I have been sitting on this one a while…
I am the pastor of a small church that was planted 3 years ago starting in my living room. When a new church or a new pastor shows up. we want to know as much as we can about them. Since its inception we have seen God’s hand move in different ways than we would have expected, growth to happen in places that brought great joy to our lives and constantly reminded that I ain’t about me.
I was recently asked about our church, The Well, by a woman at Walmart. She asks me, “So what do ya’ll believe?” I found that to be a little strange and I don’t know if I will ever get used to hearing that question. The pat answer would be “The Bible”. But I could tell by her probing voice that she needed much more. My response was…
We believe that Jesus still saves
That Hell is still hot
That sin still destroys lives
That churches are filled with imperfect people that are in desperate need of God’s grace and forgiveness
We believe that while the culture rules, the family is attacked, weakened and all but destroyed.
We believe that God’s not dead, He calls us out of darkness into His marvelous light and that making disciples is job one.
There was about 15 seconds of silence. Then she broke silence with, “Alright then…(in my best southern voice). I sure hope that she makes it to the church sometime soon.
I recently ran across an email suggesting some various articles that were supposed to be worthy of reading. (As a pastor of a small church plant I get a lot of these) The first article a saw was written by a 37 year old male blogger that refereed to himself as a “cis gendered male” in a separate blog. Now don’t read anything into that. I added that part because I had never heard the term before. The email pointed to a response to an article from Relevant Magazine titled “5 Really Bad Reasons to Leave Your Church“. The response was titled “5 Awesome Reasons to Leave Your Church” and the blogger/author said it all boiled down to one real reason, “My needs aren’t being met“.
This, I found, was a troubling statement. Never in over 2 decades of studying the scriptures have I found one passage that said that people should come, have come to the church/temple or the the Lord to have their needs met. I find this to be a growing problem within the church. As I refer to the church, please keep in mind what the church is first as the people of God; second, a body of believers that meet, eat, pray together and encourage one another. Now I’m not talking about people that came to Jesus in order to be healed. I am talking about people that come to the church, sit down and in a sense say “Gimme”.
This mentality is killing the church partially due to…the church not standing on TRUTH and picking little pieces of truth that they can fly a flag of protest on. TRUTH, not some truth, not a truth but TRUTH. A huge problem is that people come in with their hands empty and hearts closed and want their hands to be fills (metaphorically – what can I get) and the heart is off limits (Metaphorically – I ain’t changing).
Why is this a problem? Should we not come to church to receive a message and learn from God? Well, that is what most pastors would hope. But consider this, Where is the sacrifice of praise? Where is the GIVING of ourselves? Where is the idea of GIVING ourselves wholly to a holy God? Most people want to come to church, get inspired, maybe their toes stepped on, shake a few hands, listen to some toons but give…? Give ourselves to God not take take take. It reminds me of a story I heard about a dad who reluctantly was convinced by his wife and 8 year old son to come to church instead of watch the football game. After arriving at the church and complaining about the crowd, the guy on the 2nd row that owed him 20 dollars, the singer that was off key, the offering plate was past. The dad squirmed as he thew in a $1 bill. All the way home the dad ranted about his experience at the church. Finally his son who was listening to every word piped up and said, “But it wasn’t bad for a dollar.”
This I hope you understand is not about money but what WE give in terms of ourselves. We should be giving of ourselves to the work and ministry of the gospel message and less about taking. We need to start opening up our hearts to God’s truth. I believe that the only reason to leave your church should not be about the music, the style, the bible version that is used by the pastor but this…IF biblical truth is being taught or not. If the truth is subjected and twisted due to the culture, science or political pressure then I can’t be a part of the fellowship until such time as there is repentance. Now that being said, I have an obligation to go to the pastor, elders and leadership to point out any unscriptural error in teaching. First though, WE have to study the word ourselves – 2 Tim. 2:15 teaches us to study the word. When we study and search the truth, error can clearly be seen should it pop up. If the leadership’s truth is based on anything other than the truth of God’s Word or is based on the culture war and being PC, that’s a big problem. If repentance does not follow and I can’t sit under the leadership, I must break away from that fellowship.
For my Christian, believer, follower of Christ or however you refer to yourselves you will notice that this post is not chock full of scriptures and that is for this reason. For the believer, you already know that this message is right without putting 25 verses up here. You are called to be in the local church and its fellowship and to serve…period. But for the unbeliever or the skeptic, the bible won’t mean anything anyway. It is my hope that the unsure will read the conviction in these words and know that church isn’t perfect and neither are its people. But don’t focus on me or the guy down the road but focus on the life of Jesus that we should be striving to be like. I have a whole lot more to say on this subject but I am going to leave it where it is til another time. In closing remember that it is “Better to GIVE than RECEIVE”.