Ever watch a group of kids play when one of them gets angry? The angry kid just might pack up her toys and leave.
But if you criticize and attack each other, be careful that you don’t destroy each other.Galatians 5:15 (GW)
What is your definition of church? Is it an assembly of believers? A congregation? The body of Christ? A place of worship? The House of God? Our definition will determine the decisions we make regarding it.
Is church merely the place we go to worship each week? Maybe midweek worship or bible study? Is it the place we gather to be fed from the word, from scripture, from the Bible? Is it a place that equips us to be lights and salt to the world during the rest of the week? Is it a place for occasional fellowship, potlucks, community groups, activities and programs? Is it a social club where we hang out with like minded people and people we like?
If so, then what happens when we disagree with something or someone in our church? What if we don’t like a change that’s been made? Maybe in the worship music or format? Or what’s being offered or not offered for our children, our youth, ourselves? What if we don’t like a new staff member or volunteer? Or what if we have differences of opinion on certain issues? Or doctrinal or political disagreements?
If church is nothing more than a place that’s supposed to meet our spiritual needs as we see fit, then when a problem comes along, we might be tempted to pack up our toys and leave. We might move to another church, another place of worship. We might find someplace else more to our liking, our needs, or our theology. If the church is only there to meet our own needs, then we’ve set ourselves up for giving up, moving on, betraying, letting down, breaking faith, hurting others.
Stop judging so that you will not be judged. Otherwise, you will be judged by the same standard you use to judge others. The standards you use for others will be applied to you.Matthew 7:1-2 (GW)
From what I’ve experienced and seen lately, the church in America is very selfish, individualistic, and egocentric. It’s all about me. My comfort. My preferences. My theology. My liking. We lack commitment in anything but self. What’s best for me. What’s best for my family. What fits best with my form of beliefs, theology or doctrine.
Oh sure, we frame it as being “led,” or “convicted,” or “a check in my spirit.” Because it’s easier to walk away and start over somewhere else than stay put. It’s easier to leave than to do the hard work right where we’re at. The hard work of surrendering our rights and reasons. The hard work of commiting to pray for each other and with each other. The hard work of wrestling, struggling, and growing along side each other, even when, especially when, we don’t see eye to eye. To walk through the desert wilderness together. That’s hard! It’s much easier to go somewhere else.
If I’m no longer happy or content or satisfied, then I can pack up my toys and go elsewhere. Sort of like my favorite restaurant. They’ve changed their menu. Raised their prices. Took away my favorite dish. Or changed the server I always have. Guess it’s time to find a new favorite restaurant.
We must also consider how to encourage each other to show love and to do good things. We should not stop gathering together with other believers, as some of you are doing. Instead, we must continue to encourage each other even more as we see the day of the Lord coming.Hebrews 10:24-25 (GW)
But what if church is something more? What if it’s supposed to be community? Family? Truly the body of Christ, knit together, belonging to each other, part of each other. One heart. One Spirit. A people we invest in, commit to, love unconditionally, come along side, faithfully walk with through all the difficulties and differences? If we see church as something more, something greater, wider, bigger than ourselves, that might shift our perspective enough to not pack up our toys and leave so quickly. After all, don’t we follow a Savior who willingly laid down his life for us, his church?
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.1 John 4:11-13 (NIV)
What we translate as church in the New Testament is the Greek word ekklēsia which means “to call out from.” Such as, a people called out from the world. The English word we use as church comes from the Greek word kyriakos which means “belonging to the Lord.”
If we’re acting like the rest of the world, can we call ourselves the church, the called out ones? If we’re acting like the rest of the world, can we call ourselves ones belonging to the Lord? If we belong to the Lord, we shouldn’t act like or look like the world. If we belong to the Lord, we have his Spirit. And his Spirit bears fruit.
The fruit of the Spirit is love. Do we love well? And don’t give me that tough love stuff. Because God’s love is audacious. Extravagant. Lavish. It never fails. It never gives up. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Is our love for one another like that?
The fruit of the Spirit is peace. Shalom. It is more than absence of conflict. It speaks of being made right, complete, full, a wholeness that encourages us to give back with great generosity. Do we seek peace with one another, or do we stir up conflict or walk out in disagreement?
The fruit of the Spirit is kindness. Are we kind? Or do we feel the need to be the Holy Spirit in other people’s lives? Do we tear them down rather than build them up? Point out their speck of sin when we have logs in our own eyes?
The fruit of the Spirit is faithfulness. Are we faithful? Or do we bounce around from church to church, looking for what we consider the perfect place, the perfect people, the perfect program? Because the trouble with that, is wherever we go, there we are. And truthfully, the issue in packing up our toys and leaving may be that we’re the problem.
Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come.2 Corinthians 5:17 (GNT)