Lurking within churches is a debilitating illness that often becomes epidemic before being detected and diagnosed. The affects of this malady are usually fast growing and far-reaching. Not only does it lead to spiritual lethargy, apathy and complacency within the Body, it often causes members to drop off the radar, and in many cases, dropout altogether. I’m talking about personal preference.
Many who sit in pews every week have what I call a “consumer church” mentality. They are driven by personal preference motivated by what can I get out of it? What’s in it for me? And what can the church do for me?
Such an attitude and view of the church is not only unbiblical it’s also unreasonable.
A biblical view of the church
The Greek term ekklesia is translated “called out ones.” It’s the New Testament word for church. The Lord Jesus Christ “called out” His people from the world through the shedding of His blood on the cross. Following the resurrection, He commissioned and sent His people back into the world as agents of change.
“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” Matthew 28:18-20 (NASB)
The church exists not for the purpose and glory of her members, but for the purpose and glory of her Messiah.
All who put their faith and trust in Jesus and become part of His church through Believer’s baptism are tasked with the responsibility of being His witness. Nowhere in Scripture do we see the members of the church front and center. The church is not about God’s people or what God’s people are doing; the church is about God’s glory and what God is doing through His people.
“I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” Matthew 16:18 (NASB)
Jesus said, “I will build My church,” so the church belongs to Him. We are His people. The church does not exist for her members, which includes trying to satisfy the whims and wants of her members. A “members-centered” view of the church is both unbiblical and unreasonable.
Think about it. How easy is it to please yourself? How much time, effort and energy do you spend trying to manage your own personal likes and dislikes? Do you always get to eat your favorite foods, watch your favorite TV shows, and hang out with your favorite people? It doesn’t always work out that way, does it? How well do you handle it? Are you understanding, humble and kind or do you argue, complain and pitch a fit?
What happens if we add another person into the mix? The problem doubles. Consider a congregation of hundreds or thousands of people. Now, the problem multiplies and grows exponentially. It’s just unreasonable to think you can make every member of a church happy; even in the smallest congregation. Couple this with the idea that everyone thinks they’re the exception to the rule. They’re not.
Fact is we won’t always sing our favorite songs in worship. We won’t always hear our favorite instruments. We won’t always engage in our favorite programs and activities. We won’t always hire our favorite people. We won’t always agree with the decisions of our leaders. We won’t always be best friends with the staff. We won’t always affirm the schedules, meetings, facilities and ministries of the church. Again, the church exists not for our own personal preferences, but for God’s glory.
So, what should be occupying the hearts and minds of church members is not what can I get out of it? What’s in it for me? And what can the church do for me? But, are we fulfilling the Great Commission? Are we making disciples of all nations? Are we pursuing the lost and engaging culture with the gospel?
Do we care more about people than we do our own personal preferences?
We need to be honest in answering that question and willing to make any necessary adjustments in righting the ship. We can get miffed, frazzled and frayed and leave the church and find another one we intend to like better. But, keep in mind the next church will not exist for us either. The problem will likely follow us to the other church because we’ll be there.
We must die to self. This requires us to have a biblical view of the church.
It’s not about us. It’s about Jesus in us.