I’m not trying to be cute. I’m serious. In so many churches, very, very little is expected. In fact, you can usually boil our expectations down to a few things:
- Be present in the assembly on Sunday mornings (well, most of them anyway).
- Don’t be a sexually immoral person.
- Don’t do anything scandalous in the community where you live.
I realize that the above comments are a generalization. Of course, that is not true of all churches. But is is true of many! While churches often expect very little of their members, they will often spend tremendous time and energy on what they offer to a consumerist community:
- Best youth group in town
- Something for the whole family
- 40 different ministries (usually to the church members)
As consumers, we often have very little commitment toward a particular community of believers (I am not even talking about "brand" loyalty at this point). As church members, we may go to a particular church because of all that it offers but we could very well go to the church down the street if their offerings seem to be greater.
Consequently, among members and church leaders there is lots of talk about "happiness." We (as consumers) speak of how we are not "happy" with the church anymore. Church leaders might spend incredible energy worrying about this person or that person who is not "happy."
Most disturbing is this: We begin to judge the progress of a church by whether or not most people seem "happy." If the church is "happy" and more people are coming on Sunday morning, we must be going places.
Contrast this mindset to what you might see in the early church. These men and women were disciples–Christ-followers. Imperfect. Flawed. Human. Yet, the intent of these earliest Christians was to imitate Christ. After all, he was the fulfillment of the promise first made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was God-man on this earth calling people to himself.
Maybe, as we reflect upon our congregations, we would do well ask more questions that speak of our reason for existence. For instance, instead of talking about how happy people are within a particular church, we might asking questions related to discipleship.
Do you think the people in our church are growing (maturing) in their attachment to Jesus? What evidence is there that we are taking on more of his mindset?
I suspect that this must first begin with me as an individual follower of Christ. These are questions I need to be asking about myself.