I opened a sermon recently with the following:
“Good morning, Church!”
That sounds pretty good, until you dwell on what a greeting like that might mean to some folks. Was I speaking to the building? Was I addressing the decision-makers? Making a pronouncement the world as a church spokesman? (There’s a lot of that going around … just look at Facebook and what the “church” is saying this week!) Or was I greeting the saints?
Sure, we all know that “Church is what’s left when the building burns down,” that is, it’s the people. But let’s be honest. The word “church” has been hijacked by the culture … and I’m not sure that we (the “Church”) might not be totally responsible for the hijacking.
If you ask someone outside of the church what “Church” is, and what church is all about, and IF the person you’ve asked is being charitable, you’ll likely get a response something like this “The church is a place that does “good things” like feeding the needy – kind of like a non-profit. But the church members have their own club and club house that they go to on Sundays.”
In other words, the church is often seen as a “Christian” version of United Way. And though that’s a problem, since the church wasn’t founded to be a suffering-relief agency – it was founded to be a disciple-making organization (see Why Most Church Mission Statements Aren’t Effective for more).
The bigger problem is that the word Church has been hijacked by church membership to mean pretty much the same thing. There’s a notion that the church exists to “do good” and relieve suffering in the community and beyond. But the bigger issue is with the ways church members treat the Church as a club. A club treats membership a lot different than the biblical account of the church.
In a club …
- Members are most important (the club exists FOR the members)
- Majority rules
- Members are catered to so they are comfortable and their preferences are met
- Members are entitled
That’s not the way it is in the biblical model of the church, though.
In a church …
- Those who aren’t members – or affiliated with Christianity – are most important (the church exists FOR the unchurched)
- The good of the mission rules
- Members forego their personal comfort and preferences for the sake of those who “aren’t here yet”
- Members have responsibilities
The church exists for one purpose: To make disciples.
Church members exist for one purpose: To share their witness (Acts 1:8), that is to share what Jesus has done in their lives personally, and to share what they’ve seen Jesus do in the lives of others.
It’s time for the church to embrace the biblical model and meaning of church. And when it does, we’ll just might start seeing the church start to be an influence in the culture – rather than the other way around.