Let me ask you a question. Why do you go to church? The way you answer that question will reveal a lot about you and your view of the church. For those of us churchgoers, we don’t spend much time thinking about this question, because either (a) it’s just what we do, or (b) we’re too . . . busy.
Busyness can often lead to shallowness. We don’t take time to think and pray.
I’m not trying to give you a guilt trip. In fact, I want to do just the opposite—I want you to think about how your relationship with other believers helps point you to the very One who takes away your guilt (Hebrews 10:22). Likewise, you have an opportunity to help those same believers who help you.
Hopefully, that’s a big reason why you go to church—to be in relationships with other believers, centered on Jesus, in order to fulfill His mission “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
A pastor who serves a large, nationally-recognized church shared that internally and privately, “his pastoral staff was worn out and hurting” (Eswine, The Imperfect Pastor, 65). He determined that their congregation valued professionalism more than relationships, excellence more than grace, and the Bible as information more than transformation.
He continued: “We tried recently to invite church members for dinner with no agenda other than to get to know one another. Many told us afterward that, as pastors, we had wasted their time because we gave them nothing to do but sit with people, talk, eat, and watch children play” (ibid., 66).
This pastor said their church follows a celebrity way rather than a Jesus way. His conclusion? “In order for this church to grow in health, it will require a culture change. But that would mean we’d probably lose several hundred people. As soon as we imply that the gospel shows strength in weakness, grace for our mistake making, and biblical truth as having a relational context and a sacramental view of time, many will be agitated and leave. The good news is that we’d no longer bow to immature and damaging congregational assumptions and would finally try to pastor them into more of a Jesus way” (idem.).
This is not an easy shift to make . . . for you . . . or for me. When church becomes more about programs than people, professionalism than servanthood, or being trendy rather than being authentic, we succumb to the celebrity way. The Jesus way is harder. It requires our admission of brokenness, surrender to Jesus, and acceptance of others who, like you and me, don’t always get it right.
But that’s the church. It’s messy and glorious all at the same time, because it’s about imperfect people who follow a perfect Savior. It’s the Jesus way. Which way are you taking?