It is so easy to assume that we “attend” church on a Sunday morning. But let’s remember the timeless truth that we are the church. The church is a group of Christ-followers in one particular area. In some ways you cannot “attend” church because you are part of the church. It makes it easier to detach ourselves from the church when a church becomes a building and not a group of people. It is easier to church-hop when you attend a church and don’t participate in a group of believers. We seem to be caught in a vortex of articles on the internet suggesting what the church needs to do differently or better, to remain relevant. They often sound vague and like there’s someone, somewhere else that needs to do something differently about the problem. But when we talk about the church, we’re not talking about a building or somebody else we’re talking about ourselves. So here are ten things we as the church lack that threaten us.
We Lack Christ-likeness
I don’t mean that we lack piety or politeness. I don’t mean that we lack the ability to be loving, nice or kind. We lack because we do not know how to both show grace to someone in sin and yet have zealous-anger at religious money changers. We lack Christ-likeness because we don’t know how to sleep with a rock as our pillow nor have we been invited to a party with sinners.
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:21)
We Lack Church Unity
Why do we have so many churches? We read reports that church attendance is going down yet I continue to hear about more and more church plants opening their doors every year. Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. We have too many churches. We don’t need church planters, we need church joiners-combiners and church-unifiers. We need whatever is the opposite of a church split. When a new church plant opens up where do you think they get most of their members? I would venture to bet most of those members are transplants from other churches in town.
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21)
We Lack Church Loyalty
I see people who church hop like it’s going out of style. I have seen people cycle through all the good Bible-believing churches like they’re shoe shopping. What do you think the world thinks when they see church members cycling through churches like pages of a phone book and changing them as often as they change their underwear? It’s sad really, because those who church hop don’t think of the church as something that we belong to, we participate in or is a part of us. Instead those who church hop tend to think of the church as something that is to be attended, provide programs and be abandoned when it doesn’t meet our needs. Sad.
He knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. (Acts 20:36-38)
We Lack Gospel Commitment
Why do we add to the Gospel? You must have Jesus plus you must be baptized. You must have Jesus plus you must look like such-and-such. You must have Jesus plus you must speak in tongues. You must have Jesus but you must not ever dance or drink. Isn’t the whole point of the sermon on the mount that we’d all realize that the law is hopelessly impossible to attain and that we’d need Jesus alone? The Apostle Paul was so zealous for the Gospel that he went out of his way to ensure that it was not being undermined, perverted or altered in any way that he wrote against false teachers again and again.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-8)
We Lack Hunger for Change
I didn’t say just a willingness to change. I’m not talking about changing things so that we attract people to church. I’m not talking about implementing something that’s more hip, cool or contemporary. I’m not talking about some kind of disgruntled and begrudged giving in to changing small things such as preferential appearances or styles. I’m talking about a real hunger for change. I mean a starving-hunger felt in your gut. Like someone who is yearning for real and lasting impact and change. When I say change I mean growth, challenge, a desire to move out of the comfort zone and into the unknown, which leads us to the next two…
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
We Lack Uncomfortableness
You and I are so committed to safety, comfort and happiness that we forget that Jesus used a rock as a pillow. We have become so irritated by discomfort, so ruled by it that we let our discomforts dictate choices we make in our lives. Ever realized all the choices you’ve let your dislike of discomfort dictate? It’s kinda scary. We’re as committed to avoiding discomfort as we are avoiding guilt. We make “thou shalt not be in a state of discomfort” the eleventh commandment. Why do we do that? We should seek to be uncomfortable but instead the moment one local church makes us uncomfortable we switch churches.
Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58)
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James 1:2)
We Lack a Sense of Adventure
If you’ve been so focused on pursuing the dream of safety, security, comfort and happiness that you’ve lost your sense of wonder and excitement maybe it’s time to go find it. You won’t find that sense of adventure in the known but only in the pursuit of following Jesus into the unknown. The church needs to stop trying to make the building so comfortable that we forget that the world that needs to hear about Jesus is outside.
Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-20)
We Lack a Dumpster
We all know the timeless truth is that you can’t take it with you. If you’re like me you hang on to way too much junk. You don’t know what to do with it. You don’t know where to put it. It clutters your life. Yet we seem to be unwilling to part with this stuff. We cling to anything that brings us satisfaction and nostalgia like the twelvth commandment was “do not get rid of anything that brings you fond memories”.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where ymoth and rust5 destroy and where thieves zbreak in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
We Lack Concern for Other People
If we’re honest with ourselves we can be selfish individuals. It’s hard to care about someone else. It’s a lot of work to find out what’s going on with someone else. It’s exhausting to get involved with someone else’s problems. Jesus humbled Himself and came down to be with us, hear about our problems and love us. Yet we have a hard time holding a conversation with a stranger because we’re so stressed and self-consumed with our own issues.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)
We Lack Following Character
We are an independent country. We live in a world that values self-made people. It’s always easier to not listen to authority. It’s always easier to do your own thing. It’s always easier to rebel, to seek your own path, to resist and to be independent. It requires a lot humility, submission and intentionality to fall under authority and follow. We as people don’t tend to value humility or submission, both of which are character traits Jesus not only portrayed but are valued throughout Scripture.
Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. (Hebrews 13:17)
He fell on his face rand prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let sthis cup pass from me; tnevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)