 4th of July (I mean in church). They mentioned God, and they prayed as I'm sure they usually do, but apart from that, it was like a parade on the street.

    Disclaimer: I do believe America is a great (even the greatest) country, that we owe the founding fathers a lot, also the soldiers and veterans. But did all of this have to be in church?
  2. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Cristian, it is what it is. Sadly, this is what passes for worship in many mainline evangelical churches. Just mark this one down as one that you don't plan on visiting in the future.
  3. Ivan

    Ivan Pastor

    No Fourth of July celebration at my church...and we are SBC.
  4. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    Sorry you had to experience that. This sort of 4th of July service is a tradition in many American churches and, I think, a wrong one. Many on this board would agree, I'm sure.

    Not all American churches do this. But even many pretty good churches will succomb once a year to the pressure to do this sort of service. It's usually defended, as you say yours was, under the premise that it's about thanking God for our country. But my experience is that it usually ends up being more about confusing God with our country.

    By the way, my church let me down yesterday, too, more than I expected it would. I think having Sunday fall directly on the 4th somehow made it harder for churches somewhat determined to avoid these pitfalls to do so.
  5. Guido's Brother

    Guido's Brother Puritan Board Junior

    The Battle Hymn of the Republic has nothing to do with Christianity either.
  6. Christusregnat

    Christusregnat Puritan Board Professor

    May God bless the church around the world with a revival of God-centered, Spirit-filled, lawful worship!
  7. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    We drove by a church yesterday (Baptist, but I don't know if it's SBC) where the church sign read that at 10:45 am there was going to be a "Fourth of July Musical." :um:
  8. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    Not all Baptist churches do this, as was pointed out.

    Our service was no different than any other Lord' Day, except for the jets buzzing us from the local air show.
  9. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    Vic, I probably should have mentioned that the only reason I saw the sign was because we were on our way home from worshipping at another church. I was on vacation so we worshiped at the local Reformed Baptist Church (two PBers are members there, btw). They were Baptist and there was nothing of this sort of nonsense there. It is, after all, the Lord's Day.
  10. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    No need, Tim, but I appreciate the mention. I was just adding to the anecdotal evidence. . . .;)
  11. Theoretical

    Theoretical Puritan Board Professor

    At my church, you wouldn't have known it was the Fourth of July. Even the potluck lunch was just the normal 1st of the month potluck.
  12. Andres

    Andres Puritan Board Doctor

    props to Rev Bond. I'm looking forward to worshipping with you all in the future.
  13. Curt

    Curt Puritan Board Graduate

    In our worship service, I preached the second in our new series on Joshua. The Fourth of July was mentioned in my conclusion when I said that this is a great country, historically, and it's citizens owe allegiance to it. But our first allegiance is to the God who will never leave us nor forsake us. There were no patriotic hymns. We did, however, hear all the sirens as the parade began in town.
  14. ericfromcowtown

    ericfromcowtown Puritan Board Sophomore

    I've asked this before on the PB, but do any other non-Americans experience similar examples of "patriotic-syncretism" in their church services? During our congregational prayer someone may include a prayer for our servicemen in Afghanistan, but that's the extent of it. Does this have to do with a confusion of OT Israel with modern-day America in some sense? Just trying to understand what makes the U.S. different in this regards.
  15. Skyler

    Skyler Puritan Board Graduate

    The patriotic "hymns" in our hymnals were carefully excised with a sharp blade, so needless to say we weren't singing them. I don't think the fact that it was the Fourth was even mentioned beyond putting the date on the tape labels.
  16. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member


    The 4th of July, Independence Day, is a special holiday in the United States. Americans have always exuded enthusiasm for our nation. In itself this is not a bad thing. I am thankful that I was born in this country. I recognize the debt I owe to those who gave their lives so that I may live in freedom. There are three national holidays that recognize the contribution of those who gave their last full measure of devotion: Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and Independence Day (although Independence Day is more of a celebration of the birth of our nation). As Christians we have much to be thankful for, and in that regard it is not wrong to offer a prayer of thanksgiving on the Lord's Day. However, such a prayer has nothing to do with the 4th of July as much as it has to do with a spirit of thankfulness for our manifold blessings. I don't know the history of 4th of July commemoration in our churches, but such observances are rampant in American churches. These churches conflate God's blessings on America with the manner in which He has prescribed that we worship Him. For many the two are inexorably linked. The truth is that God can remove His hand of blessing. Some argue that has been done already. In any event observing national patriotic holidays on the Lord's Day robs God of the worship due Him.
  17. cris

    cris Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks to everyone who replied.

    confusing God with our country? Could you please develop it further, Jack?

    I was thinking about the Romanian version, which is all about Jesus and His sacrifice. But it looks like the original isn't, that's true.

    Bill, I think you hit the nail on the head, this robs God of the worship due Him (in church, on Sunday)
    This is how I see it too, I agree with every comma you wrote.

    A little background info on me, so that you guys understand why I am overreacting, in case I do that at all. Even though, based on your
    replies, I am not. I started to get worried, anyway. We were four adults, and all the other three (mature Christians) loved the service.
    Until two-three years ago, I would have loved this service. My mind was on US all the time, and I was probably the only one in my state
    (one in Germany) who would listen to patriotic music :)
    I used to believe back then that my "mission" on the earth was to convince everyone around me that the US way is the way to go. I am sure
    now, thinking back, that I was driving my friends nuts with this, since I was very vocal about it.
    I used to listen to American talk-shows, even two hours a day.

    But there is something else. I was lost back then.
    Once I became a Christian, this whole perspective changed.
    I used to consider the topic "God in the public space" as extremely important. Today? I think this is the least of our problems (as a church).
    The elections before? Also, very important. Today? So unimportant in comparison. I would vote the same way, but I know that if we have
    this or that president/Congress, it is because God allowed it. Huge relief for Christians.
    Wanting to live in US? It was everything to me back then. Today? Even though, like I said, I still believe US is the greatest country in
    the world, I don't really care. When I moved here, I already considered myself a pilgrim who is nowhere at home on this earth. Pushing
    this matter even further, affluence never helped with holiness, so I think the most difficult country to be a Christian in is, of course,
    US, but that is off-topic.
    I think this is in itself a topic for a separate thread (the way people view US differently after they become Christians)

    Eric, you asked if other non-Americans experienced that, too.
    Even though I am an immigrant (even though a very americanized one already, like I mentioned before), I did not write this as an
    immigrant. Had I been born here, I would have viewed this whole issue just the same.

    I am sure you heard this speech a lot ("separation of church and state"). Often times, it comes from people who don't want to have
    anything to do with God, or they either hate Him or don't like US. I'm, obviously, in neither of those camps.

    I think some Christians are definitely confused about who they are. And about who God is. And about their identity in the city of God, as
    opposed to the city of man. I couldn't define it so well, though, that's why I would like to ask you for help. If there is such a thread, please
    point it to me.

    By the way, I think it is wrong to be "proud to be an American" (of course, for Christians). I think it is wrong to be proud about mostly
    everything (with a few exceptions Paul was mentioning). Grateful about that? That sounds a whole lot better!

    So you understand now even better how surprised I was when, upon going to church on that Sunday (the 4th of July, but nevertheless a
    Sunday in church), what I'm getting is, again, "celebrating the USA". Because that's what it was. It was not giving thanks to God, it was
    a celebration of America.

    I'm sorry about this lengthy post. I don't like to tell the story of my life, but I thought more context would be helpful here.
  18. O'GodHowGreatThouArt

    O'GodHowGreatThouArt Puritan Board Sophomore

    I think the 4th of July would've been a good opportunity to touch on our obligations to governments as Christians. That way both the country and God could be honored.

    But that's just my opinion.
  19. cris

    cris Puritan Board Freshman

    I completely agree with you, Bryan. I wish they did that.
    Like for instance, all the Bible verses that mention our obligations to the government.
    On a side note, quite often what I get in the baptist community is "he's not my president", or badmouthing him all the time (even though I don't agree with him any more than they are). I never hear about "let's pray for him", as we are supposed to do.
    Honoring God, sure, all the way.
    As about honoring our country in the Sunday service (or any church service), I'm not sure. This is indeed what happened there, honoring the country. It's just that I'm not sure this is what we were called to do.
  20. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    I just meant that people will come to church on the Fourth saying they still intend to celebrate and worship God. But they end up singing songs and hearing talks that celebrate the country instead. If you challenge them on this you might hear something about how being patriotic does feel to them like they are worshipping and thanking God. It is truly hard for them to see the difference. Churches sometimes call these "God & Country" celebrations, and the God part is hardly distinguishable from the country part.

    How has this happened? I'd love to hear the thoughts of any real historians out there. I just recognize it as a part of how the larger American church culture, including large segments of the evangelical church culture, tends to think. I wonder if the rebels of the 1960s, who were both anti-government and against traditional church values, had something to do with cementing the idea that patriotism and belonging to the church are practically the same.
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2010
  21. cris

    cris Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks, Jack. And you're right, maybe some historians could help even better here. Or someone who observed this phenomenon ("God and country")
  22. SemperEruditio

    SemperEruditio Puritan Board Junior

    I was in North Florida visiting family and I was able to get them all to come out to service. I found a PCA church that was close by and figured they would hear the Gospel preached for the first time...boy was I wrong! I am embarrassed and ashamed of what this church did as a representative of Christ and the denomination I am growing to love. It was a July 4th celebration from beginning to end. The prayer...oh my...that prayer was all about politics and how thankful we should be to be Americans and how God has blessed us because we're Americans and went along that vein for the entire prayer.

    Make matters worse the sermon was essentially chewing gum for the brain and Spirit. I've spent many conversations with my inlaws on how a relationship with Christ also means a relationship with His bride the Church. We have gone round & round because they believe that Christianity is all about the heart and nothing about the communion of the Saints. Guess what they heard, at a PCA church no less, on this past Lord's day... Yep! That our relationship with the Jesus is more important than attending service...better to stay home and worship God in our hearts than to come to church and just worship God with our mouths...

    Our responsibility? Well it's to pray. Essentially the two areas I have been arguing with my family. We both agree they are necessary but they believe in only a personal relationship with Christ sans involvement in the local body and what they heard on Sunday validated everything....and "Heck Frank...one of you're own pastors agrees with us so clearly you don't know what you're talking about."

    They ended the service with singing all the stanzas of the Star Spangled Banner?!?!?!?!?!?!?

    In the carride home my nephews asked me if a service is supposed to be so patriotic. I began to explain to them how we are members of the kingdom of God and nationalism has no place in the church. We are to preach Christ and Him crucified...the bad/good news of the Gospel. They said that what I was talking about was what they expected to hear and wondered if they could come hear me preach because they thought the sermon was more of a history lesson mixed in with some churchy words.

    My wife was just as appalled. I am still floored at all this. I have to say that I cannot in good conscience recommend a PCA church to someone unless I or someone whose opinion I trust says it is worth checking out.

    I will not even get too deep into the "welcome" we received. Suffice it to say Brothers & Sisters that when someone regardless of race or ethnicity comes into your church do not ask right off the bat, "Are you Presbyterian? No? How did you even choose our church?" My BIL explained that I am in seminary, a member of the PCA, and pursuing ordination in the PCA and thought it would be great for him and his family to attend one of "our" services. They asked who his BIL was and when he pointed me out, the response was He's in the PCA? The Presbyterian Church in America? WOW!

    Unfortunately I now know of 1 PCA congregation in North Florida that I cannot recommend to people.
  23. Willem van Oranje

    Willem van Oranje Puritan Board Junior

    You would have enjoyed our 4th of July service. It was a beautiful sunny day as we all gathered to worship on the front lawn of our church property. Our assistant pastor preached a sermon on Psalm 87. He explained how citizenship in Zion is much more highly to be regarded than citizenship in a country like the U. S. Toward the end of the sermon he told a story about a dying Civil War soldier who in his last moments was thinking about his Zion citizenship, not his American citizenship. We sang 3 Psalms about the holy city and God's blessing on the nations.

    BTW, when the 4th does not fall on a Sunday, we still have an annual evangelistic service. Our pastor preaches on the front lawn while people from town are gathering by the road to watch the parade.
  24. Montanablue

    Montanablue Puritan Board Doctor

    I can't offer anything definitive, but I think its interesting to look at the very early patriots (as in Boston in the 1760s and 1770s). The clergy were very tied up with the patriot cause - Loyalists often called Congregationalist clergy, "The Black Regiment" and James Otis actively got them behind the patriot cause. I wonder if it started this early on - or if this was at least the seeds of it?

    This is speculation, but its something I've considered before.
  25. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    Sounds great. I'd like to hear that sermon. I also like the outdoor preaching idea, although I don't think it would necessary "work" further south when it's already 90 by midday!
  26. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritanboard Amanuensis

    :doh: :down::scratch::flamingscot:
  27. Willem van Oranje

    Willem van Oranje Puritan Board Junior

    Check here after a week or two. The audio file will likely be made available.

    Yesterday was a hot day. It was above 90 when the service ended. But hey, if people can stand out in the heat to watch a parade, why can't they listen to an outdoor sermon? It really works well for us. The best spot to see the parade is right from our church front lawn, so that is where everybody likes to get set. And they get to hear a sermon while they are putting out their chairs and blankets. Plus, I handed out tracts to a bunch of them during the parade.

    We had just finished doing our historical church tours, which we offered to the community to tour our historic building (and also hear the gospel from us in the process), and I was meaning to take the wife and kids home and skip the parade, but we were blocked in because of the parade. We could not get out. So I went to plan B and passed out a bunch of tracts published by our church. After all, they were on our property! If I can't hand out tracts from our church to strangers hanging around on our property, where can I :lol: ?

    Update: I just checked and the sermon I mentioned is available for dowload and listening. Click here to go to our recent sermons page.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2010
  28. Tripel

    Tripel Puritan Board Senior

    I worshiped at First Presbyterian of Jackson, MS while visiting my inlaws. Derek Thomas (a Welshman) extended a "Happy Independence Day" to the congregation while noting the irony of it coming from him. We prayed for our country and there were also several mentions of the 4th of July during Ligon Duncan's sermon. Ligon kept it all in the context of our greater allegiance being to Christ and his kingdom. It was all very appropriate for the occasion.
  29. DavidinKnoxville

    DavidinKnoxville Puritan Board Freshman

    The Colonies’ Secession was Smart, the South’s Was Dumb -Darryl G. Hart

    "I remember being struck by the stupidity of southerners about twenty years ago during Independence Day festivities. (Mind you, I’m bi-regional so I can get away with speaking about my people this way.) I was surfing cable television on a Sunday evening – back when we had cable (and stupid enough to pay for television) and when Sabbatarian convictions were not where they should have been – and I came across the Independence Day worship service where Charles Stanley’s congregation in Atlanta was waxing patriotic by singing the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Not only did this manifest a dumb reading of history since this particular hymn was written for a war fought almost a century after the Revolutionary War. It was also stupid because these residents of greater Atlanta were singing a song that the North had concocted to whoop up support for – among other military matters – General Sherman’s raid on central Georgia. To borrow Fosdick’s line, what incredible folly!"
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