Lately, I have been pondering this question: “Why do we choose the churches we end up attending”?
Throughout my 37 years of ministry, I have heard these as some of the reasons:
Some are searching for the friendly church. A lot of the time, people choose a church because of the style of the music. When it comes to families with young children and/or teens, many are looking for strong children’s and youth programs.
Preaching is paramount to many. I know of people who choose a church based on their use of a specific translation of the Bible. This is usually the King James Version. Doctrine is the draw for numerous people. Verse-by-verse preaching is popular.
Denominational alliances and practices define many of us. Some Christians wear their affiliations proudly. “I go to the Baptist Church”. We are a “Calvary Chapel”. There are several mega-churches in my area who are affiliated with a denomination, but you would never know it. It is like they are “closet Baptists” or “closet Pentecostals”.
How we identify the work of the Holy Spirit can have a major role in our choice. Some love to express their worship through lifting up hands and tongues and some sit in silent reverence.
Through Reach America, my exposure to the community is a little different than most. I know people who attend all these different churches.
On many occasions, people tell me that they are very concerned about the future of our nation. They talk about how we are getting away from our founding Christian values. Almost all of those who bring this up ask questions like, “Why doesn’t our church ever address our cultural decline”? “Why don’t we hear more about this from the pulpit”? “Why don’t Christians get more involved in politics”?
At Reach America, we are currently taking our teens through a fascinating study simply called, “Bonhoeffer: The Life and Writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer”. It is produced by Eric Metaxas, a New York Times best-selling author.
Bonhoeffer believed that the church should be the conscience of the state. In Germany, before WWI, the church was strong. Following WWI, that began to change. Bonhoeffer believed that this was a major factor in the fall of Germany into the hands of Hitler.
I remember when the church was the conscience of America. I remember a day, in America, when people at least respected the fact that our country was founded on Christian principles. I whole-heartedly believe that it is important that we return to those values and the God of those values before it is too late.
Pastor Bonhoeffer also believed in the importance of Christians coming together to “be the church.” These days, we are so busy “going to church” and “working at the church” that we no longer have time to “be the church”.
Churches have fallen into the consumer mentality of providing “ministry services” to Christian people in order to draw them into the door. The style of music and array of age-grouped ministries are the order of the day. It’s all about youth group, nursery, children’s church, single groups, married groups, divorced groups, men’s ministries, women’s ministries, and Sunday school.
And this doesn’t count that there are committees that need to be filled, Deacons and Elders that need to be elected, mission work to be done and evangelism training. I think you get the picture.
Recently, I was in conversation with a Christian man who was just elected to his local city council. He was talking about how liberals and atheists were involved in the community. It seems that Christians are busy meeting at the church building and atheists are involved in the community. To make a long conversation short — to an atheist, community organizations and service is their “church”.
You see, Christians give the first-fruits of their time and money to the church. Atheists give the first-fruits of their time and money to their favorite political candidates and causes. After we, Christians, have given our time and tithe to the church to support all the ministries I mentioned earlier — we give whatever we have left over to other causes in the community we believe in.
In other words, Christians have no time to run for office. Christians have no time to give in service to the community. Christians have no time to go to city council or school board meetings. Christians have no money to give to political campaigns.
While Christians are bunkered up inside the church busily keeping the nursery, working in children’s church, and doing youth group, those who seek to take our communities, states and country away from our Christian foundation are in the community, getting their hands dirty.
It is time for a change.
It is time that we stopped spending all of our time “going to church” or “working at the church” and we started “being the church” in the world that God has called us to win.
It is going to require a huge paradigm shift on the part of Christians to see this happen. I may have lost some of you by now.
Instead of nurseries, children’s churches, youth groups and the like — why not have all the family in worship together, once a week. What would happen if there were very little ministry — as we now know it — on Sunday morning or during the week? What if we trained parents on how to biblically and spiritually educate and lead their children? What if we spent our first time with our families, then in the community? Time “at the church” came in a distant third?
Can we set aside our addiction to church programs, and actually make a difference where we live? Is this possible?
What would happen if the “church council” or the “Elder board” looked like this?
- Prayer Team Leader
- Community Service/Evangelism Team Leader
- Education Team Leader (This isn’t “church” education. I mean we actually equip parents to educate their children.)
- Media/Film/Video Team Leader
- Business Team Leader (Developing a Christian business network)
- Missions Team Leader (Local and foreign)
- Political Team Leader (Developing political awareness through the church and creating a separate PAC in which to discover and train Christians to run for office and/or how to help those running)
In the title of this blog post, I indicated this could potentially be a little controversial. What are you thinking? What are you willing to do without to be a part of a worshipping congregation dedicated to the objectives above?
Are you ready, as Bonhoeffer put it, to “be the church”? Are you ready to be equipped to actually impact the community in areas that matter? Are you ready to see people come to Christ and then become trained to actually reach the community?
If you live in the Coeur d’Alene/North Idaho area, we will be announcing our plans to begin a worshipping congregation, soon. The date of our next Reach America board meeting is May 27th. Please be in prayer for us as we discuss the launch of this important worship group.
If you live in other locations, I am praying for you! Let me know how I can help.
In my next post, I will introduce what we call “The 12/32 Task Force”.