Is the Church Lost?

Western
culture is all about the self and how to gain bigger and better things.
It’s no surprise, then, that this mentality has affected the way most of
us think about church. It’s easy to get stuck in a mindset that
continuously assesses the quality of a church based on what they have
to offer us. There is even more of a tendency to evaluate churches
based on the specific desires of one’s self when searching for a new
church.

Questions
like, “Was the sermon good and did it move me?”, “How well did the band
play and did I like the songs?”, “Does the church have fun events
coming up that interest me?” and “What was the facility like and did it
have a good atmosphere?” are regularly asked by churchgoers every week.
A decision about returning to a church is largely based on whether the
church’s programs and style are pleasing to us or not.

Church
leaders are very aware that people ask these questions. As they seek to
carry out the mission God has placed on their hearts for ministry, it
can be easy for pastors and administrators to find themselves spending
hours in meetings trying to figure out how to market their church to
meet everyone’s tastes. When a church’s focus has drifted from Jesus
to these external factors, the success of the church is
usually then measured in terms of numerical growth, financial giving
and programs.

An
argument for this mentality is that trying to focus on and please
people is a necessary evil in an attempt to reach more people with
the Gospel. The problem with this is that when you look at Jesus’
ministry, He spent little to no time entertaining people or making sure
they were comfortable. Instead, He stuck to the truths of the Gospel.
Many times this approach made people uncomfortable and walk away.

The fact is, the questions we use to assess our churches are not the same questions that God wants us to ask.

In Crazy Love, Francis Chan writes: “God’s definition of what matters is
pretty straightforward. He measures our lives by how we love.”

This
love is uncomfortable and it means sometimes listening to music that’s
not your style or understanding a sermon that didn’t do much for you
might have helped someone else that Sunday. It means that sometimes
church isn’t big and cutting-edge, but small and simple. More so, it
means not coming to a church focused on consuming, but instead coming to
give and serve.

Christians
must understand that God does not define “good” churches by the quality
of their programs, the size of membership or the look and feel of a
facility. Focusing on those things can cause us to completely miss the
point of what God actually wants of His Church. God has called us to
draw near to Him, share the freedom and life of Jesus, and to love and
serve others. Everything else must come second to these goals.

John Ortberg describes what happens in many churches in the 2010 Spring edition of Leadership journal:

“Out
of this vision [of who Christ is and what He wants to accomplish] flows
a desire to do good things for such a God. And sometimes these
activities may lead to results that look quite remarkable or
impressive. [Eventually] people begin to pay more attention to what
they are doing than to the reality of God.

"At
this point the mission replaces the vision as the dominant feature in
peoples’ consciousness. Once this happens, descent is inevitable. For
now people are living under the tyranny of Producing Impressive
Results.”

Is
“Producing Impressive Results” a sin? Not always. Programs and numbers
and quality are all good things, but when church focuses mainly on
these things instead of Christ … it is sinful.

The
original Greek word that is translated as sin in English literally
means “to miss the mark.” Sin is when we go in a different direction
than what God wants for us.

The
direction God wants us to go is toward Him. That is the
whole point of church. Church should be a group of people, regularly
gathering in an effort to draw closer to God, living life together in
love and service, and sharing God with others. That’s it! There are no
rules or guidelines to how that specifically looks, sounds or feels.
It’s not about external elements, but about our internal hearts and
what direction they are facing. It’s about love for God and love for
one another.

See Also

Today
there are very impressive churches that meet all around the world. You
can walk into an impressive building, hear incredible music, fantastic
preaching and participate in some amazing programs to help others in
need, all while being surrounded by hundreds or thousands of others
doing the same thing. None of that really matters though. What matters
is where the hearts of the leaders and members are focused.

Consider the letter to the church in Ephesus recorded in Revelation 2:

“I
know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient
endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the
claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have
discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.”

Jesus is saying, “You are a good church doing many good things!” However, He continues:

"But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look
how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at
first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from
its place among the churches” (NLT).

This
message is just as much for us today as it was for the church in
Ephesus almost 2,000 years ago. As we attend, serve or lead a local
body of Christ’s Church, we cannot allow ourselves to make our
gatherings focus on external things that can take the place of God
within our hearts. Instead, we must stay focused on the love of Christ—His sacrifice, His resurrection, His grace; and the impact of those
things on the hearts of those who come together.

Jake Kircher writes about ministry and faith at www.jakekircher.com and marriage and relationships at www.holymessofmarriage.com. Jake and Nich recently completed a sermon series called “Questioning Church,” which can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/user/GraceYouthGathering.

Scroll To Top