Church Doesn’t Work. I know that might be surprising to hear me say (given the fact that I pastor one), but I’m convinced that church, in-and-of-itself, doesn’t work (you can define “work” however you would like). “Joining” a church, “becoming a member” of a church, “identifying” with a church, “attending” a church, or “committing” to a church (you can pick your favorite language and terminology) hasn’t done much to change anybody. And yet, you see the attempt all the time. A couple’s marriage is in trouble and they find they are headed down a path of “irreconcilable differences” so they decide to “find a church.” Or mom and dad have recently been shaken from slumber as they learned their teenage son is doing drugs and into some “bad stuff.” Their response – “we need to go to church.” While a high percentage of people have an erroding trust and confidence in “organized religion” and “church” you would be surprised at how many people still turn to “church” as a place where maybe things can “get fixed.”
Unfortunately, I have to say, a commitment to church in-and-of-itself doesn’t fix much of anything. And quite honestly, if it is an unhealthy church (and there are a lot of the out there) – things get worse. More disappointment, more time expended elsewhere, more guilt (we did mention it was a church right?), etc.
So, let me give this bit of advice (from a guy who loves and serves within the church)…don’t commit to the church (at least not in-and-of-itself). It won’t get you very far. My admonition is to commit to JESUS. He’s the one that actually makes things work! If the marriage is in trouble, the church can’t save it…but Jesus can. If your teenage son is going down a dark and terrible path, just “bringing him to church” won’t rescue him … but Jesus can. Committing to church but not to Jesus usually ends up with some weird legalistic trip of religiosity (and people around you like you less).
The purpose of the church is to be a community (with all of its struggles and problems) in which Jesus can be found. The invitation is not to come to our church to check out how great the church is…the invitation is to our Jesus. Invite to church, not for church, but for Jesus. So an invitaition to church should be an invitation in reality to meet Jesus. Church is sort of like a dating service (I know…I wince as I use the analogy myself) that hosts the event in which you meet Jesus. It is the place that Jesus promises to show up (unless the church isn’t interested in him coming because his presence might take the focus off themselves…Jesus usually honors such disinvites!) In the end, no one commits to e-harmony.com. They commit to the person they met through e-harmony.com.
Leaders of churches need to be cautioned (ESPECIALLY MYSELF) that in our conversations with people that we don’t so promote how good the church is that we neglect to mention that it IS NOTHING IN COMPARISON to our Jesus. And if you hear church leaders go on and on about their church and all the things they are “doing” and how “wonderful it is” and “how much you would like it” and how “friendly it is,” and how quickly it is “growing,” and “how there’s a program designed just for you“…blah, blah, blah…but don’t hear “you can find Jesus here” keep looking.
Committing to Jesus will mean committing to church (more on this in a post to come). But committing to a church does not necessarily mean that one has committed to Jesus. If that be the case…you’ll find church just doesn’t work.