Often I hear about people “church shopping.” This makes a lot of sense on one hand because when someone moves to a new community they should probably check out a few churches to see where they might fit best or where the doctrine/beliefs match their own. Sometimes this might also happen to someone who has experienced severe conflict in a church which makes them uncomfortable to return and continue there. But the language “shopping” with church really is not the best approach to finding a church home. It implies that the individual is a consumer looking for a church that will “meet my needs.”
I’m glad people want to find a church home. But looking for a church that meets my needs is an unbiblical statement. The church becomes a product to consume. “We loved the children’s programming but the sermons are really boring.”
God has called us to be spiritual contributors. The church does not exist for us. We are the church, and we exist for the world. I am here to serve God and to love people. I exist to make a difference. God created me to be a blessing to others.
So ask yourself: Am I more of a consumer or contributor? If you are a Christ-follower, hopefully you are a valuable part of a life-giving church.Do you drop your kids off in the nursery (without ever serving there), drink some free coffee, enjoy the service, then pick up your kids and go home? If so, you’re a consumer.
On the other hand, do you use your gifts to make a difference? Do you invite people to your church? Do you pray faithfully for church leaders? Do you give consistently of your finances? Do you serve passionately? Then you’re more of a contributor.
I’m not trying to be mean or make you feel guilty. I simply want you to be honest with yourself. If you are using your life to be a blessing to others today, then later you will relish sharing the stories that God allows you to tell. If you’re more focused on yourself than serving others, you’re going to end up with many blank pages–lost blessings that you can find only by contributing what God created you to give to the world.
Dear Pastor Marcus,
We think you’re asking way too much from us. In an average WEEK you think we should attend worship, a class or group, serve at least one hour, AND give of our finances. And then you say at home we should take time each DAY to read the Bible and pray for a few minutes. That doesn’t even include your idea that we should be investing and inviting unchurched people so they might have a relationship with God and a church family. We think you are expecting way too much from us. We’ve got things to do, places to be, mouths to feed, golf to play.
When we prayed that prayer to have Jesus in our hearts, we thought we were done. We got a “get out of hell free” card and we’re grateful for that and the future hope of Heaven, but we can’t imagine that God would expect MORE from us. We know Jesus came to earth and died for us. Yes, we’ve heard all about how we have to take up our cross daily, imitate Christ, surrender our lives to him. But we think that’s unrealistic. We just don’t have time, money, or energy for Jesus or His bride, the Church.
We’ve gone to church for years and even went to Sunday school as kids. So we know all we need to know about God, Jesus, and the church. We’re not bad people. We’ve got a few hang-ups but we don’t really need much more work on our souls. Mark needs help (he’s not bad either but he still hasn’t gotten into the habit of putting the toilet seat down!). But we’ve pretty much grown as much as we can spiritually. What we really need is a new car!
You can keep telling us what the Bible teaches (we really like your humor!) but we thought we might save you some time. We’re not changing. We’ll keep doing the same things the same ways so keep any of those thoughts to yourself. We will come to church (when we don’t have a late Saturday night), go to an occasional all-church event (we love the cooking in this church!), give when we have extra money (and not saving for that car!), but you can stop the call to commitment. Jesus gave up everything for us, but we think He’s quite content with what we have to offer.
Mark and Mary Member
For Thursday, I’d like to throw back to a video my wife made with help from Dawn Duncan 6 years ago this week.
I don’t know if you pray regularly for missionaries or if you know any. If you don’t, join me in praying for my friends of Northwest Haiti Christian Mission.
1. Acceptance by co-workers–other believers (Romans 15:31a).
2. Boldness in witnessing (Ephesians 6:19-20).
3. Clarity in communicating.
4. Deliverance from evil.
5. Extension of their ministry. The first thing a missionary needs are open doors.
6. Fruitfulness in spiritual endeavors.
7. Physical health. So many of my missionary friends have had to come out of the “field” temporarily for health reasons. It’s out of their control. So pray that God preserves their health so they can remain in their ministries.
8. Funding. Missionaries should be focused on mission, not fund-raising. Pray that their needs will be met to the extent that their dependence on God never wavers.
I would love to pastor a large, mega-church. I wouldn’t want to do it to to feed my ego (which it probably would) but because I love leadership and leadership is all about influence. Theoretically, the more people attending the church I pastor, the larger my influence…theoretically. You have to understand that my prayer every Sunday morning before the service is that God would transform everyone in attendance to become a little more like Jesus, that we would understand fully how much God loves us and how our salvation is dependent on His grace, not our works. Having said that, there are weeks where I leave the property wondering, “Did they get that? If so, then shouldn’t we be seeing more changed lives!”
At the same time, I’m sure I’m not always obedient to Christ in what the Spirit is telling me I should communicate on a Sunday morning. Maybe I’m limiting the work of the Spirit! Or maybe people come in with closed hearts and minds to God’s voice. Either way, one realization I’ve come to grips with is that I would rather see REPENTANCE than ATTENDANCE. God would not be pleased with me if I gave 1,000 people a good, winsome talk that left no one convicted or with a better understanding of who they are in Christ.
I’ve written on this in the past but after reading Michael Fletcher’s “Overcoming Barriers to Church Growth” I discovered one more area in which our church hasn’t changed. And according to Fletcher, if we’re going to break through the 200 ceiling, we’ll need to change our church culture’s understanding on this important issue.
Here’s how he puts it:
Small churches, without realizing it, intuitively resist growth at some point since continued growth threatens the closeness they so enjoy. After a certain number of relationships, a person just doesn’t have room for more. Folks cannot remember everyone’s name but somehow feel they should. Not knowing everyone, and the underlying guilt that says we should, produces an awkwardness that actually pushes others away. Small churches fear that growing might destroy the family they have become (55).
For a church to break through the 100/200 barrier…The people must accept the fact that they will not be able to know everyone in the church. This does not mean they must give up a sense of family, but it does mean that they will have to learn to experience it in other ways. Properly done, this barrier can be broken without destroying the great fellowship members have been enjoying. New circles of fellowship must be developed, and even multiplied, to prompt continued growth (57).
What do you think? Is Fletcher right or wrong? Why is it important for a local church to strive for continued growth?
Thank you for your prayers and financial support to send me and eight other members to Haiti to work with our church partner in Mayette. It was a physically and spiritually challenging trip.
It was physically challenging because the heat was oppressive. At one point I was drinking 20 oz. of water an hour and still not maintaining proper hydration. One of our team members was forced to travel back to the mission for an IV and several of us had “bad days” trying to keep or get strength.
It was spiritually challenging because Mayette, a community we’ve loved and seen grown since our partnership began in 2011, had been devastated by drought and illness. Over one-third of the people had moved or died in the last year. Half of the couples we married two years ago had at least one partner die since the wedding.
The church and Pastor Daniel were still prevailing through the strength of the Holy Spirit. There had been ten new confessions/baptisms in the last year. They were not wavering but asked us to pray for rain. About an hour after worshiping with them the skies opened up with an inch of rain. But it’s not enough…not nearly.
Our combined FCC/WCCC team was marvelous. Our youngest members shined as usual. We took encouragement from the mission staff when they said, “Working with you all is strange because I thought you came from two different churches and I can’t figure out who goes where.”
As for next steps?
- Please pray for the people of Mayette, specifically for rain and health. Join me every Thursday where ever you are and pray at noon for them. Ask God to bless Pastor Daniel and the church leadership. Ask God to help the children in the school they run thanks to our benevolence.
- We are exploring a few different options to help them with their water situation. Pray that one or more options are feasible and affordable.
- We also hope to provide them with Bibles. Very few of them have Creole Bibles and the Word of God is the Bread of life.
- There will be a future trip but it is undetermined when but won’t be for another year or two.