First Baptist Church. It was the picture of longevity and stability. For over two hundred years, it remained faithful to the gospel. Sundays were marked by regal worship and elegant preaching inside its beautiful sanctuary.
But within a year, they began feeling smothered by tradition. So they tried the Vine.
It was a breath of fresh air. After the traditionalism of FBC, the warehouse environment, lively worship, and creative, conversational preaching was much easier to listen to than theological lectures.
But before long, the style started to irk them. So they tried Fleet Street Presbyterian.
For them, it was the best of both worlds – tradition mixed with a contemporary way of communicating and worshiping. In addition to their regular attendance, they started to get involved in church activities and ministry opportunities.
But it didn’t take long for them to be frustrated by the direction of the programs and the people involved. So they tried Immanuel.
It was a small church plant, and at first, it felt as if you were awkwardly attending someone else’s family reunion. Soon, however, the friendly congregation won them over with their hospitable and generous hearts.
And that’s when their teenage children began to protest because there was nothing at the church for them.
A significant percentage of Christians have this mentality when it comes to church. Like shoppers, we chase the deal of the moment. We have become high-expectation and low-commitment attenders. That’s why there is always a good possibility that many of us will be worshiping somewhere different soon.
Sadly, church has become a place we attend rather than something with which we are intimately involved. Specifically, I have noticed three areas of spiritual weakness and danger that we have in our attitude toward the local church:
1) We live inside the church virtually unknown. Many of us exist in a Christian community where no one knows the condition of our spiritual health and personal lives. We exchange niceties and learn a few superficial details, but honest and vulnerable relationships are typically avoided.
2) We have little commitment to ministry. We feel justified by putting our percentage of money in the plate so the professional staff can shoulder ministry. We are happy to be recipients of grace but often forget or neglect that God has called us to simultaneously be participants in the work of his Kingdom.
3) We often choose pleasure over the Kingdom of God. We spend most of our energy chasing the good life, rather than investing in the eternal treasures of the Kingdom of God, which can be mined by participating in a local church. The pursuit of success has become our vocation, and Christianity is relegated to a religious pastime.
The Bible, on the other hand, puts before us a radical, countercultural view of what God designed the church to be and do. It confronts and course corrects our often self-focused and passive relationship to the local church:
- Self-focused: “Here’s the kind of church I want to attend.”
- Passive: “I’m so thankful for the good work our church staff does.”
Does this potentially describe your mentality? Do you have a history of being discontent in your local church, over and over again?
If you have read this devotional and felt the sting of the Holy Spirit, don’t be paralyzed by guilt and regret. No, run to your Redeemer. Confess what has ruled your heart and cry out for his delivering and enabling grace.
Next week, I will unpack a passage of Scripture that will help you experience a rejuvenated relationship with your local church!
1. How do you approach church every week? What are your expectations when you arrive?
2. Do you have a history of shopping for or hopping between churches? What were your motives? What were you seeking?
3. Regardless of your church history or where you are now, in what ways might you be self-focused in your church attendance?
4. Regardless of your church history or where you are now, in what ways might you be passive in your participation in your local church?
5. How can you take practical steps this week, even during social distancing, to become more selfless and active in your relationship with your local church?