Beware of the church you love

The church service made him cringe. An every-Sunday churchgoer was out of town for a family function and stopped by a local church to worship. 

And the experience was hard to enjoy.

What was so bad about the service? Well, as far as he told me, nothing. The only “problem” I could tell was that the man loved his home church. He loved the people at his church and the music at his church and the use of artistic gifts at his church.

Which made it hard for this other church to compete.

Have you ever experienced that? I have. Because I love my church. And by “love” I mean that I hope I spend the next 1,994 Sundays worshiping there. (Assuming I die at the average age of 76.1 years. Which I hope happens in church. While we are singing “Cornerstone.” After I preach my last sermon on Psalm 73. But I’ll let God fill in the details . . .)

I love our church family and the guests who stop by each week. I love our Life Groups and the genuine community I’ve found there. I love how our artists and musicians help fix my eyes on Jesus and grasp his stunning Word in fresh ways.

I love my church.

But I wonder if the devil loves that I love my church. Because loving anything too much is a dangerous thing.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 study, the average American will move 11.4 times during his or her life. A new job. College. Grad school. A relationship. Retirement. Moving closer to the kids. Going somewhere warm for the winter. While some of these moves will be across town, many will take us to new cities and across state lines. We will have to find new places to worship, new church families to join.

Imagine if, after your amazing experience at your last church, you went to find a new church and constantly compared it to the past. The pastor(s). The musicians. The style. The use of technology. The programs. The Bible studies.

What if, instead of thanking God for abnormally gifted musicians at your old church, you expected them at every church? What if, instead of praising God for uniquely insightful pastors from your past, you expected them in your future?  What if, instead of worshiping God for devoted volunteers from back there, you expected them to reappear right here?

If you did, you would turn a good thing into a god thing. And that would be a bad thing.

Which is why we need Paul’s wisdom. He wrote, “When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1,2).

Paul didn’t want the church to gather for the sake of his eloquence. Rather, he wanted them gathered around the cross of his Jesus.

What a good word for us, especially if life has led you or someone you love on a search for a new church.

The preacher might be a bit dry or a bit long (or a bit dry and long). But if he’s preaching the cross of Jesus, what a church!

The music might be less than album worthy. The organist might botch a few notes. The guitarist might only know an Em chord. But if they’re leading us to sing to and about Jesus, what a church!

The Bible teachers and Sunday school leaders might never get asked to do a Ted Talk. Their materials might be straight out of the 80s . . . which might match their actual age. But if they’re proclaiming the grace of Jesus, what a church!

If God has given you a church you love, thank God for it every Sunday. And thank God for every church that gives us the message that God loves!

Pastor Mike Novotny has served God’s people in full-time ministry since 2007 as a pastor in Madison and now Appleton, Wisconsin. He also serves as a host and speaker for the Time of Grace television program and contributes to the written resources of Time of Grace Ministry. Pastor Mike is married to Kim and has two daughters.


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