Are you Comfortable with the way you Are?
We Christians are an odd group. We usually know what’s right, but we often do the opposite. Paul shared his own experience with this in Romans 7. However, Paul’s battle was a real war between his fleshly desires and his knowledge of righteousness.
Too often, when we act in a way that opposes “the right way,” it has little to do with the conflict between our conscious and our flesh. We do “the wrong thing” because we want to and we rationalize doing it. In other words, we are doing what we want but we are not battling against it because we actually have convinced ourselves that there is nothing wrong with it.
I came across an example of this last weekend. We were with someone who typically goes to a home church but will occasionally go to the large, several thousand person church down the street. There is another small church down the street as well. They had gone to that church several times, but don’t go there anymore.
I asked why they no longer went to the smaller church. The response was, “They are always calling me and asking why I wasn’t there last week. I didn’t want to keep answering them, so I stopped going. Now I go to the big church. They never call. They don’t even know I’m there. I go in and leave and nobody bothers me.”
Let’s analyze some of the things wrong here:
- They didn’t want to be held accountable
- The small church kept calling
- The large church never calls
- The large church doesn’t even know they attend
- They didn’t want to be held accountable. This is a problem that many Christians have. We don’t like other people telling us that we’re going off the straight path. The idea that someone else should tell us we’re wrong about something goes against our American values held today. In this day of relative truth, who are you to tell me I’m wrong about something? We would rather not hear from anyone who is trying to hold us accountable.
- The small church kept calling. Church Growth 101 teaches that when someone walks in the front door, we need to guard the back door to make sure they don’t leave. One of the methods we’re taught to do this is to ensure that people are called everytime an “event” occurs: a first visit, a second visit, a missed Sunday, a church activity (potluck, church fair, Easter outreach, etc.). The problem is the church becomes something to avoid rather than embrace. It is like seeing your annoying neighbor in the supermarket: when you spot them, you turn and quickly walk the other way, ignoring them even as they repeatedly call out your name.
- The large church never calls. See problem number 4.
- The large church doesn’t even know they attend. By nature, a large church is a place where people can go to get lost. You want to hide from other Christians, you go to a large church. Sure, the pastor can say, “Greet the person next to you,” and you can shake hands with people. However, if you want to be lost, you won’t say two words after “Good morning.” If you want to be hidden, you don’t fill out the connect card. If you don’t fill out the connect card, you don’t get any phone calls or visits. This problem is multiplied when most of the people there want to be unseen. No one speaks to each other on purpose.
- The problem with Christians today is that we have become too much a part of the culture. We don’t want anyone disciplining us or holding us accountable.
In Kenya, I was in the car with Pastor Tom. As we drove, he recognized one of the members of his church walking down the street who was not in service that Sunday. He smiled as he told me he was going pull over to speak to the member.
“Hey. How are you doing?”
“I’m fine, pastor” (not stopping to talk but continuing to walk, the car creeping forward to keep pace).
“You weren’t in church Sunday.”
“Yeah, I had to work.” (head down, no eye contact)
“You’ll be there this coming Sunday, right?”
“Yes. Yes, I will. I’ll be there.” (walking a little faster)
“Great. See you then.”
Nobody likes to be held accountable. It means we’re doing something wrong. We have to change our behavior, our priorities, our thinking. We have to obey someone else.
We would like to argue, but we know in our hearts they are right, that they are being Biblical, that we have strayed. We hate that. Like a child who doesn’t want to be potty trained stubbornly insists that a dirty diaper is better, we would rather be blissfully ignorant and wrong than be painfully awaken to our situation.
The Solution: the Bible is clear that obedience is of major importance to God.
Matthew 7:21 – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Luke 6:46 – “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?
John 14:15 – “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
Romans 6:16 – Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
If doing the right thing is so important to God, why wouldn’t we want our brethren to tell us when we are falling short? It is nothing less than pride.
Proverbs 29:23 – One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.
We do well to do as the Bible calls us to do. The Bible calls us to keep each other accountable.
Galatians 6:1 – Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.
Whenever a brethren holds us accountable, they are doing exactly what they have been called to do by God. We should not cause their work to be more difficult by ignoring and avoiding them.
2. As much as the Bible calls us to keep each other accountable, too often, the church has a different motive than God does.
God desires that we be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16), but the church is usually worried about numbers. Since we’re so concerned about numbers, we become obsessive about making sure every person that comes into the church, stays in the church.
Two problems may be the cause of a person deciding to stay away from a church that constantly calls.
- The first is that people can tell the church cares more about their numbers than about them.
- The second is that they are turned off by the church because they are annoying in their obsession to make sure the person becomes part of their church.
The solution: For the first issue, it is a fallacy of Christianity that evidence of God’s blessing a church is its growth. Many churches grow simply because of the charisma of the pastor or the entertainment factor, especially in the worship music and the message. Church size is not a proper indicator of God’s favor.
Hence, churches should stop measuring their success as the world does: by their numbers. Instead, church success should be measured by the love they have for each other and the glory they bring to God.
Proverbs 3:3-4 – Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.
For the second issue, no one wants to be “Annoying Annie.” That includes the church. A phone call is good. Two is fine. Three is harassment. No one wants to be continually pestered. Churches need to do their due diligence. After that, they need to prayerfully leave it in God’s hands.
Proverbs 29:11 – A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.
Show real love to those who walk into your church service. Then call them once or twice, but after that hold back from your desire to keep calling. These two things will have people coming to your church.
3 and 4 – The greatest problem large churches face is that they have bought in to the cultural idea that bigger is better. At some point, a church gets too big to give the proper care to those in the flock.
When a shepherd has too many sheep, some are bound to be lost or killed. While losing an actual sheep may be acceptable, God will not stand by and pardon large churches that are satisfied that their sheep are being ignored. Even adding many pastors and small groups does not make up for the inability to know anything about the people joining the service.
The Solution: Large churches need to understand the same thing a small church does: God does not deem them successful by their numbers but by their love for the brethren and the glory they bring to Him.
Hence, the solution for the large church is to find out how they can honestly love every person that comes to their service. If this is impossible, then the church is too large and needs to be divided.
Church multiplication by splitting is a great way to build the Kingdom, to give others the opportunity to use their spiritual gifts and to enable the church to really love and shepherd those who gather together with them in worship.
And in the End…
So now we’ve solved the problems of disobedient Christians, annoying and unloving churches.
Maybe not. But at least we’re calling these out.
Too many Christians are like the person who goes to the large church to stay lost. They do things they know are not the right things to do but they convince themselves that it’s OK.
If you’re a disobedient Christian who has rationalized your behavior, I hope you see yourself here. Know that you’re walking a slippery slope.
‘Vengeance is Mine, and retribution,
In due time their foot will slip;
For the day of their calamity is near,
And the impending things are hastening upon them.’ – Deuteronomy 32:35
Yet, it is not too late.
I When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. – Psalm 94:18
Repent. God is waiting for you to return to Him.
If you’re an unloving church, recognize what Jesus has done for you.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. – Ephesians 5:25-27
Christ gave Himself so the church would be set apart from the culture (sanctified) and holy and blameless. Stop being so worried about numbers. Instead, try to set a record for how much love you can show to those who walk through your doors. Then you will be blameless.
Wouldn’t it be nice: Obedient Christians? Blameless Churches? Are you comfortable with the way you are? You shouldn’t be! Maybe we can turn around the Apostate Church…or at least be a part of the Remnant. The Lord is Near! Maranatha!