Is Your Church Program Just a Diversion?

Don't let activities in church keep you from actively being the Church.

Sometimes, really good stuff can have some really dangerous consequences.

As a pastor, one of the things I’m always trying to do is get people more fully engaged with the ministries of the local church; attending worship regularly, finding small groups where they can encounter true community and accountability, studying the Bible together more fervently, and developing active and vibrant prayer lives together.

Lately, I’m beginning to rethink this tactic a bit.

Yes, these things are all vital parts of living into what it means to personally follow Jesus, yet for too many people who claim Christ, they’ve become intentional diversions; purposeful, safe distractions for us, as we avoid actually doing the dangerous, uncomfortable work of loving and serving people outside the Church.

A Church Without Perks

It isn’t news to anyone who has been part of a local church community for any length of time that most of them tend to be pretty insular entities, becoming more self-preserving and navel-gazing as they get larger and more “successful.”

For as much as we talk during our Sunday services about “making disciples of all nations,” or about “seeking and saving what was lost,” or about “reaching the world for Jesus,” we all too often become preoccupied with the amenities and perks we’ve come to enjoy as religious club members. The church for us becomes less about equipping us to personally bring love to a broken world, and more about receiving ... and receiving ... and receiving.

How many times do we really need to read and study Jesus saying to become “servant of all” before we make an effort to live it out?

Every week, as a pastor of a really great church community, I get a front row seat to some incredibly powerful moments during our Sunday gatherings. People come to realize God’s love for them for the first time, others recommit to honoring their marriages, to recovering their sobriety and to rededicating their lives to Christ.

There are times when the congregation is singing together, or someone is giving amazing testimony, or sharing a challenging, inspirational message, and people are genuinely moved. There are moments when euphoric joy sweeps through the room, and God’s presence is tangible.

But so often now, while that is happening; in the middle of the moment, I find myself thinking about what is happening simultaneously, just beyond the walls of our Worship Center, just a hundred yards from our place of praise.

People are hurting.


Marriages are hanging by a thread.


Kids are starving; for food and for attention.


Depression, and anxiety and suicidal thoughts run wild through the minds of teenagers.


People drink, to numb.


They cut, to cope.

They watch porn, to substitute.


They scour Facebook, to escape.


They endure work and school day after day, and wonder why they should get up in the morning.


They feel lost, and aimless and hopeless.

And the whole time, not one of them is thinking, “I really hope the hundreds of Christians in that building over there will all get into a small group.”

Stepping Into the Space

What they are probably doing is waiting for someone to step into their space, to intrude into their routine and give them a reason to keep going. They’re looking for us, who have what we have and who know what we know, to move beyond the thresholds of our comfy Christian clubhouses, and bring the radical love of Jesus, already. They're waiting for us to break up our holy huddles and move.

Meanwhile, we’ll all be another doing another 12-week study on how much God loves the world.

How many times do we really need to read and study Jesus saying to become “servant of all,” or to “love our enemies and bless those who curse us,” or to see His love for the poor or His care for the hungry or His compassion for the orphans and widows, before we make an effort to live it out?

How much exegesis do we have to do, before we adequately understand enough to go and “love the least”?

Friends, I think Jesus may look at His Church and be wondering, “How many more Sundays are you going to need before you’re ready to actually do any of this stuff?”

Don’t let the stuff in The Church divert you too long from being The Church.

The Vitality of Community

I’m not saying Christian community isn’t incredibly important, or that worship services and small groups aren’t life-giving places of transformation and spiritual growth. They’ve certainly been that for me, and for so many I know.

But I’ve also seen them become spiritual crutches; places to talk and talk and talk about the stunningly beautiful words of Jesus for literally years, while hiding from the responsibility of physically walking in His footsteps; out of kiddie pool comfort, and into the deep end of meeting the world in its mess.

So get together and sing and share this Sunday, or whenever you gather. Study and pray together. Carry one another’s burdens, break bread together and encourage one another.

Just don’t wait too long before you put feet to that faith and flesh to those prayers. 

Don't let being in the Church divert you too long from being the Church.

This article is reposted from johnpavlovitz.com with permission.

Top Comments

Anne Dahlhauser

1

Anne Dahlhauser commented…

Excellent. Thank you so much for this article. I feel like you've put words on so much of what we feel and have experienced. God bless!

Farron Sutherland Jr

1

Farron Sutherland Jr commented…

Being the Church > Going to Church

13 Comments

Jeff Brigman

1

Jeff Brigman commented…

@Joseph Craig Steel,

I understand the intent behind your post but I have to agree with the author of the article. The main issue is similar to how in Nehemiah everyone wondered "who" was going to rebuild their walls, with Nehemiah instead choosing to do something instead of passing it off to another. To many Christians are stuck in that same mindset of letting someone else get their hands dirty, when instead we are all called to proclaim the Gospel to the world.

In Luke 9:23 Jesus said "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." To walk in his steps is to follow him, and what he, God, taught us to the best of our ability and when we stumble to repent and keeping on trucking along.

Joseph Craig Steel

170

Joseph Craig Steel replied to Jeff Brigman's comment

Hi Jeff... I understand that we're called "to proclaim the Gospel to the world" . . . But which gospel... The Roman Catholic version... The Lutheran version... The Calvinist version... The Baptists version... The Pentecostal version... The Seventh Day Adventists version... The Church of God version... And on and on it goes.

You speak about "proclaiming the gospel" as if everything is peachy keen regarding oneness on the matter... Just like the author of this article... And nothing could be further from the truth.

You say, Jeff... "In Luke 9:23 Jesus said "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." To walk in his steps is to follow him, and what he, God, taught us to the best of our ability and when we stumble to repent and keeping on trucking along."

Thing is, whose "following" are you following?

Your own understanding?

A religious doctrine?

What do you know about "...deny himself, and take up his cross daily?"

You don't even realize that you contradict yourself by referencing the scripture, and then saying this... "...to the best of our ability..."

How can you be denying yourself, and yet doing something to the best of your ability?

Jeff, your words expose you as not really understanding what the economy of God is.

Are you familiar with this scripture verse... Philippians 2:13... "For it is God who operates in you both the willing and the working for His good pleasure."

Drew

2

Drew commented…

Love this reminder to be the hands and feet of Jesus. So true.

However, I do think it's important to remember the work of Jesus through the church services and small groups mentioned in the article. Reconciling marriages, healing the broken, praying for your Brothers and Sisters, worshiping the God of Creation... these are all vital pieces to the puzzle. We MUST engage those hurting in our communities, but it must be out of the knowledge of what Christ did for us on the cross. Social justice must be coupled with the love of Jesus to bring about true change.

I don't believe the author means to marginalize purpose of worship or "small groups" in the article. I appreciate his well-rounded approach. Blessings!

Darryl Willis

10

Darryl Willis commented…

Malachi haunts me: "Oh that someone would close the gates of the temple so you would not light useless fires on my altar!" Thanks for the challenge.

Esdras Ramirez

2

Esdras Ramirez commented…

I really like your point about this matter. Excellent article. God bless you bro.

Manny

1

Manny commented…

Do you dine at Cafe Christianity?

Which denomination are you dining with? The Quakers? Pentecostals? Jehovah Wtinesses? Anglicans? Which devilish doctrines are you devouring? The Trinity? Hell? ‘Accepting’ Jesus Christ?

I ask and implore you: please push out your chair, get up from your table and make a quick exit out of the cafe! Leave and do not sit back down – neither at your current table or any of the other denominational tables.

For whoever is eating at Cafe Christianity shall also drink… from the cup of God’s wrath (Jeremiah 51:6, Jeremiah 25:15, Revelation 14:8).

So, which shall it be? Will you continue to feast on falsity or do you wish to taste truth?

‘Let the one who is thirsty come…’ (Revelation 22:17). Come, malnourished one that you are! There is much sumptuous fare for you, at: http://www.pathoftruth.com

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)

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