Catering To Those Who Care Least

In his book, “America’s Game, The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured A Nation”, Michael MacCambridge writes about how the Super Bowl halftime show became bigger to some than the game itself. In particular he refers to the aftermath of the Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake disgrace in 2004. Of this MacCambridge writes “that one frustrated club executive asked, ‘Why do we do this? We bend over backwards and change everything around, just to draw in the people who least care about the game. And when that blows up in our face, we have to deal with the embarrassment.’”

I think the church has a lesson to learn in this regard as well. Well known “preachers” have surveyed neighborhoods to find out what the average Joe or Jane want in a church. Others are careful to avoid certain topics in the pulpit for fear of losing members. The church becomes so concerned with marketing itself and furthering its brand that truth takes a backseat to taste, if it gets to go along in the ride at all. The highest priority is attracting people “who don’t like church”. Pump up the volume to rival a club or a honky-tonk, tone down the teaching to such a plain vanilla that it challenges no one to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18) and you will attract droves. They may not be mature but my, don’t they have a good time?

If the church is going to be as God would have it, then it needs to stop catering to those who care least. It needs to stop wringing its hands over childish, flighty folk who are just waiting to be offended. It needs to stop asking people what they want from the church and start telling people what God wants from them. Being a disciple of Christ is not for the self-centered or the self-satisfied. When the church projects otherwise it betrays its calling and those who care most.

Brad Fry

Published in: on October 24, 2012 at 3:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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What Does God Want The Church To Be?

What is your idea of the perfect church? Is it one where every singer sings in perfect pitch and harmony? Is it one where every sermon is a biblical masterpiece? Is it one where every elder and deacon carries out his responsibilities without flaw and every member is full of sunshine? Of course you realize that this kind utopian society does not exist this side of heaven. The reality is that the church is a work in progress. Regardless of where it is, who its members are and who is leading it, it is a work in progress.

            Since this is so, what ought the church strive to be? What should be her goals? The best way to answer that question is to ask, “What does God want the church to be?” As we look in the New Testament I believe 4 objectives stand out.

            God wants the church to be the classroom of Christ. Feeling good is great. Having your soul stirred is thrilling. But any church that focuses on feeling and ambience rather than learning of God is failing to be what God wants. This must be at the church’s core if the church is to be God’s church. God seeks to reason with people (Isa.1:18). The early church devoted itself to “the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). This is foundational. How are we to be anything else we are called to be if we don’t learn from God what we must be?

            God wants the church to be the window of Christ. Learning of Christ is a means to an end; it is not the end itself. As the world looks at, or rather, through the church, they should see Christ. Jesus said “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32). John says in the next verse that he was talking about his manner of death, his crucifixion. But it surely has an application for the church of all ages in all places. Are we lifting up Christ? Is he our banner? Is our spotlight on him? Is he our message? The world doesn’t simply need to see another social club. The world needs to see Christ.

            God wants the church to be the community of Christ. Some people have the mistaken notion that when they “come to church” that it is a relationship between themselves and God alone. They believe they can walk in, “worship”, and walk out with little or no interaction with others. But that’s not the biblical picture. Get out your concordance and study the “one another” passages of the New Testament and see God’s desire. In fact one of the primary purposes of the assembly itself is to “stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb.10:24-25). We are a community, not isolated pockets of Christianity.

            God wants the church to be the body of Christ. Why is the church the body of Christ (1 Cor.12)? A body is for doing not just being. The Bible says, “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Eph.4:15-16). Are you “growing up”? Are you “working properly”?

            This is what God wants the church to be. Let’s make sure we want the same thing. Then let’s be about being it.

Brad Fry

Published in: on March 23, 2011 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Is Church Attendance Necessary?

Many people are of the opinion that church attendance is expendable, something you can take or leave.  And they have chosen to leave it. They may even quote a Bible verse that they believe backs them up, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18:20). A simple reading of the context reveals that Jesus is not pronouncing his blessing and presence on those who leave the church but his endorsement of disciplining rebellious believers. So, is church attendance necessary?

It is because God commands us to not to forsake the assembly. Hebrews 10:24,25 says, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.” The habit of not attending church often starts with occasionally missing for whatever excuse. Before long any reason seems a justifiable one. As time goes by one might claim to be a member of a certain church, but he wouldn’t be able to prove it by his attendance and involvement.

It is because God tells us that we have a “one another” responsibility. Too often folks look at church as a full service gas station. They pull up, demand to be filled up and speed off. Each Christian has a responsibility to be devoted to one another and give preference to one another (Romans 12:10); to build up one another (Romans 14:19); to accept one another (Romans 15:7); to admonish one another (Romans 15:14); to speak to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19); to comfort one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18), etc. How are we to give and receive these things if we don’t assemble with one another?

People have long comforted their consciences with statements like, “I can be a Christian without going to church.” Yeah, and a fish is still a fish without staying in the water. But just as the water is the essential environment for the fish’s health and survival, so the regular fellowship of the church is to the Christian. And we know what happens to a fish out of water.

Brad Fry

Published in: on February 9, 2011 at 11:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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Who Needs Church?

There are many people who go through life thinking that their relationship with God is just fine while they have little or no relationship with the church. The reasons they give for staying away from the assembly range from hypocrisy, real or imagined, to the idea that they can just as meaningfully worship at the fishing hole, in the garden or on the couch. The line from the Don Williams song rings true for them, “I don’t believe that heaven waits for only those who congregate.” Their view of Jesus may be that he simply wanted to spread a message of love. They may see the church as a non-vital body part like an appendix that they can just as easily do without.

No one can deny that the church is an imperfect thing. By its nature it will always be imperfect because it is made up of imperfect people just like the folks who criticize it for its imperfections. But neither can one deny the church’s rightful place and priority in the life of the Christian if we believe what the Bible says. The New Testament simply knows nothing of a faithful Christian who is willfully unattached to other Christians through corporate worship and spiritual fellowship.

Here are just a few of the truths that the New Testament teaches us about the church:

  • The church is the body of Christ (Colossians 1:24). To cut yourself off from the church is to be cut off from the body, to be amputated. The amputated hand is not only cut off from the arm but also from the head, who is Christ (Colossians 1:18). Let’s be real clear. The amputated body part dies. So does the amputated Christian.
  • The church is the bride of Christ (Hebrews 12:22 with Revelation 21:9). To leave the church is to walk out on Christ.
  • The church is the place where God is glorified (Ephesians 3:21). To leave the church is to be more concerned with what you want than what he wants.
  • The church is the household of God (1 Timothy 3:15). To leave the church is to leave God’s family. It is to be the prodigal son or daughter (Luke 15:11-32). And until we also, “come to our senses”, we’ll be sloppin’ with the pigs.
  • The church is the possession of God (1 Peter 2:9). To leave the church is to strike out on your own, to be your own man or woman, not God’s.
  • The church is the blood bought flock of God’s sheep (Acts 20:28). To go it on your own is to be repossessed by the world, living outside the care of God’s fold.

The church isn’t perfect as it exists on the earth. We’ve already established that fact and that’s news to no one. But it is perfect in its design because God is its Designer. God created it with the realization that it would be populated by imperfect people. A few of those imperfect people may be insincere hypocrites who have no interest in being truly transformed. God knows who they are. But the rest of them are conscientious men and women who are acutely aware of their own sin and shortcomings. They know they are not perfect in and of themselves. But they also know they are perfected by the One who is. So they stay with his church. You would do well to stay with it too. Otherwise you’ll spend longer than you bargained for with those hypocrites you allowed to keep you from the church.

Brad Fry

Published in: on December 1, 2010 at 10:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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