That may be an exaggeration of how it goes, but not by much. And you probably have someone in your life who does go too far in gushing over their ‘faves’ and making others feel small if they don’t agree.
This week, our devotionals are focusing on what it means to be a God-honoring, pastor-supporting, and believer-edifying parishioner. How can I be a better part of my church? Yesterday we looked at the wrong and right ways to find a church. Today we look at how to talk about your church.
Let’s say you find that place where God plants you. It is a wholesome loving community of faith where you receive the Word and are able to serve the saved and reach the lost. You love the anointed preaching at your church. The music is top notch. The people serving in areas of ministry are loving and self-sacrificing. The atmosphere is like Heaven. The facilities are welcoming. You absolutely LOVE everything about it. Congratulations. Many Christians wander most of their spiritual life without ever getting plugged-in to such an experience.
But when you talk about your church family, there’s no reason to overstate what is going on. The Church is the bride of Christ, and that makes her special. But no one local church gets it all right all the time. That’s right. Your church is not perfect. You might say it is perfect for you. But it is not perfect, and it is likely not perfect for everyone. Everyone should not come to your church. It would never be God’s will for everyone in the world to be a part of your local church. I’ll go a step farther. It isn’t God’s will for every Christian to go to your church.
There is one “C”hurch. And that Church is made up of many “c”hurches. That is how God designed it. Each church has its own calling in the larger body and in the world. Most churches have their own unique strength.
Larger churches often have a more obvious sense of broadening the Kingdom. Many large churches send a lot of money to foreign fields to build churches and other ministries. They provide great opportunities for the community to get plugged into various services, and will write large checks to a variety of local ministries. They have the ability to put on top-notch productions and special events which provide a gateway for the unchurched to come to know Christ.
Smaller churches usually have a greater sense of connectedness/community. It is easier for the church to actually get to know each other. There is often more loyalty present in smaller churches. It is more likely that people will get plugged into ministry in these churches. It is more difficult to hide in a small church, so there is more accountability at all levels.
I can go on and on about the benefits of various types of churches. And it isn’t just the size of the church that determines its strengths and weaknesses. The style of worship, leadership and denominational status will impact its values and environment. I can easily list several good things about every church, and several challenges about each church.
But most people aren’t that honest about it, especially when talking about their church with their friends and family. It is not uncommon to see Christians on social media gush over their church, pastor, ministries, worship services, etc. They will say, “This is the best church. I’ve been to other churches where people don’t love each other. There is no fighting in this church. You can feel the love when you walk in. No one judges me or my family. I’ve never felt closer to God than I do in this church.”
Now, that all may be true. But I’ll be honest… usually that kind of a line is offered after a person has left another church because of something bad that went down between them and another member, or between them and the pastor. Ironically, they had gone to that church for quite some time. And if you go back into their Facebook history, you will probably find that they said the same thing about their former church that they are now saying about their present church. And if you can look deeper than the words, you might find that they are gushing about their new church in order to take a shot at the former church, knowing that their friends from the other church will see their passionate love for the church that they have only been attending for 2 weeks. And how much would you like to bet that they will end up at another church in a couple of years saying the same thing about that one when they get tired or mad at this one? (This is some important stuff).
In other words, we act like there is a competition. Some people apparently feel like it is their mission in life to show others that their church is more Biblical, more loving, more accepting, more outreach-focused, cooler, better in the music department, etc. than every other church on the planet. Unfortunately church leadership sometimes promotes this unhealthy competition. I’ve heard radio commercials touting things like, “This ain’t your grandma’s church.” What?!? My grandma was one of the best Christians I know. Her pastor knew her name. That church has been supporting missionaries for 50 years. That church could have all night prayer meetings where they actually prayed all night. It is arrogant of you to think guitars, smoke machines and a hip looking pastor are better than my grandma’s church.
Another thing church leaders and members will say to get people to come to their church is, “Our people are real… we are authentic.” What does that mean? Are you saying every other church is full of fake people or hypocrites? Are you suggesting that your church doesn’t have anyone who is a hypocrite? Are you taking a shot at holiness by telling us that people who go to your church can act however they like and it doesn’t matter? The more you tell me how ‘real’ you are, the less I believe you. Ironically, that pitch does not sound authentic to me.
We say these things usually to make ourselves feel better about our choices and desires. Perhaps your church does have a spectacular preacher, music program, children’s ministry, youth movement, and facility. Maybe they are making disciples. Great. That really is wonderful. But God is doing the same thing in the church down the street where the preacher stutters, the piano is out of tune, there are only four children (and three of them belong to the pastor), the teens don’t get to go on trips to Africa, and their roof has a few leaks. But they are making disciples too.
The Kingdom of God is not a competition between one church and another. It is a conflict between light and darkness. We are called to rescue the lost and bring them into God’s Church, not lure other Christians to our church. It is time for Christians to quit ‘shaming’ other Christians based on their church choice. If you have a friend or family member who is being led away from the truth by false doctrine, you need to help them find truth. But we need to stop comparing the work of God to the work of God and start contrasting the work of God with the work of the enemy.
The book of Revelation starts out with seven letters to churches. In those letters God commends and condemns certain activity within them. No church was perfect with no room for improvement. God encouraged them to become more of what He intended them to be. The same is true today. Invite people to church. But mainly invite people to Christ, and encourage them to be a part of that in a place that will best meet their spiritual needs, and help them become fruitful in the Kingdom.
Paul saw competition in the early church and addressed it this way…
“Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the standard of one’s faith; if service, in service; if teaching, in teaching; if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness.
Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:4-18)
The primary message you should be sending out is not that your church is better than other churches, but that your God is the only God, and His family is the only one that provides what every person needs.
[Bible quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.]
Find more of David’s work at Heart Of Ministry.