Not long ago our organization received a response from a pastor to one of our posts that showed one of the major misconceptions about Christianity. Here is the quote “If I must go somewhere else to have those needs met I will. Like any other service organization care for the caregiver is critical.”
The pastor made two critical mistakes in this post. First, the church isn’t here to meet his needs. Second, the church isn’t a service organization. It’s this second mistake I want to spend some time on because I run into it far too often.
I’m not sure where this concept came from. I guess from the goodness of our hearts, but it certainly didn’t come from Scripture. Consider a few passages from the book about the Church- Acts.
“Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.” Acts 9:31
“…they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. Acts 14:27
“The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad.” Acts 15:3
In Scripture the Church is here for the redemption of the world. The entire book of Acts, even the passage where Stephen is chosen to take care of widows and orphans, is dedicated to the spread of Christianity, not the care of those within the Church. Yes, the Church does serve both individuals and the community, but that is far from its primary reason for being. God didn’t put the Church here to serve our needs. The church is here to serve God’s needs. Our needs are met when we serve God. We exist to serve and praise God, not one another.
In the book of Revelation we see the Church gathered around the Throne. What is it doing? Praising God. Everything is focused on God, period. “Day and night they never stopped singing, Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God almighty (Rev. 4:8).”
Instead of a service organization, the Church should be seen as a redemptive organization. It was put here to bring us closer to God, not to serve our needs. Its primary focus is to channel our hearts and minds from ourselves to the living God.
One of my favorite comparisons in Scripture is the difference between the Jerusalem Church and the Antioch Church. The Jerusalem Church hunkered down and cared for itself while the Antioch Church gave itself away to plant churches all over the known world. And what happened to the two Churches? It wasn’t long and Paul had to gather a collection to keep the Jerusalem Church afloat. I could make other comparisons, like centralized authority versus decentralized authority, but I’ll leave those for another day.
Folks, your church is here to change your community, not to care for your members. Does that mean you don’t take care of your members? Of course not. But the care and feeding of your members always takes a back seat to the redemption of those who are far from God. Never, ever forget that if you want to fulfill your calling.
For more on how to preach transformation from Acts see my book