If there is one thing I can’t stand it is pastors or theologians who spend most of the time bashing the church and telling us all the things we are doing wrong. On one hand, I understand that there needs to be a firm, prophetic voice that arises from time to time to get the bride of Christ back on track. This should not be news to anyone. There are some, however that are just plain (for a lack of a better word) grouchy about every square inch of what the church takes part in. Brothers and sisters, I hope you do not think this is me, and you realize that I love being a pastor, and wouldn’t trade my calling for anything. As many pastors, much smarter than me, have reiterated, “the Church is God’s plan to convey the Gospel to the world…there is no plan B.” So, I hope today’s post helps us to think, and perhaps stretch ourselves a little.
I have preached the cliche’ message over and over. You know, the message that the Church is supposed to influence the culture and not the other way around. This is true…unless we start to see things like laziness, fear, and insecurity as default postures of the Church. Then, our influence will naturally be human-driven instead of Spirit- empowered/ resourced. Ok Landon, get on with it…tell us why deserve Hell. Ohh….alright….
I think there are 4 evidences that we see in the Church that suggest we are misguiding America (or even the world):
1. More people are moving from church to church– There are many reasons why someone leaves a church and moves to another one. Many of these are completely understandable, and in some cases I would even advise this way. For instance, if a pastor is not preaching with scriptural integrity, or if there is a catastrophic immoral system that has taken over the church…then you need to run for the exit. There are many who leave because the church is not big enough, they don’t like the music, someone has hurt their feelings, or there is something “better” going on somewhere else. People are moving churches, in our culture, at a rapid pace. Here is the truth…we as pastors have conditioned the world to do this very thing. We rarely preach anything that is challenging for fear of offense, we try to tip-toe around conflict, and we abandon deep discipleship for a community carnival (hoping more butts will plop themselves in our seats). Church…stop blaming the world…we have trained them this way. We do this because we are afraid that God will not come through and draw people to Himself. We are also a little afraid to step outside of our beautiful walls to meet people where they are at. People are dying just beyond our reach while we are bickering about the color of the new carpet.
2. People think the church is all about money– Sometimes…the Church talks a lot about money. This subject is something that MUST be talked about by pastors. The problem is, we are training our congregation in a terrible way. We convey that it is only important to talk about money when we really, really, really need it….OR…when the children’s department wants a new swingset…OR…(fill in the blank). Then, people start to sense that the church leadership is terribly afraid that they will run out of money to pay the bills, and money towards things like church planting, outreach, and that which can only be accomplished by the Holy Spirit is abandoned. Pastors…listen up for a minute. How are we supposed to ask our people to give sacrificially, when the Church is not extravagantly generous? Christians…now you listen up. Giving shows us that God can supply, and it gives us freedom. Just give. I don’t need a good argument for this…God wants you to, and wants to show you what He can do through this discipline. Do it.
3. Churches have abandoned simplicity– In our attempt to become bigger, better, and more attractive the Church has lost so much. When I started the process of planting a new church several years ago there was one question that other pastors would ask me. The prevalent question was, “what will set your church apart from others and make it unique.” Every time this was asked I had the same response, “I hope nothing.” Crazy, huh? Aren’t churches supposed to be competitive and offer something different, unique, and fantastic? Nope. The way I read scripture, we are supposed to lift up the name of Christ, and serve our communities with no guarantee of anyone coming to our worship services. Outreach is not a marketing scheme (a bait and switch tactic if you will) but a truly authentic way to connect with God through obedience. God will bring people to us, and of course marketing is not evil, but we are not trying to “attract” people with elaborateness or complexity. The time period in which we meet for worship is a celebration and a way to connect. I think we fall away from the simplicity of the message because we are scared that no one will listen unless the message is really sexy.
4. Churches have abandoned the analogy of war– Sometimes we forget that the Christian life is less about avoiding Hell and more about attacking it. Attacking it with passion and intensity. We see this principle explained so many times in the Bible, but we ignore it because it makes us uncomfortable. Death, bloodshed, and a spiritual conflict are the point…Jesus didn’t save us by befriending everyone and networking to the best of His ability. He died. Brutally, I might add. Now, don’t get me wrong. We cannot neglect the more seemingly tame side of the Christian life…the one that desires that all life would be preserved and that good morality would flourish. I just hear so much preaching that centers around warm fuzzies and everyone getting along instead of pointing out the true battle before us.
Like mentioned in the first section of this post, the Church is the bride of Christ, and the last thing we need to do is whip it senselessly with knowledge of its flaws. I just think that we could be more…we could do more. We have a vital message to convey and I just don’t want anything to cloud it up. The world needs us to stay faithful.
Stay hungry. Stay faithful. Stay His.