The church is not a building but the body of believers who gather in that building. There is an enemy who works in that body to make it very unattractive to non-believers. Our culture is pregnant with churches on every corner…especially in the South. I find it ironic that the areas in our nation with the most church buildings are also the areas highest in poverty and crime. That’s another can of worms somebody else can open if you dare…but this is not the point of my post…
The point of this post is to encourage the reader to take a church health evaluation of the body of believers you worship with..including yourself. Is the church body you gather with more of a “holy social network/club” or can you honestly say that at the core are humble believers focused on glorifying God alone through striving to fulfill the Great Commission? Here are some questions you can ask yourself as an individual and perhaps even as a body.
1. Does our body place more emphasis on reaching out to the “undesirables” or reaching in to it’s own while making its own “undesirable” to those very “undesirables” it tries to keep out?
The church is like a hospital for the spiritually sick. What good is a hospital that only ministers healing to those who are well? I see some irony here. Perhaps many “church hospitals” are made up of sick people who simply don’t know they are sick…perhaps those who are striving to keep out “undesirables” are even more unhealthy than those they don’t want to let in.
2. Is your church like a social club? Would you go to your church if the “entertainment” and “creature comforts” were stripped away?
3. Is it expensive to participate in traditional programs and retreats that help disciple the saved and reach the lost?
Example: Are their trips and camps that are outrageously expensive because of the “luxuries” they afford and the credentials of the leaders? Do they exclude the poor or make themselves undesirable to the “less fortunate” because those people who want to participate will need to receive charity in order to participate? Yes, we are supposed to be a humble people….but for those who are constantly receiving charity…it can be quite intimidating, discouraging and demeaning to have to continuously ask for financial help. Also…are the programs/camps/retreats spoiling our kids? Are they spoiling us as adults? Are we going for the luxuries and missing the point? Have we become so focused in drawing people with fancy buildings, luxuries and expensive programs…that we are cheating ourselves out of the blessing of letting God draw the people…or to provide our needs without Mr. Rockafella’s tithe? How much more can God do? Are we overstepping boundaries and limiting God when we do this? I am not being judgemental…just taking a good hard look and questioning the motivation for the church culture that is in place now…a culture that I have been drawn to…and helped create.
4. Are we tempting others to sin through materialism?
This is a hard one. Many churches have become more like resorts. Some say it is a wise use of resources to make the building a place that people will want to go to. What about Jesus? If He is an obvious presence…shouldn’t that be enough of a draw? Or do we need Jesus plus…??? What about investing those same resources in programs to help the poor, lost, weak and sick?
Honestly…do these fancy expensive buildings draw the poor? Or do they scare off the poor who are very intimidated by it? Does your church operate the way that corporate America operates or the way the early church operated with Christ at the head..making the decisions…using the least likely to do great things? Is your church seeking to glorify God and not elevate “self”…or the status of “certain” already elevated people or groups of people?
5. If you were poor financially…and spiritually….would you want to be a part of the body you are a part of now…or would you be uncomfortable due to the wealth and status and environment you would have to subject yourself to?
Yes, we are not supposed to be prideful. Yes we are supposed to humble ourselves before God to be saved…but most lost people do not understand that yet. Therefore, the lost and destitute are not likely to seek refuge in a resort hotel. They are more likely to find a box in the streets to crawl under for safety because they know that the resort hotel does not welcome “their kind”. They are actually more comfortable in the box. Even if they do seek shelter in the “resort/church” eventually they will leave because they feel so out of place and unwelcome. People will smile and shake their hand perhaps on Sunday morning…but will they do life with them? Will they give up on them when they don’t “conform” in a certain time period? Will the church drop the alchoholic when he goes back to drinking for the first time? Second time? Third time? When does Jesus give up?
6. When your church reaches out to the poor and needy…who really gets the glory? To make it more personal…when you reach out to the poor and needy…who do you seek to glorify? Truthfully…deep in your heart…are you brave enough to ask God to reveal to you the answer to this question? In my heart of hearts…I want to be the kind of Christian that would rather do nothing than to do anything for anyone’s glory but God’s.
My point is not to be destructivly critical…but to call each believer to account. I find that I am asking myself the very same questions lately. What is my role in the church? Do I do things that encourage a culture of materialism/status/social networking? Or, do I feel small when I stand in the ovewhelming presence of a world lost in the depths of spiritual and physical poverty? Am I more interested in keeping my world calm and comfortable..the way I like it…safe and routine…all about my needs and desires? Or, am I desperate for the poor in spirit…aching to reach the poor and needy…no matter what the cost? Am I willing to sell everything I have and give it to the poor and take up my cross and follow hard after Christ? Or am I willing to just put my tithe in the plate and make my presence known on Sunday morning? Am I sold out to the Great Commission or the American Dream? Remember you can’t love both God and the riches of this world. You will love one and hate the other. (See Matthew 6:24).
I confess…when I look at my life and my walk with God…and ask myself these questions….I have found that my heart needs much reprogramming. I am truly working on this. The American church culture has been very beneficial for me in many ways….but I must confess that I have been tempted and failed when it comes to the carnalism that the enemy has created in the church. I am trying to undo this in my personal life. If you see it in yours…and you are willing to admit it to yourself (and not close your eyes to what you don’t want to see), then you are taking the first step to “change” in our modern day church culture.
This is not to target any specific or even every church group…because there are some who truly seem to be getting the big picture…but they are very few and difficult to find. There will always be a presence of temptation in the church to look like the world. It is up to every single member (you and me) of the body to do our part to fight this temptation and hold the body accountable to stay focused on the prize and the mission in Christ.
I do hope there will come a day when people are more likely to believe because of what they see in church culture….than less likely believe because of what they experience in church culture. This is not a new problem…it has been going on since the early days of organized religion. Perhaps we need to be a little less organized and a little more trusting in God’s order. The Great Commission says that the church is to go into the World…not draw the world into the church.
Today’s Shot of Flavor:
Matthew 28: 18-20
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”