Will the Real Church Members Please Stand Up?

I am tired of hearing so many complaints thrown against the church from those who no longer even attend church. There, I’ve said it and feel like a weight is finally off my chest. It’s really easy to stand against something you’re not involved in. We do this so regularly in our own lives. “Yes, I’m a Christian, but I’m not like THOSE Christians.” We build ourselves a nice little fence and are content to live inside it for the rest of our lives, leaving no room to be pushed, prodded or encouraged to think outside our fence. And unfortunately, that means we have a tendency to put God in our own little fence and refuse to allow Him to grow outside of it. As a much more published author than I has said, “Your God is too small.

As has already been said by many people, they love Jesus but not the church. Unfortunately, that’s like saying you love a friend but can’t stand their spouse (admit it, you have one of those friends too!). And when you’re not regularly involved in something it’s really easy to judge it based on a preconceived notion. This has happened to me recently with the movie Gravity. The previews didn’t interest me at all so I didn’t think I’d be interested in seeing it at all, yet when I finally got around to seeing it, I was blown away! There’s a similar phenomenon with those disenchanted with attending church regularly. You can’t judge a church body accurately by a one week visit. It takes time to dig in and get to know the people that make up the church. And guess what happens when you start getting to know them? Issues come up, just as they do in every family I’ve ever met.

With many of those my own age who I’ve talked to, I’ve seen the reoccurring theme of always wanting and expecting the best things right now. We want the best/dream job right out of college, we want the most ideal church body that will serve all my needs, we want the killer body, the perfect significant other, the nicest car and the list could go on. The biggest lesson that has repeatedly come up in my life is that I need to do a better job of waiting and being patient. I don’t have my 401k set up perfectly, I don’t drive the nicest car, and I don’t even have a significant other! But God has me in this season for a reason, and I’m learning and growing through it. And one of the biggest ways I’ve grown has been because of the local church I’m involved in. I regularly spend time with people who are completely different than me. They vote differently, eat differently, read differently, talk differently and dress differently. And that’s good. That’s the way God has intended it. We are all works in progress who are regularly needing the reminder to be more like Christ.

So in this day of un-involvement and complaining, my biggest question is: what are you doing to change it? If there isn’t a church nearby that you like and connect with, how could you make it better? Is there a ministry area you could become involved in and help grow? It’s so easy to complain and blame these issues on other people, it’s much harder, but much more vital, to get plugged in and involved in people’s lives. So let’s spend more time together pushing each other to become more like Christ.

“And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.”

-1 Corinthians 11:1

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  1. Mike! What a post. Personally, I feel both convicted and ostracized (not necessarily a bad thing). I love seeing posts like this because it reminds me that people still have passion for mainstream church. As someone who doesn’t attend Sunday service, it’s easy to surround oneself with negativity concerning the church; it’s refreshing to hear a positive perspective.

    Coming from the complainer/criticism side of the argument (yes, I know who I am), I hesitate to completely agree with you for two reasons: 1) Our definition of church is different; therefore, we aren’t always talking about the same thing. 2) The claim that you can’t criticize something because you aren’t personally involved with it feels, looks, and sounds like a weak argument. Should we not criticize genocide, dictators, bad films, (or whatever example) because we aren’t personally involved?

    I could see a counter-argument for #2 being: “You don’t know all the issues if you’re not plugged in; therefore, you shouldn’t make a fuss if you’re uninformed.” My counter-counter argument would be, I am informed because I was directly involved in the mainstream church for 25 years. Just because I don’t attend on Sundays any more doesn’t mean I’m oblivious to the obvious.

    Finally, my answer for “What are you doing to change it,” (if by “it” you mean Sunday service), I’ll say this: I removed my financial, physical, and emotional support because I believe there is a better way. I’m not aligned with mainstream church’s goals, nor do I believe it to be an efficient mechanism for spreading the love of Christ. That does not mean, of course, that others should follow “my” way. If your goals and values are aligned with mainstream church then it makes sense to continue to work within that system.

    Thanks for this post, Mike! Great work.

    • Thanks for the reply Kevin, and I still owe you an e-mail! Easter has kept me busy for the past few months. And I hope you didn’t feel that I was attempting to single you out or ostracize you with my thoughts here. And I’ll be the first person to admit the issues with the church, and I could go on for a long time telling you about the ways I’ve been hurt by the church (being a PK and now a pastor leads to a lot of stories, both good and bad). My underlying issue is when people give up on church based on a couple bad church experiences. That’s part of the reason there are so many different denominations that all together make up the universal church, but each local congregation has both strength and weaknesses, so to give up on the “mainstream” church because of previous hurts doesn’t hold the weight for me. Thoughts? Maybe we should just do that co-blog question and answer…


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