“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ…..Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” - 1 Corinthians 12:12,27
One day each week, I wake up earlier than I normally do. I clean up extra nice. I put on a nice set of clothes. I go to a building and sit with all kinds of different people. I sing and listen to prayers, a message, and announcements. I stick around after and talk with the people. Then I get in my car and go home, back to the rest of my week. I do this every week. As you’ve probably figured out by now, I’m talking about “going to church.”
My life has been this way for as long as I can remember. I grew up going to “church.” My parents made sure my sister and I were there every time the doors were open. It has played such an important role in my spiritual development. Now, as a minister, I have the unique perspective of being on the other side of “church”- no longer am I a parishioner, I’m one of the people leading. I see the behind-the-scenes workings of “church.” I get to hear everyone’s opinions from both sides of every issue. It’s interesting to say the least.
It got me thinking about this concept of “going to church.” I went back to the basics: Why do we do it? How should we do it? Should we always do it a certain way? All very valid questions that I think we all need to ask. I’ll quote Francis Chan, “If I only had this as my guide…if all I had was the Bible….and I was to read this book and then start a ‘church’ what would it look like? Would it look like the thing that we’ve built here and all refer to as church? Or would it look radically different?” I want you to really think about these questions before you read any more.
Have you ever been caught in the crosshairs of a church conflict? I’m sure you can think of some of the more bizarre reasons why somebody would leave a church (carpet color, the “order of worship”, youth pastor is too wild). Ok, I made that last one up! Some people seem to leave a church over the silliest of things. It reminds me of a story.
A (pick your denomination) was the only survivor on a plane crash. 10 years later they found him on an Island, and while he lived there he had managed to build three buildings. The Rescuers asked him “What are the buildings for?”
“Well,” replied the (guy from said denomination), “the first one is where I live, and the third one is where I go to church.”
“Well what’s the second one for?” asked the rescuers
“That’s where I used to go to church.”
As funny as that sounds, that example isn’t that far removed from reality. I think the most dangerous toxin in American Churches is the “it’s all about me” mindset. “I’m not getting fed.” “I don’t like the preacher.” “I wish they would sing different songs.” “I don’t agree with Brother So-and-So.” Sound familiar? I’m not saying you shouldn’t be entitled to your opinion – that would be ridiculous. But think real hard about what the concept of “church” really is. Check out the verses at the top. I’m not gonna flip this into a “Discovering your Gifts” type deal. The church should never be a place where the focus is on “ME.” We’re called to form one body in Christ, and we all have a part in that body. We all have a job to do if we want to be a healthy body.
Speaking of healthy bodies, do you work out? I like to lift weights (cardio- not so much). How silly would it be if I went to the gym each day and only did sit-ups? I bet after 3 months, I’d have killer abs, but I would also have flabby arms and wouldn’t be able to walk up a flight of stairs. Would that be healthy for me? Of course not! You would never do that! In the same way, church should never be all about me and my tastes and preferences. When I come to church every week, I should come to serve – not to be served (hmm…didn’t Jesus say something about that?).
Here’s something that might drive home my point. Think of the church you go to as a business. God is the Boss and you are the employee. Every employee has a job to do. Your job is to live out the Greatest Commands (Matthew 22:34-40) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). As an employee, you have the tools you need to do your job (the Holy Spirit, the Bible, prayer), and you have a Supervisor (Jesus) to show you how to do it. Are you with me? You know your job, right? Now reflect on “You” right now. Are you doing your job? Would you be getting promoted or fired? There’s no middle ground; there’s no in-between. There’s no dead end jobs in the Kingdom. And it’s impossible to fulfill your job description if you’re focused on you.
Let’s quit “going to church” and start “being the church.” You and I have so much to offer. God has blessed us incredibly, and He desires us to use those blessings to glorify Him and reach others. He’s given us His Spirit to live in us and guide our lives- do not let the Spirit stay dormant. Can we get past the silly arguments and disagreements? Is the person who sits beside us worth more than our personal preferences? Are we able to get past the order of worship so that we can focus on the One we worship?
I want to be known as an unmovable force to be reckoned with for the Kingdom of God. I’ll never be perfect – Jesus took care of that for me, and His grace will fill in the gaps. From this point forward, I will not allow the same “issues” in the church to get in the way of what God is trying to do in my life and the lives of those around me.
As my friend Dudley says, “There are people across the street that are dying and going to hell, and we’re in here arguing over something stupid.” I’m not going to “major in the minors.” I’m going to do everything in my power (through God’s power) to live up to my calling, and it’s my prayer that you’ll join me! Let’s always be about our Father’s business!