I wondered last week why the church seems to be so full of people who don’t really believe. That’s a strong statement to make, I know. However, as I was one of those people for the first quarter century of my life, I know of what I speak.
That this is the case tells me that something is amiss in your average American church. A person who doesn’t really believe shouldn’t be able to get too comfortable settling into membership and participation in the church of Jesus Christ, especially if they are engaged in blatant sin.
I submit that it’s possible for this to occur because the church is full of so many activities, clubs, and ministries that keep the average parishioner is too busy to consider their spiritual state. The church has become a master of multi-tasking, like most of society. The old adage “jack of all trades, master of none” springs to mind here.
What does Scripture indicate is the purpose of the church? I am no expert on this but I did a bit of research and the list is fairly succinct:
Prayer: “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.'” Matthew 21:13
Evangelism: Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19
Spiritual Discipline and Encouragement: And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4: 11-16
Service: What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. James 2:14-18
That is just a small sampling of Scriptural direction that I came up with after a bit of contemplation, and no doubt there are better references I could have used to make my point. Nevertheless, I can’t help but wonder how back-to-school rallies, children’s churches, alternative Halloween parties, women’s retreats, and man-up conferences contribute to the above stated directives or furthering the Gospel.
With all the activity and busyness, it is easy to take more comfort in church work than the Rock on which the church was built. This warning from Christ springs to mind:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Matthew 7:21-23
Ministry has been defined to mean so many things that we could be headed for Hell at 100 miles an hour and no one stops us and warn us onto the right road. No one even knows anyone intimately enough to offer admonition. When we see one another we are busy doing “the Lord’s work” in the nursery or in the church bookstore or someplace that has very little to do with true ministry.
I had fallen into the trap of exalting church work over sitting at the feet of my Master. Of pontificating more than praying. Of choosing the less excellent way. I was neck deep in that kind of service for a decade before my husband called me to change course, I know how easy it is to be spiritually stagnant and outwardly busy for “the Kingdom.” This is the problem with praying the sinner’s prayer (where is that in Scripture?), filling out a ministry interest survey, and getting right to work. It leaves little time to examine ourselves and see if we are truly of the faith.
As Hearthie so eloquently notes in her recent post, there’s an order to these things. We ignore that to our detriment and to the detriment of the church as a whole. Rather than confront sin in ourselves and those we fellowship with, we accommodate it with divorce recovery groups, single mother ministries, and troubled teen sessions. Instead of seeing these sin crutches for what they really are, usurpers of the roles of family and the refusal to discipline, we instead brand them ministries, and another opportunity for church busy work.
More distractions from the true calling of the church simply invites more of us to serve our way straight into hell.