The need-meeting center we call church.

May 1, 2007 at 1:00 pm 8 comments

Jon, in a comment on yesterdays post, said this about the church: “…no matter where we go we just find the same problems”  I think Jon is right in much of what he says, but the question I want to try and answer is “why”.  Why are most churches just the same problem with a different look?

I heard someone say many years ago and it is more true today; “much of the institutional church exists to mutually meet self-need.  Some come to church because they can be leaders and some come to be led.  Some come because they have a desire to serve children (rare I know) and some come to drop their children off for someone else to disciple.  Some people come to find acceptance and others come to be their messiah.  Others come so they can be up-front and sing while others come to sit and enjoy a meaningful worship service.  As long as a congregation can keep those needs overlapping everything is wonderful but as soon as one need begins to predominate at the expense of another, all hell breaks loose.  That is when the gossip flows, the power struggles begin and the leaving starts. 

When one church fails to meet needs, people begin to look for another church where there is a different leadership and a new group of “need meeters” and the cycle begins all over again.  Any pastor, who has been at it very long, knows better then to get excited when he sees a new family transfer in from another church in town.

My point is this.  If we are going to church or seeking a church where we can have our needs met by others we will have moments of fulfillment (early in the relationship) followed by long seasons of discontent and frustration.  Be honest, why did you choose the church you attend?  The preacher was good? The music?  Your kids would be cared for?  It had a great youth program?  If people aren’t choosing their church for self-centered reasons why do churches work so hard to have the best of everything and attempt to be the church for everyone?

The solution to the “need meeting center” we call church is quite simple, but rarely tried, because most of us are horribly and hopelessly selfish and self-centered, addicted to having our needs met.  All of life is about me, my needs, my wants, my expectations and my preferences.  If a church has more than two people it can’t meet everyone’s needs. Was meeting needs what Jesus had in mind for His Bride?

Here is the solution as I see it.  We will experience the joy of real relational interaction when we decide we will find our dependence in Jesus and Jesus only.  Relational wholeness, body life, whatever you call a gathering of believers, only happens as a by-product of a life dependent on Jesus.

When we are dependent on Jesus, His life will spill out of ours and onto others wherever we go.  A person who chooses to live dependent on the Savior comes to any interaction with another person with their needs met and so they are free to let the life of Jesus flow out of them and on to others.

Why did the Apostle Paul call Jesus the “Head of the Church, which is His Body”?  To make it clear He was to have the preeminent place in everything.  Our needs were not to be the focus of Body Life but the presence of Jesus was to be the center.

Here is the problem with what is being run out there as church life today.  Rather than teaching people to live dependent on Jesus, the church supplants that dependency by a misguided attempt to take the place of Jesus in peoples lives.  Instead of teaching people how to live fully and freely in Him, the church teaches them to become dependent on the meetings and the structures of what they call church.  So the church becomes one more thing standing in the way of people enjoying a dependent relationship with Jesus instead of a place where the Bride comes to share the over flow of it’s dependence on the Bridegroom.

When we learn to live in relationship with Jesus and not the church we find real joy in hanging out with people who desire the same thing.  We may encounter a person for a few moments or walk with them for years but when Jesus is the sum of our connection there is no need for manipulation, guilt trips or control because we know Jesus is in control anyway.

Churches almost always promise more than they can deliver because churches are not capable of, nor were they intended to, give life, provide purpose or even build solid lives.  Only Jesus can do those things.  We can tinker with new methods, programs, slogans, staff members, buildings, vision committees, strategic planning and on and on but if we do not get this one thing right, all efforts will fall short. 

Focus on the church and you will be constantly disappointed, focus on Jesus and you will find Him building the church around you.

Where can you find such a gathering?  Look for groups that talk about Jesus and how to live fully dependent on Him or better yet begin to live dependent on Jesus and you will find others living the same way and you will find your church.

Is there anyone else out there that longs to see what might happen if we invited Jesus to be the Head of His Church?

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Entry filed under: Christianity, Church, Culture, Faith, Friendship, Jesus, Thoughts.

Staying on in the institutional church. Bill’s “Big Bubbas’s Burgers” Bodacius Birthday Bash!

8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. BeckyC  |  May 8, 2007 at 8:57 am

    As I sat down to read this series of writings, I was feeling very critical of the church I have been attending and actively seeking another church. I still see the same things going wrong and I still feel that change needs to be made in the church. But it goes much deeper than that. In reading what Greg has written along with the comments others have made, I have been convicted of my own role as a part of the church body. The church is guilty of much but I need to pull the plank out of my own eye. I confess I have been one of those people who are just taking up a seat on Sunday morning.
    When a person walks in the door on Sunday morning for the first time or hurting and needing love they see regular people like me. They don’t need people that have been placed on a committee and TOLD to reach out and care. They need people to genuinely care. There are too many people like me that are too busy in their daily life to take the time to say “I care” to those in the body that are hurting. Maybe it’s as simple as making a phone call or dropping a note. Is anyone so busy that they can’t do that!? If we all took just a little time each week asking God to place someone on our heart or seek someone out and find a way to say “I care” wouldn’t we all see church a little differently? Maybe we would have less time to gripe about the leadership. It’s so easy to look at ‘church’ as the building, leadership and committees, but it’s the people that attend that are the body. As I just wrote that, I think about how many times I have heard that. There is something about the conviction I feel TODAY that brings it home for me.
    Thank you, Greg for bringing it out to ponder. Your preaching from the pulpit was great, but your writings are helping me to search my own heart in a new way.

  • 2. onlysometimesclever  |  May 3, 2007 at 10:42 am

    It seems to me — unless I’ve misunderstood Greg here — that he is *not* anti-church, as some have suggested here. He’s pro-New-Testament, Jesus-based church, which is *not* what most of the American church is right now. The state of most of the American church is a tragedy that he’s pointing out; it’s not like he’s saying, “It’s so great that the church isn’t relevant! Everybody LEAVE!!!” He’s suggesting that we stop ignoring the problems and do something about them.

    I do have to say, though, that I was reading in Ephesians this morning, where Paul says that the Christian walk is ALL for the glory of Jesus, and where (in 2:21-22) he mentions the purpose of the church, saying that it is “growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you are being built into a dewlling of God in the Spirit.” (Emphasis mine.) IOW, it’s a work in progress. I believe that, until the day of Jesus’ return, it’s still going to be a work-in-progress. We won’t see the fulness, the perfection, of the Body & Bride of Christ (the Church) until He comes back. Earth is never going to have the perfection of Heaven until that time.

    It also caused me to think about my marriage: I shudder to think of what I was like when I married at age 21. Full of myself, thinking I was way-more mature than I actually was, thinking I was way more right than I actually was… Yet, my husband loved me, and together we’ve grown and matured, and together we’re way better as a couple, and as individuals than we were 12.5 years ago… Much of this, for me personally, has been accomplished by his very gentle and loving correction, and me responding positively to that, seeing my error, and turning from my flawed ways.

    Such must be with the Church today. We’re not as great as we think we are. We need growth and maturity. We need help. But, Jesus is not rejecting His Bride because we’re flawed. No, He’s drawing us closer, pulling us into Him, leading us on to maturity in Him.

    I think some would see the Church, and say, “It has too many problems. Heck with it,” and walk away. But that would be akin to my husband divorcing me, say, a year or two into our marriage because of my own immaturities. By the grace of God, he didn’t. And I think we need to extend more grace to the immature Bride of Christ, the Church, and realize that, according to Paul in Ephesians, it’s a process.

    We can’t expect some sort of perfect, flawless Church, rejecting anything less than that. However, we can’t be content w/ flaws and immaturity — we have to take the initiative to grow further into Him, and closer with each other. The church can help with the first, but I believe it’s vital to the second; we can’t grow closer to each other without each other.

  • 3. renversgirl  |  May 2, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    i am writing this before i read the other comments… i don’t even know how to put it, i want to just email you personally but feel as though i should ( am being told by HIM) write hear. How absolutely SPOT on you are about the me factor. No matter how much i think i am not looking for it to be about me it often is, i understand that this is often an unconcious reflex in me because of how fallen we as humans are. it is frustrating to realize how we can be tricked in to believing it is all “their” fault when too the blame lies with us. i know simply that i want to be more like Him, and learn more about Him and have the ability to be more honest about it. i don’t want people to look at me and say there goes a Christian so much as i want to simply exude my Father. i don’t know how to do it, but i know that He hasn’t given up on me, or the chuch, by far, we need to focus on Him, and by focusing on Him all the other, (outreach, missions, studies, small groups, etc) will fall into place. Thanks again for being a safe place to discuss topics that are to often hidden because of our fear of exposure, or ruffling feathers

  • 4. Linda  |  May 2, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    I agree with Ron, we must be dependent upon our Father, and interdependent with each other, reaching out to those who God has called us to love and serve.

    Maybe one of the tactics the enemy uses against the church is to get us to be in “places”/positions that are not our gifting; like being an elder (who needs to make decisions, lead and cast vision) when his gifting is mercy. When we are not serving in our gifting, we get worn out, don’t function to our best, and hence the body is hurt or at best, not functioning at optimum.

    Yes, God can work through each of us and we don’t need to be “only living in our gifting.” We are called to love and serve – each other. It is a call on each of our lives no matter who or where.

    However, maybe we each ought to think about ourselves and our own “church” – traditional our otherwise: am I serving where God has led me? Or, did I get “pressed into service” because of some need or because someone flattered me? Are some of our leaders really gifted to be leaders? Or, have they been pressed into a role they are not best suited for because they are nice, godly men and someone needs to fill the need? Nice, godly men sometimes aren’t the best of decision-makers because their gifting might be compassion and mercy, not in the area of vision and leadership. Maybe we have made it too difficult for “leaders” to step away from a role that is really not who God. Can we give grace in this area as well? I’d like to think that a man who realizes he’s not best suited for a task/role could admit it without fear of being seen as a failure. Freedom to live and serve under the guidance of our Father is what we all need. Let’s give it.

  • 5. Jeremy C  |  May 2, 2007 at 11:46 am

    I think sometimes we make the mistake of putting so much focus on “doing church” instead of “being the church.” Sure, we need to pursue excellence with how we execute “a church service.” And that certainly involves vision and planning, and training, and very deliberate action, and is not something to be taken lightly. But that in itself is not what the church is. Go to the bible, what does it say? We are the Church, we are the body of Christ, we are the bride of Christ. He is our head. Greg is absolutely correct when he says we (the church) need to be dependant on Him because He is our head. Below that head, we are the body, made up of many parts with specific functions, and we have a lot of work to do. See Matt 28:16.

    So why come to a church service? Many reasons.

    First, to remember Jesus and what He did for us (the cross), and is continuing to do for us. To borrow a Pastor Driscoll line; he lived the life we could not live, and died the death we should have died. We gather together to remember (communion) and show gratitude (worship).

    Second, we come together to serve each other with the intent that it helps build each other up so that we are better equipped to do the work (see Matt28 again) He called us to do. For example; I do not have education in a biblical discipline on the same level as, say a pastor who went to seminary and has a PhD. Sure, I have my personal devotional/study time, but I am not at his level. I come to hear him teach and I learn from him what I (in my ignorance or at least my youth) may not have learned on my own. But… the pastor usually works in a church office; he likely encounters mostly Christians all day. I, on the other hand, work in the world, and I encounter on a daily basis; Muslims, Hindu’s, Mormons, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, homosexuals, world of warcraft geeks, decaf drinkers, etc, etc. My day-to-day life is in a mission field for me to take what I got, some of which came from doing/being church, and represent Jesus to the world.

    I might add here, that having spent so much time in the week with non-Christians, it is so wonderful to come to “do/be church” with fellow believers. It’s a chance to debrief from the events of the week, swap stories, share in rejoicing and share in weeping too. After all, we are a loving family, and that’s what families do.

    Anyway. each of us has gifts; be it supernatural gifts, or natural talent. We each have something unique and precious to give to the body. When my focus at a church gathering is “take,” that is a problem. I then cease being in symbiosis with the body, and become a virus, a parasite, sucking the life outta the body, and leaving it worse off than if I weren’t there. If you’re always the “taker,” repent and start giving, otherwise, “take” a hike.

    Is there a time to be a taker? Yes. If you’re in a church body and ever had a baby, or experienced the death of a loved one, or got real sick, you likely received meals, visits, cards, flowers, prayers, from the body. Its because you are loved. Receive it. That’s what it means to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. When those times come for you, receive it, because they are doing that in love in Jesus name. Likewise, when those times come for others, give, and do it in love in Jesus name.

    Ok, im typing too much. I guess my point is that the church is not “them” or “that” it is “us.” We are a team, who are to be subordinate to Jesus in the work he gives us to do. In being a team, we are stronger than we would be if we are alone. So the loner Christians are really missing out, the people who hop around and don’t plug in somewhere are really missing out. And by “missing out” I mean missing opportunities to give and receive, build and grow. Plug in somewhere, even if the preaching, or music or the color of the carpet is not your preference. Foregoing some of your own preferences is step #1 to becoming a giver. Be a giver.

  • 6. Ron Marrs  |  May 2, 2007 at 6:39 am

    Doing church is a complex task that involves people at different stages of maturity. Life is about a relationship of dependency on God, yes. A close intimate relationship with Christ, yes. But it’s about a mission as well. It’s about a body (Eph. 4) that is to function as people use their gifts to minister to one another. It’s about growth quantitatively and qualitatively. We need to declare the Gospel and help people grow in Christ. Doing church is about raising our children together in the Lord so they can enjoy the fellowship with Christ. But it’s also about reaching those youth who lack the opportunity to hear about Christ. It is about loving the elderly. That is part of the mission. We do weddings together and funerals. We weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. It’s about reaching the lost. It’s about dependence on God and interdependence. Someone who wants to be in obedience to Christ must help build His church (Mt. 16).

  • 7. Mike S  |  May 1, 2007 at 9:59 pm

    After reading all of your blogs on the church as we know it today I wonder if I even know why I go to church. Sometimes I get it; sometimes not. There was a time I went just because. Now I go hoping to get something to use and often I do. I know I need to do something for God to prove I have gotten anything. I don’t see it as being as bad as you and many of your commentors seem to see it. Maybe we have a good church….

  • 8. onlysometimesclever  |  May 1, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    Amen, brother. VERY good post. I started commenting on someone else’s blog the other day, responding to her question of whether or not people went to church. I wrote an abbreviated version of what you just wrote… but ended up erasing it, and pretty much just said, “Yes, I go to church.”

    I so have mixed feelings about the consumer mentality in many US churches these days. One on hand, I’m happy that there are many large “entry level” churches that invite others to come as they are, and give them milk, milk, milk. However, there comes a point where church leadership needs to call its people into accountability of what’s actually taught in Scripture, which is startlingly UN-me-centered.

    If your fifth wheel ever sees you in the vicinity of the northern Phoenix area, you’d be welcome to visit http://www.vcfphoenix.com (where I’ve called my church home for 12 years). It’s not a really large church, because my pastor constantly admonishes us that Jesus didn’t save us just so we can occupy a seat every Sunday, and that we need to be either giving or receiving ministry… Most people want to feel free to just anonymously consume from a church and go on their way to the next church down the street after they’ve had their fill.

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