“This church just isn’t meeting my needs.”
I can’t read your mind. No pastor can. (Though some think we have that super power. If I could choose a super power, I don’t think that would be it, haven’t you ever watched Bruce Almighty?)
But, if I could read your mind, I’d be willing to guess you’ve had that thought about your church. “I think it’s time to start doing a little church shopping because I’m just not getting what I need here.” “If they would do this program like this other church, I might stay, but…” “If the pastor was funny like the other guy…” “If the pastor would just feed me instead of making me laugh…” And the list goes on. And the list goes on. (Insert Sandi Patty music here.)
So, we go shopping trying to find a church that is going to meet our needs. And everything changes.
We go from being a part of a loving community to being a consumer of a good or service. We stop thinking about the good of the whole and start thinking about our own good. Without a thought of how our actions are affecting others, we just change everything.
Churches aren’t commodities. Churches aren’t storefronts or business. Churches don’t exist to please its constituents.
I’ve had several conversations with people who have left our church over the past few years that I’ve been here. If someone leaves, I try to talk to them and find out why (if I don’t already know). Not once, has the issue been something relevant. “We are leaving because you’re teaching heresy.” It’s always been something preferential. We need this or that. We want this program. We want our kids to have this thing. When I ask the question, “Have you considered how you leaving will affect the rest of our community?” people don’t really have an answer. Some have thought about it, but their own personal desires trump the good of the whole.
(By the way, I’m not writing this post in response to someone leaving our church. In fact, we’ve had some new families join us and stay. So, that’s why I’m writing it now. It’s a good time to write about when you’re not having the problem)
Maybe you’re thinking about looking for another church. Let me as you a question: who is church for? If you’re answer is you, then you should probably do your church a favor and leave. “Harsh words man, lighten up a little bit.” Sorry, but that might be what you need to hear.
Churches exist for worshipping God, for the good of the local body of Christ and for shining the light of God’s love into the darkness.
“My personal pleasure” is not a role that churches are supposed to play. To reduce your church to pleasure puts it in the category of a social club, and we have not interest in being that for you.
You’re not getting anything out of church? Maybe that’s not the point. What have you given to your church lately? What have you contributed? Have you loved your brothers and sisters in Christ in a way that serves them? Or are you just looking for people to meet your needs and serve you?
These are the problems we face in the church today.
Reasons people leave church:
- My needs aren’t being met.
- I don’t like being under authority.
- I have a disagreement/conflict with someone in the church and it’s easier to leave than work it out.
- I don’t like the style of music.
- I don’t like the teaching.
- My kids’ needs aren’t being met.
There are others. Honestly, too many to list here. What makes these wrong?
Your needs will be met if your in true biblical community. True biblical community starts with me sacrificing myself. If you have a problem with authority, you will have a problem with every church, because your problem is not with the church but with God. If you can’t solve conflict, you just shouldn’t be around any human, stay at home and watch a TV preacher. There must be someone who likes the style of music your church uses, think about what’s best for that group of people and not what you want most. Is the teaching heretical? If not, there is something you can learn. If your kids’ needs aren’t being met, maybe that’s why you’re there.
“Okay, what’s the point of this article preacher man?”
You are where you are for a reason. What can you do to be a part of the solution? Maybe God wants you to help your church serve one another better, but He needs you to get over yourself first. I don’t know. What I do know is that God wants you to be committed. And until you make a commitment, you will be constantly disappointed because church isn’t about you and that’s what you’re trying to make it about.
Commit to worshipping God. Commit to the body. Commit to shining the light. Put your name on a pew. Be so committed that people know where you sit and notice when you’re missing. Meet the needs of other people in your church. Meet the needs of people in your community. Love God above everything and love your neighbor as yourself. Get those two things right and not matter what church you are in, you will be blessed.
When is it okay? Well, if the pastor is teaching heresy, that would be one. If something immoral is happening and not being addressed, then maybe. But only after following what the Bible says to do about confrontation, etc. Aside from those two things, there’s not much.
What are your thoughts? When is it okay to leave a church? Mad at me? Let me hear it!
7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
I don’t know about you, but there are times when I get tired and weary. There are times I wish things would happen faster. I wish I would see the progress quicker. I’ve been working hard on something for a long time and it’s still not where I wish it was.
I thought, by now, I would be further along. The benchmark I had in my mind for where I would be at this particular earmark is still quite a ways off in the distance.
I don’t know if you ever feel that way, but if you’re anything like me (human), I know you have.
It can be hard can’t it? Being patient. Waiting. Watching something grow every day, makes the growth seem small. Not much changed between yesterday and today. Not much has changed in the last week or even month. I keep watching the plant, but it just doesn’t seem to be making much progress.
But then someone, with a fresh perspective comes along. And they notice the change. They notice the difference. They remember where we were and compared to that, we’ve come along way. There is a difference. Things have improved. Things are better.
But not for long. Because soon I’m back to my day to day grind and it just seems like things aren’t going where I want them to go.
What do we do when we get in this situation?
We keep going. We keep doing the good that we’ve been doing. We keep trying. We try a little more than we did yesterday. We get a little step further ahead, even if it’s a baby step.
Why do we keep going? Because we trust God’s word to us. “Okay, churchy guy, thanks for giving me the Sunday School answer.” Hold on. Don’t stop reading yet.
At The Proper Time
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
On the front side of progress, all I see and think is: “I could be doing that.” I overestimate my abilities and maturity and think I can be doing what someone much wiser and more skilled than I can do. That’s where we get hung up.
We don’t have a proper assessment of our abilities and maturity. “Well, you’re being kind of harsh today, aren’t you?” No, just being honest with how I’ve been. And guessing I’m not the only one who’s been here.
Like I said, I thought I would be further along today than I am. But, I also have a perspective today that I didn’t have back then.
Looking back, I can see how unprepared I was for what I wanted. And if I had gotten what I wanted, it could have been potentially disastrous for me and lots of people involved. Why? Because when you’re not ready for something, you’re not strong enough to carry the weight of it for the journey.
We think we want the success, but we don’t understand that success has weight. And If we haven’t been built up for it, it will eventually crush us.
That’s why we keep going
Because, God is in the process of growing up. He’s building us up. If we are plugged into a committed community of believers, God is going to use that group of Jesus-followers to build us up. As we keep going, we keep growing and building up the foundation our lives need to withstand the success that we hope for.
So, don’t be discouraged today if, today, you find yourself far off from where you thought you would be. Because there’s a purpose in the process too. What you’re going through right now is significant for what you are going to be going through in the future. What you do today will prepare you for tomorrow.
So don’t give up. Don’t throw in the towel. Just because you’re not where you want to be doesn’t mean you’re not in a good place.
And, just like God says: “…at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
The harvest is coming. You may not have the tools or knowledge or skills you need to bring in the harvest. And that’s what you’re doing right now. You’re acquiring what you need.
And at the proper time, the harvest will come. And you’ll be ready.
I’ve discovered something about myself. This may come as a revelation to you too. That is this: things that require more effort are harder for me to do.
I know, that’s a revelatory statement. You’re probably thinking, “I clicked on this link to read that. What a waste of my time.” Well, before you click away, give me a second.
At SixEight Church we’re in a series going through these verses of 2 Peter:
2 Peter 1:3-7
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
That’s a pretty powerful statement. God’s power has granted to us, given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness. Those things we need for life and godliness have been granted to us.
How have they been granted to us? Through the knowledge of the one who called us to his own glory and excellence. The calling placed on our lives is not one of mediocrity and averages. We are called to the same glory and excellence of the one who called us.
By this knowledge of holy one who has called us we have been granted/gifted with his precious and great promises. The knowledge we have of the holy God who called us is where we find the promises He has made to us.
And it is through these promises that we become partakers of the divine nature. It is through these promises and divine power that we escape the corruption that is in the world through sin.
But at this point, Peter creates a contrast. To now Peter has been talking about what has been granted/gifted/bestowed to us. And it’s all great stuff. But, he’s going to change course.
Make Every Effort.
Spoude. Pronounced spoo-day’. It means diligence. Earnestness in accomplishing, promoting or striving after anything.
You see, there’s the work that’s been granted and gifted to us. There’s the aspect of our faith that we have received freely. It’s awesome and amazing. But, the problem is, we stop there. We stop with the easy part. We’ve been given this great gift, but we don’t do our part.
What’s worse, is we often feel entitled to the outcome with out doing our spoude. We want God to just give us the fruit without making any effort to produce the fruit. And we get mad when God doesn’t make us the kind of people we think He should be making us into.
Even though we haven’t done anything to change.
Yes, there is the granted and given aspect of our faith. But, Yes, there is also the working, spoude, diligent, striving aspect of our faith. We have to “press on/strain toward the goal.”(Phil. 3) We have to “Do our best to present ourselves to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2)
We don’t become “spiritual giants” by waiting for someone else to make us one. We don’t become more like Christ by waiting for God to do all the work for us. Will God do the work in us? Absolutely. It can only be done through Him. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have any responsibility to work at becoming like Christ.
The problem is, I’m lazy. I don’t like doing things that require effort on my part. Can’t I just pay someone to do that for me? Isn’t there an easier way.
Samuel Johnson said: “What we hope ever to do with ease, we must learn first to do with diligence.” Faith may not come naturally to you at first, but if you make every effort you can in it, it will come more naturally to you. Virtue/Moral excellence may not come naturally. But if you work at it, strain and strive after it, it will come more naturally to you. Knowledge will not just magically appear in your mind. You have to work to attain it.
Instead of blaming God for not granting us our prayers for Him to do something in us that we’re not willing to do in ourselves, we should ask: “Am I making every effort?” Maybe we’re not there yet. “Am I making any effort at all?”
You and I will never grow in our faith, in our relationship, in our walk with God if we don’t make an effort.
How can we make an effort? Spend time reading his word. Read 2 Peter. Read it slowly. Read it once a day. It’s not long. If that’s too much, just read these 5 verses once a day. Think about it. Let it sink in.
Spend time praying to God. Just communicate with God, have an honest conversation with Him about your struggles. Ask Him to help you conquer this or that.
Worship Him. Humble yourself and exalt Christ. Humble yourself and lift Him up. Make sure you are not elevating yourself above God. Don’t make God a fairy or a jeannie in a bottle who exists to grant your wishes. Make much of him and less of yourself.
Our frustrations with our faith are nearly always because we’re not making an effort. What would change if you started making an effort today?
Probably a lot.
It’s time for some Spoude.
I don’t know if I’ve always been this way.
It’s hard to remember not being this way. I think some of us with certain personality types are a little more prone to it. However, I think a lot of my habitual pessimism came to me during my time in college.
There’s this way of thinking in college, and it’s in a lot of churches…well, it’s pretty much everywhere.
I’m afraid we’re becoming more and more pessimistic as time goes on.
It can feed your brain and ego to be negative and pessimistic. There are studies showing the way your brain rewards you for being negative and for other negative behaviors like gossiping.
I think that’s party of why we do it. I think we also do it because it makes us feel smart to be able to put something or someone else down. Being negative and pessimistic is a way of lifting ourselves up over whatever it is we’re putting down.
I’ve been trying to be a more positive and optimistic person for a while. But, I haven’t made it public yet. So, I wanted to do that today.
Hi, I’m David. And I’m a recovering pessimist.
I refuse to define myself as a pessimist. I’ve been and am being set free from it. That’s not who I am, that’s who I was. It is a journey. It’s a challenge. It can be tough to change ways of thinking and talking and interacting that have been pressed deeply into your psyche.
But, that’s not who I am, that’s who I was.
However, my confession is not merely a way of me going public with my journey.
It’s also a plea.
Will you join me? Will you go with me on this journey? Will you make a choice to abandon your negative, pessimistic ways of thinking, talking, interacting and seeing the world through that lens?
Especially for those of you who are Christians, we have so much to be thankful for, joyful over and to celebrate! We have been set free from the corruption and brokenness of the world. And while the world around us remains broken, we cannot be instruments of redemption with a mindset of corruption and pessimism.
I’m not saying we won’t have to endure hardships. I’m not saying we have to hide our pain and our struggles. Some of us have gone through unimaginable pain and sorrow. There will be seasons and times of our lives where we walk through the shadows.
But, they are merely that – shadows. They are passing. They are temporary. They exist because there is light. And, as dark as the shadow may be, as dense as the forest around us is – if we just keep walking, we will eventually find ourselves in the light again.
Will you join me in this pursuit? Will you help me in this pursuit? Because I don’t think we need anymore negativity in our world.
Instead, I think we need more hope in our world. We may be the only source of hope for this world. You may be the only source of hope for the people in your life. We cannot provide hope to the world through pessimism and negativity.
Should we be dishonest? Should we put on a front? No.
But, we should practice. It’s one thing to be fake. It’s another thing to practice being someone you’re trying to become. Athletes practice. Musicians practice. Artists practice. People learning to drive have to practice.
We need to practice our positivity, hope and optimism. And maybe if I, if we, practice it enough, it will become who we are.
And maybe someday, people will call you that optimistic person that they love being around.
If you know me, you know that I love apocalyptic movies. I don’t know what this says about me, and I can’t afford a therapist to dig into the issue any deeper.
Anyway, one of my favorites is “World War Z.” It’s a zombie movie. And the zombies are actually quite terrifying as opposed to the zombies in other movies and shows like the walking dead. Sure, they’re gross, but a zombie that can barely walk is pretty easily defeated. On the flip side, a zombie that torpedoes themselves into your windshield repeatedly until they break through can cause a little more fear.
Regardless, Brad Pitt says in a scene of this movie (while speaking to a Doctor who is the only hope they have to defeat the virus that is causing the problem), “These guys are hammers…” (Speaking about the army guys they’re flying with) “And to a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
It’s a great quote. There’s a lot of great spiritual material that correlates to real life in apocalyptic movies.
There are a lot of different ways to think about this line. But today, I want to use it to help encourage you in the way you see the world.
We have a tendency to form a point of view and then only see things through that point of view. We develop a way of thinking, and then we get stuck in that way of thinking.
At one time we were growing and learning and becoming all Christ has for us to become. But, we got comfortable. Or we were stretched too far. Or the next step was going to be too difficult. Whatever the reason, we stopped growing. From that point on, we only saw the world through what we had learned to that point.
Maybe you’ve continued to learn the facts of the bible without applying the truth to your life. I’m guilty of doing that. A lot.
Whatever your case (or mine), we stopped growing and now we only see nails. Everything is a nail.
Everything is a problem that has to be solved, and it can only be solved by my one solution. Whether it’s a screw or a clay pot, we’re bringing our hammer.
The world a big mess, and no matter where I turn all I see is the mess. More nails.
I can’t do anything right. Things never go my way. The world is against me and I’m a perpetual failure.
You get the point.
We have a tendency to get stuck in a rut of thinking about life and the world in the same pessimistic way. We allow ourselves to be influenced by social media and buy into the hype that everything’s wrong with the world.
After a while, all we see are nails.
“Hey, I thought you were going to encourage me?”
I am. Right now.
What I want to encourage you to is this: start looking for other things. Are there nails out there? Sure. But there are bolts, and screws, and bricks and mortar and millions of other things. There’s a lot for you to see if you’re willing to see it. Not everything has to be a nail. Not everything is bad. Not everything is falling apart.
Maybe the reason things around us seem so messed up is because that’s the only way we are able to see things. And until we start seeing the potential and possibility that lies around us, we just keep recreating a world of disorder and chaos.
A hammer is fine, as long as you’re pounding a nail. But not everything is a nail.
Look for things around you that aren’t nails…that aren’t problems…that aren’t falling apart…
Look for the good around you…look for the positive people…look for the hope…look for the love…
If we start looking for the good, we’ll see it. Do you know why? Because it’s there. We’ve just grown so accustomed to looking for the nails, looking for the bad, that we don’t see the good anymore.
Look for the good today. Drop the hammer and pick up a bubble wand. Blow some bubbles and see how far they fly.
If you’ve been around the church world, you’ve undoubtedly heard this verse. We refer to it as the great commission:
“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
It’s one of my favorites.
Jesus has just won everything, literally. And just before he goes back up into heaven, these are his final words. This is the most epic moment in all of church history. This is that rally point that began it all. Like our favorite scenes from our favorite movies, this is the locker room speech that got the church going.
But, we’ve missed it.
We have gotten a lot of it right. But, I think we’ve missed one of the most important aspects of it.
Teach them to obey.
Obey. We don’t like that word do we? Obey. It sounds old school. Don’t tell me to obey anything. I’ll decide what I want to do.
We like the authority part. Jesus has the power!
We like the idea of making disciples, at least we think we do. Most of us aren’t quite sure what it means to be a disciple, let alone make one. But we think we do. And if we don’t, we pretend to.
Baptizing them. Got it.
Teach them. That’s easy. But is it?
It can be easy to give someone information. It’s not that hard to help someone memorize statistics, facts and trivia.
But the real question we need to ask ourselves: Are we teaching people to obey.
This is where I think we’ve lost it. We have gotten caught up in knowing about Jesus, knowing what he taught. We know the most minute details of the greek meaning of the word that Jesus only uses this one time. We know how many times Jesus says this or that. We know which parables are in all of the gospels and which parables are only in one, and we even know how the parables are told differently.
We have wasted countless hours and generations arguing over pointless details. Did Jesus pass the cup before or after the meal? Well it depends on which account you’re reading. Also, who cares.
My point is, we’ve built institutions around the idea of knowing more. How many institutions have we built around the idea of doing more? We expect our pastors to go to Bible College and seminary so they know the truth, but of what use is knowing every “jot and tittle” when it never affects the way you live your life?
I don’t recall anywhere in any gospel, epistle, or any other part of the bible where Jesus/God say “Here’s all the information you need to know intellectually, but feel free to go ahead and live your life however you please.” Maybe I missed that part.
I do remember the places where we are called to a transformed life, where we are called to deny ourselves and take up the cross each day. I do remember that we have to lay our lives down if we’re going to experience true life.
I also remember Jesus really hounding the Pharisees and teachers of the law for ignoring the more important parts of the law.
Why has our focus been only on teaching?
You probably already know the answer.
Teaching is easier. It’s easier to teach someone a fact than to walk with them in relationship that helps them change their behavior.
And we’re selfish too. We don’t want to change anything we don’t want to change. It’s my life, don’t you dare tell me how to live it. You can tell me what you “think” Jesus meant by falling to the ground and dying, but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with you.
And even if we do agree, we’re selfish about our time, and we don’t want to take the time necessary help someone apply a truth to their life.
What’s the real issue?
I guess we have to ask ourselves, does the gospel really matter to us? Is it a priority for us? Or is it just something we do when we’re able to find the time?
Because if the gospel matters, then we must incorporate all aspects of it. We must incorporate the teaching and the obeying.
Let me be clear…
I don’t give the tiniest iota about what you know or what you think you know. And I know you feel the same way about me. You don’t care about what I know. You care about what I do. You care about how what I do affects you. If you go to our church, you care about how what I do affects our church. If you’re in my family, you care about how what I do affects our family. It’s one thing to know what it means to be a good neighbor, it’s another thing to be one. My neighbors will never know I’m a good neighbor if my “goodness” toward them only exists in my intellect.
Let me be more clear…
I’m really kind of sick of people who think knowing a lot about God and the Bible makes them spiritual and righteous. I have a feeling you are too. Aren’t you tired of people who know the truth, but don’t live it out?
What do we do about it?
1.) We must start obeying all the Jesus commanded.
It starts with me. I have to be obedient to the call on my life. That means I must know what Jesus has commanded. But, If my knowledge never leads me to action, my knowledge is useless. I must know and do what Jesus has commanded. I must adapt my life to the standards God has created for Christian living. And if I’m not willing to do so, I need to stop calling myself a Christian. Because what does it mean to be a Christian if I am not going to live like Christ?
2.) We must change our teaching to emphasize action over knowledge.
When it comes to discipling, I must change my emphasis from simply passing on interesting information to passing on practical advice for living out the information I am sharing. What are some practical ways I can be a good samaritan? What are some things I can do so that Justice can be done to widows and orphans I know of? What does it mean to be meek? What does it mean to be poor in spirit? How do I live my life in that way?
The choice is clear.
Either we start being and making disciples the way Christ commissioned us to do so. Or we adopt the Thomas Jefferson approach and just start changing the the things we don’t like.
What are you going to do?