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« Faction: Truth Made to Order | Main | Preaching Ourselves »

Plain Talk about Church

The difference between the ideal and the real is more pronounced in the local church than almost any other venue.  Animated by the proclamation of Jesus, “Upon this rock I will build my church” we are nevertheless disheartened by the Apostle John’s commentary: “I have somewhat against thee.”  Never forget, however, that “build” is the operative word.  Just as dirt, scrap, braces and scaffolding make most construction scenes ugly, the debris effectively blocks the vision of the finished church.  Only a trip back to the original drawings help us keep a refreshed view of end result.  Following are some misguided views that can lead us astray: 

The church is not meeting the needs of my family.  Don’t get stressed over the perceived lack of ministry to every aspect of your life.  Of course, every pastor’s dream is to provide for all spiritual needs from the cradle to the grave.  Sometimes, though, the people and the money are just not available.  At any rate, it is unrealistic for us to expect the church to do it all.  Each of us bears the ultimate responsibility for ourselves and our family’s spiritual welfare.  Personal consecration, family devotions and spiritual leadership in the home can compensate for whatever the church cannot provide. (2 Corinthians 7:1). 

I‘m not happy with the people in my church.  Be careful.  You may be indirectly murmuring against God for putting you into the wrong congregation as if He didn’t know what He was doing.  First, make sure you are adding value to the church by your membership.  When you are lifting, edifying, encouraging and loving people, you are going to get a return on your investment.  Second, what you have in common with is far more important than how you may differ.  Key on that.  Last, rather than withdraw from close fellowship, cultivate friendship.  (Proverbs 18:24). 

My church is too small.  The truth is that every church is too small!  If your criticism is only a complaint, then you are being selfish and petty.  If you want a bigger congregation, then do something about it!  Invite people to come.  Teach a home Bible study.  Reach out to a needy soul.  Mentor a new convert.  Volunteer your services to the pastor to make a difference.  Start a contest.  Sponsor a revival.  Do something!  At some point, your efforts will catch fire and others will join you.  (2 Timothy 1:6). 

My church is too big.  Do you resent the feeling that the pastor doesn’t even know if you are in service?  Do you feel like a number without a name?  If you need personal attention from the pastor every time you attend a service, or you crave affirmation, then you have the wrong idea of the purpose of the church.  The church does not exist for you; you need the church!  In my experience, anyone who pours himself or herself into the ministry of the church will get attention.  Do something worthy of notice and you will find significance and appreciation.  Yes, even in a huge congregation! (1 Corinthians 12:12-26). 

My church needs more life.  If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem!  Ask yourself, what can I do to change the climate of worship, excitement, energy and vision of the church?  That answer ought to be obvious.  It’s not a matter of just being louder and more demonstrative than anyone else in church services.  The answer is more apt to be in more prayer, more fasting, more soulwinning and working around the altar.  The intercessor’s tears may be more needful than staging a track meet down the center aisle.  The more you are filled with the Spirit, the more life you will have! (James 5:16). 

My church is going through trying times.  Now is the time for you to exhibit a greater measure of loyalty and stability than at any previous moment.  Stay with the church and its leadership even when close friends abandon you.  Refuse to add your voice to criticism that may be circulating around the congregation.  Avoid being drawn into circles of gossip.  You do yourself no favors by engaging in destructive talk or actions.  Stay upbeat, positive and spiritually minded.  God still blesses peacemakers. (James 4:1-11). 

My church seems irrelevant to the times.  Relevance is relative.  If you mean that your church does not emulate popular church culture, it’s a moot point.  The church was designed to meet basic spiritual needs, not model superficial trends.  The closest analogy I can think of is whether you care if your brain surgeon or cardiac specialist wears designer jeans or cool sunglasses.  If he or she has expertise as a physician, that’s all that matters.  If your pastor preaches truth, be grateful and supportive.  (Acts 20:27-35). 

Your connection to a local church is not optional.  A committed relationship is the only place where you can develop the qualities of Christian character and attitude promulgated by the New Testament.  This requires accountability, trust, devotion, labor, cooperation, service, love and reliability.  You must be under authority, supervision and spiritual guidance.  Nowhere in the Scriptures do we see free lance Christianity promoted.  Get plugged into your church, stay involved, baptize your criticisms in love, and become a source of strength to others.  Remember, all the other churches that you admire and wish that you were a member of their congregations were built on people who shelved their complaints, prayed through their problems and simply worked hard for God.  You can be that church!  (Ephesians 5:25-27).

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