~by Pastor Mike Middaugh
There are a tremendous number of books and articles written today about how to make the Church better. In my daily reading of various blogs or online sources I am bound to stumble across at least one new piece every day about what the Church really needs. The solutions presented include: alternate worship styles, a greater digital presence, being more relevant, or engaging in certain “new” kinds of outreach. And if you do not believe me, just Google “how to fix the church.” I can only hope that some of the resulting hits are sarcastic.
This trend (of how to fix the church) has come about in recent years partly because of a nationwide decline in church attendance. Essentially every denomination, and churches of all sizes, have been impacted by this cultural swing. As a result, they are searching for ways to reach new people. There is an element to this desire that is noble and valid – all around us are a lot of people out there who may or may not know Jesus and we are called to reach them (see Matthew 28:19ff).
However, I believe there is also an aspect of this trend that is dangerous. The underlying theme seems to be: if we can find something that works to build up or grow our church then we will have achieved… something. Maybe that something is a sense of accomplishment, or that I will have created a future for my church, or found comfort in being surrounded by other people, or even that God would be pleased with me.
The problem with the above paragraph is that it all centers around us and our desires. Just look at the pronouns. We. Our. We. I. My. Me. Similarly, a number of the articles or books that float around are written by those who have left the church and who, in one way or another, are describing what the church didn’t do for them.
You see the trend. Always creeping into our lives, even under the guise of wanting the best for our local church, is the false sense that all of this is about us – that God exists to make us great, that we are most important, that the church is here to serve us, or that our desires are what really matter. On these points scripture is clear: God makes God’s name great, the Bible is all about Jesus, the Church is here to serve him, and we are his disciples. That last part means he leads, we follow.
Consider again the words of Psalm 23 which you may know by heart:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along righteous paths
for his name’s sake.
In that psalm we see the reason God does all that God does. The last line tells us it is for “his name’s sake.” He loves us simply because he is God and that is who he is. Jesus saved us simply so that we might know him and so that his grace would abound.
Sometimes we loose sight of this truth. We think “if I am not being served at my church maybe I should go somewhere else.” Or that “if we can just figure out the right answers, then we can build a better church.” But as soon as we make it about us, we have messed it up.
Our call as Christians, as the people of God, and as members of His Church is first and foremost to follow – to prayerfully and carefully make decisions about our lives as individuals, and to do the same corporately as we gather together in community. When we live this way, God’s Spirit works in our hearts bending our desires to match his own.
The great news when we get behind this is that he continues to extend to us his grace, and that his Church will never fail. It is actually far better and quite freeing that we are able to be about him and not about ourselves.
This is important for us to remember at Calvary. We have some big decisions ahead of us, decisions that will set the course for the future of this community of believers. As we make these decisions I will be the first to say that we should seek to do all that we do with the best that we have. Seeking the best resources, articles, books, experts, and whatever else to help guide us. We should also make sure that we are “all in” in all that we do.
But as we are all in, let us make sure we are all in for what he wants and for where he is leading, rather than where we would seek to go.