Do you ever just sit in church and think, “Man, I wish this was better!” I confess that I have done it. I have just been sitting there thinking how much better it could be if we would do it a “better” way – typically meaning the way that I think it would be best! I think we all have influences and experiences that have affected us and that we would love to see incorporated into the worship and order of the church.
I don’t mean some huge theological departure that makes the church something that you wouldn’t recognize. I am thinking more about issues like the songs we sing, how much and which scriptures are read, and maybe even the subject of the preaching and teaching in the church. Sometimes it’s just the “mood” I feel is conveyed by folks as we enter the assembly. It is easy to sit there at times and just start to think, “Is anybody getting what they need out of this?”
It is easy to start to think this way and become very critical about every little thing happening there. We can start to dissect everything from the greeting at the door to the bulletin to the song service, and even the prayers! We start to notice the building (1980 called, it wants it’s interior design back!), we start to be more annoyed by the little habits (why does that guy always jingle the change in his pockets?), and we make challenging statements to other people like, “I would be embarrassed to bring my un-churched friend here.”
I was reading an article the other day written by Ron Wallace. He is the former president of UPS, who rose from the lowly ranks of a driver to eventually enter the boardroom and lead UPS to great success. He has been touted as a phenomenal leader, and is sought after as a speaker, while his newest book is selling well. I haven’t read the book, although I might soon.
What caught my attention in his article was the subtitle of his book… “Driving a culture of WE not ME”. Now that will preach! Not only that, but within the article he also mentioned the idea that “The answer to every problem is within five feet of where the problem exists.” It caused me to look back and realize something about me, and I am guessing others might reflect this as well.
When I have been the most critical and the least satisfied spiritually, it has had a lot more to do with my proximity to God at that moment, not with what the “church” was doing!
If I really want things to be different, if I want to see improvements in my spiritual life, I need to consider that the answer may be “within five feet of where the problem exists.” The problem and the answer may be right here. The biggest area of improvement needed in the church could be, ME! And the WE I should be focused on is “God and I” – that is the WE not ME idea that most of us need!
I have found myself feeling more encouraged and satisfied as a part of the Lord’s body when I am reading, studying, and praying in a disciplined way. I think about the right things more of the time. I am more ready with an answer that comes from God’s word. I tend to have more patience with others and give greater grace when I am so keenly aware of the grace that has been extended to me.
Growth in my relationship with God is not just a “bonus” for the Christian… it is an expectation of God for every believer! Now, if everyone in the body is growing, listening to God’s word, and talking to Him in prayer daily, that body is in the right position to receive incredible blessings. This is the very thing that the church can’t live and thrive without – the blessings that come from God.
However, if a church is chasing a slogan, an idea, or even a ministry that is going to light a fire and get everyone excited about being a part of the “organization”… it is likely to lead to greater disappointment and discouragement over time. There is no construct of man, no human idea that is going to beat God’s plan! He is our fire. He is our plan. He is why we do what we do. At least, seeking Him and His kingdom SHOULD be what we are all about. That is the “fire in the bones” that the prophet Isaiah talked about in chapter 20 of Isaiah. I will be honest – I don’t think the carpet, or the seats, or the fellowship hall, or VBS or any other single “idea” is going to put that “fire in our bones”.
If WE as His people will spend more of our time really seeking Him, looking for ways to please Him with our lives, and finding ways to grow His kingdom here on earth, I think we are likely to be better engaged in our local church, more encouraging to others, and more willing to actively participate in spiritual work. Not because of others – but because of HIM!
How can we make the church better? I believe the answer is for me to make Joe better. Better in my attitude, more willing to help, more open to change in areas that sorely need it in my life. I need to seek God more, and seek “revolutionary ideas” less.
Following God and His word is revolution enough. And it is this kind of revolution that our world so desperately needs.