The more my wife talks about her old church, the happier I am she left the place.
Basically speaking, it’s a closed, dead church. They may welcome you in the door, yeah, but they have no mind for outreach or growth of any sort. There’s nothing wrong with being small, but there is something wrong with being closed-off to your community. They’re very much against countless other churches to the point where my wife could not remember them actually supporting another Christian organization of any sort.
Being long-time former members, my wife and her sister came to this conclusion: Every member of that tiny church has been hurt by some other church in the past, so they gather together to commiserate, not to have church. It was an interesting discovery, and it reminded me of another church in a totally opposite way.
I also visited another church that was much more lively and community minded, but you could tell they were gathered for one purpose: to feel good. They got all spiritual and whooped up, which is good, but there was no brain in the entire operation. The sermon was scattered and the pastor pretty much dropped if at the end, apparently sensing the people were whooped-up enough, making no real point, whatsoever. Nothing was really taught, or even said. The pastor just got the church excited over what they already know and believe, and that was it.
“We all have these issues, so let’s get together and talk about them.” “We all feel good about this one thing, so let’s just talk about that.” The church needs to be more than a collective “Amen.”
So, I started thinking. I want every church in the world to ask, “Why are we here?”
Do you gather together just to agree on something like those last two churches, held together by bonds of similar beliefs? If that’s all you are, it’s easy to exclude people who don’t believe what you do, such as unbelievers who curiously walk in your door searching for answers, or your neighboring church that takes communion with wine instead of juice, or vice-versa.
While every Church is founded on a unity of belief within the church, this cannot be all it’s about. If you want a big “agreement” party, you can do that at the local Applebee’s! The Bible calls for so much more!
The church should be a place for growth and instruction. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is given by the inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Church should make you grow, not stay where you are.
The church should be a place of love and care. In 1 Timothy, Paul exhorted Timothy to take care of the widows. (1 Tim 5:3-16). James said to consider the orphans, too (James 1:27). Romans 13:8 says to owe nothing but love to one another. The point is clear: the church should be a place to find love and care, especially for the members who call that church home, but to “outsiders,” as well.
This also means to love the unlovable. That’s one of the trickiest parts to church and the seat of a lot of controversy. Love those who won’t respect you for it. Love those who want to harm you. Love those who disagree with you. Love those who wish you were dead. Jesus said to love your enemies, so he was pretty serious about this love thing.
The church should be a place for outreach. The very last words Jesus said before ascending in to heaven were to go out and make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:18-20). We have to get out of our boxes and into the world. The church is Jesus’s hands and feet, which goes back to the love and care part. Reach out to your community, not just to gain new members, but to bring people to Christ and spread his love across the world.
The church can’t stand alone. Here’s an ironic sentence: it’s the policy of many churches I’ve seen to bash other churches. I specifically remember one pastor calling out specific churches and organizations by name to bad-mouth them. This is not an attitude of love and unity, which Christ calls us to.
One of the most attractive things about the church I now attend was their policy of “only come here if God is telling you to.” They believe that if God is not calling you to this church, or it just plain doesn’t feel like where you need to be, then they encourage you to go find the church you’re supposed to be in. They don’t want you wasting your own time when God has something else for you, even if it means leaving! They are not out to make members, they are out to make Christian disciples.
My parents attended a similar church where they felt it was no longer for them, but didn’t feel right to leave. But the pastor, who had been their close friend for many years, very lovingly said, “Go! If God wants you somewhere else, then get moving! Don’t sit around for my sake! Get where God wants you to be!”
Acknowledge that your church or group is not “special” and the “only right one.” Exhort other churches that are teaching Christ. Pray for them, help them if they need it. Paul said in Philippians 12-18 that people may preach Christ for different reasons, some good and some bad, but if the True God is being taught, then you can rejoice in that.
The Christian Church is not a weekly meeting to reaffirm what we already feel and know, to commiserate or hold hands and feel good. It’s there for us to grow as Christians and glorify Christ in the world.
So, when you go to church, a Bible study, or a Christian organization, ask yourself, “Why am I here?”