I remember sitting in seminary, waiting for class to start, and another student who was an associate pastor at a local mega church came in early too; he slumped into his seat and sighed. I asked him how he was and he said he just got done at a church meeting. He pulled out the notes from the meeting. He said, “It’s a menu. We’ve become like a restaurant where people pick and choose what they want as if we are some “service provider”… we aren’t being directed by the Holy Spirit, just the latest survey. And it’s killing all of us.”
I served at a small church and told him I really appreciated all the various ministries they offered because I was one of those people who just popped in from time to time to time for a recharge. He said that wasn’t the point. People’s needs were indeed being met, but their need to serve and learn others-focused Christianity was being completely ignored and in turn developing fruit that was bad for the church in the long run.
Years later, as a pastor’s wife, I am growing in concern for this same issue that weighed heavy on his heart. People come to a church with eyes that survey the gathering as if they are looking over a house, restaurant, car or other product. They don’t come with eyes that look for opportunities for fellowship and service.There’s a general consumer-driven attitude about the church in America. But when I read about the church in the New Testament, I don’t see that at all.
What the New Testament Church Looked Like:
- A gathering of sharing/unity/support in life through togetherness
“And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.” (Acts 4:32-35 NASB)
- A gathering of service
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.” (1 Peter 4:10 ESV)
- A gathering of growth
“From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:16 ESV)
- A gathering of glorifying God
“Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:43-47)
Church Isn’t about You
Yes, we all need to guard our hearts and make sure that the church we attend is being guided by Scripture and has leadership that portrays qualities consistent with biblical instructions, but as the church we all need to make sure WE are also living up to Scripture’s mandate. More than being concerned about if others are doing their part in this whole experience, we are called to do our part.
“So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, ‘Lord, and what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!’” (John 21:21-22 NASB emphasis added)
Church Isn’t about its Leaders Either
As a woman who has done her best to give her whole life to serving the Lord and His people, I have also learned that church isn’t about me. Scripturally, church is about praise and people. As servants of Christ, ministry can never be about us, so it can’t be something we can use to make us feel good about ourselves. There are no brownie points in the Kingdom. There’s no place for doing ministry that strokes our egos. And quite honestly, scriptural ministry is described in starkly different terms:
“Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Being Part of Church is Being the Bride of Christ
So as the Bride, individually and collectively, we are called to serve one another as we serve the purposes of Christ. It’s what makes us ready for His coming. It isn’t about how good the worship leader is, how smiley the greeter is, or how fantastic the children’s ministry is. It’s about the good that comes from each one of our individual acts of Christ-following, righteous acts melding together in the refiner’s fire until the Bride as a whole shines ready for her Beloved.
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