Is the Church a Hobby for Christians and a Sandbox for Pastors? Part 2

Friday, July 23, 2010

Leading churches for the last twenty years has show me one other thing for sure: it's easy for church members, attendees, laypeople, etc. to treat the church like it's their hobby. See if any of this describes your current level of involvement, thought process, or feelings about your local church.

  • You think it's AWESOME! You absolutely love it. But...when push comes to gets get tired...and...slowly... you...begin to...not... attend on Sundays, attend small groups, give financially, have people in your home, evangelize, etc. Or, that sale is on at your favorite shop, the next awesome movie is out at the theater, and you rush to spend your money on it, only to feel weird on Sunday morning when it's time to worship the Lord in giving.

  • Your church is okay. You wish there were a better one to attend if you knew of one. So you attend every Sunday because you know it's the right thing to do. Or you attend every now and then. When there's a special meeting, workshop or seminar that interests you, you make sure to attend because it really peaks your interest and seems helpful.
  • The children's ministry has a schedule with your name on it, and you know your Sunday's coming up. You're dreading it. As the Sunday draws nearer, you're frantically thinking of excuses, rationales, and substitutes who can take your place. Strangely though, you really don't want to miss praise and worship because you really meet with God then.
  • You're playing on the praise and worship band. But school's been really, REALLY tough recently. And perhaps your job is demanding more hours on top of school work. So to make life easier, you just drop from the band and take an extended leave of absence. After all, you feel like you just need some personal time to worship God among your friends on Sunday mornings, and the break would be nice.

  • Prayer meeting is on Wednesday nights. The Wednesday night supper is great. But prayer is boring. So you take extended time around the Wednesday night supper table to hang with friends and chat, skip prayer time, but make sure you stay around for choir practice afterward, because you really enjoy that.
Think of any other examples? Here's the point in summary:

when you pick and choose what you will participate in
within the life of your local church family,
your local church has become a hobby,
and the people / ministries in it the toys you play with.

When it all comes down to it, you really only do what you really want to do in your local church. And if you don't like it, or if it doesn't appeal to you, you simply decide not to attend, not to give, not to participate, and not to serve. Your church is your hobby.

There's no intention to make anyone feel guilty here. If you're one of Christ's you're forgiven of this attitude and behavior towards His wife. That's what the church is. His bride. And you're deciding to take or leave whatever you want from His bride. And Jesus still loves you and forgives you. And He calls you now to take up your cross, deny yourself, and follow Him.

Taking up your cross is taking up your execution instrument. You are deciding to die when you decide to follow Jesus. No turning back, as the old hymn says. This necessarily flows into denying yourself. The cross as an execution instrument necessarily means dying to yourself and dying for others. Saying NO to yourself, is saying YES to others. That's what the cross was about for Jesus. And He didn't turn back either. All of this flows into following Jesus, Who showed you now to do it. Nobody has any greater love than this: when you lay down your life for your friends.

The church is not a building. It's people. It's your friends in Christ. And when you take or leave whatever you want or don't want from the local church, you're essentially laying down your friends for your hobby. They no longer become the focus of your life. What YOU want to do becomes that focus. And if what you don't want to do happens to be giving or serving that weekend with your fellow believers...or if it happens to be housing a homeless person for a couple of weeks until they get a job and get back on their feet...or if it happens to be using your entertainment money that month to buy groceries for a family in need...then you are saying YES to yourself and NO to your friends. That's exactly opposite of what Jesus said is involved in following Him.

When the church turns from hobby to lifestyle you will never experience more joy and satisfaction and happiness and peace and freedom. When people become the focus of your existence instead of your own desires and felt needs, you will find what you've truly been looking for the whole time: fulfillment. You see, God has uniquely designed the local church so that it is the perfect marriage of two elements: your desire to be fulfilled, and the need of other people to be loved. When either of these is left out, the church becomes just a hobby...something you do depending on when the whim hits you.

Take up your cross. Say NO to yourself and yes to others. Follow Jesus by loving His bride with 100% of your life. He died for His bride. He didn't die so we could enjoy a hobby. He died to bring us ultimate and eternal fulfillment in His love...a love which is given to us to give to others, and never to be diverted to toys. People are not play things. They are persons Jesus died for and wants to conform to His image through YOUR participation in serving and sacrificing and encouraging and exhorting and counseling and comforting.

Love one another with all your heart, soul, mind and you would want to be loved...and the local church will no longer be a hobby.

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