I have been to many church banquets, services, and functions. In my experience most churches are divided along economic class lines, some along racial or cultural lines, and others along ministerial lines. Rarely is there a church in which the unity of Christ is extended to all.
I understand the desire to be with people like yourself. Rich with rich, poor with poor, etc. There is a familiarity and comfort in this. Church leaders who desire to form a real community in which these various elements form a family have their hands full doing so. And not all leaders want this. Neither do all churches.
I know pastors of small churches who unplug toilets, counsel, and preach while the members serve together no matter who they are. Of course, with a smaller church, the members tend to be of one economic class or culture or background. Maybe it is easier to have unity and community in a group that cannot afford to be discriminatory.
I know pastors of larger churches. As the church grows and become more diverse it is more difficult to maintain community. Even in suburban churches that tend to have members from similar backgrounds and cultures, differences abound. Leaders are often not chosen according to their spiritual maturity or spiritual giftedness and the result is the church becomes an organization and the lead pastor often devolves into an administrator.
What is wrong with churches? They have lost their first love. No one is a Christian who does not know Jesus. It is as impossible for this to happen as it is for a human to become a human with first being conceived. If I forget to be a human and decide to be a fish, I will surely drown or be cast aside.
Churches too often are about feelings or special experiences or legalism.
A church that bases itself on feelings puts human emotions above the Word of God. There will be times of great peace, joy and refreshing in the Christian walk but there will be times of great silence and trials as well. To emphasize one over the other is to preach half the Gospel. While people exhibit outward manifestations of their feelings others look on feeling unworthy since they are unable to match their exhibitions. Not everyone experiences emotions the same way nor ought we to base our spiritual walk on human emotions.
A church that bases itself on special experiences will be a full church on Sunday and when the high of the experience wears off, the members will look for the next special experience. The hype and excitement of these experiences can become the goal and replace worshiping God in Spirit and Truth. Just as feelings change, experiences fade. Members of these churches tend to equate the special experience with a Holy Spirit encounter. The Holy Spirit is an exciting person of the Trinity yet there are times in which he talks with a whisper and not a big bang.
A church that bases itself on legalism will certainly avoid the above two dangers. However, we are called to worship God in Spirit and Truth. These types of churches often are rule oriented and fear based rather than Spirit filled. This ignores the freedom we have in Christ and the love that Jesus has for us. There is no real way for that love to be unconditional since the members are conditioned to be rule followers and not use their free will. God is Spirit and Jesus in the Truth. We are called to love each other as Jesus loved us.
What is wrong with churches is that they are frequently not places in which Spirit and Truth are found. Whether we try to protect our members through rules, entertain them through special experiences, or focus on feeling good, we miss the boat. And when we, who are called to love miss the boat, people get hurt.
Churches need to focus on Jesus’s command to love each other in Spirit and Truth just as we are called to love God in Spirit and in Truth. Anything else and we become like the world around us creating idols of experiences, feelings, or rules.
Let’s let our light shine and try love!
Andy Becker is a retired counselor and author of The Travelers, a fictionalized account of spiritual warfare (available on Amazon) as is, Stupid Thyroid, a book he co-wrote with his wife, Stella. He and his wife, Stella, lead Lighthouse Ministries which offers love, hope, and encouragement to one of Canada’s poorest and roughest neighborhoods, North Central Regina. His book, The Travelers, is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca