Easter Frustrations

At the top of my list of frustrations is the Evangelical push to shape all of church life into some form of man-centered entertainment. I am already seeing it in the mail box and social media ads. Sadly, the week that should be one of the most sober, joyful and sacred is ramping up to reflect some of the worst priorities in pop culture. Many churches are trying win the advertising and entertainment war, and trading their birthright for a pot of stew- Easter attendance.

Pastors, please remember that offering entertainment and self-help is not your calling. Having record attendance is not your calling. Please take advantage of the opportunity of having additional visitors on Sunday to preach the risen Christ. And remember, if you do it like the apostles, some will be convicted, some may get saved, and some may want to throw you in jail.

Here is an inspired reminder of your calling from 2 Timothy 4:1-5

"I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." (ESV)

Why is the "Church" A Mess? Are You A Part Of The Problem? Or Part Of The Solution?

It is easy to see problems and weakness in the church. And this is true for any local church. The flaws are so obvious. The body of Christ often seems sick, underfunded, under-appreciated, and ineffective. In fact, it is easier for us to complain than to do something to fix the problem.

I have heard pastors talk about the “90-10” phenomenon. This is the idea that 10% of the people do 90% of the work in the church. Overall, I don’t think this is accurate for a number of reasons. That is a topic for another time.  But this idea points to an unfortunate reality. Large numbers of church goers are simply consumers. And they are doing exactly what they have been trained to do. Too many of the voices advising pastors focus on how to increase attendance by creating consumers. And sadly this includes offering services (entertainment, children’s programs, inspiration, etc) in order to get people to show up.  We have done a good job at getting people to ask if their needs are being met.  Too often, this results in crowds of people that expect to be served rather than an army mobilized for service and sacrifice.

When we look at scripture we see something different (Read Ephesians Chapter 4). We see that Christ has risen from the dead and given each member of his church gifts for the good of the body. We see that the savior is at work through his people to build one another up and prepare them for usefulness, both inside and outside of the church.

Ephesians 4:15-16 says this, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

Each part of the body needs to be connected to Christ AND to one another. And when each part is working properly the body grows and builds itself up in love. That is easy enough to understand. When a person is healthy, all of their organs and body tissues are working together to maintain health and usefulness. When a doctor evaluates a sick person one of things they check is the health of the various body systems. Sick body parts make for a sick person.  

Maybe the body is sick because some of its members are not connected? Maybe the body is sick because some of the body parts aren’t working properly so that the body cannot “build itself up in love?” If the church is weak and ineffective, maybe the reason is that the members of the body aren’t working for the health of the church? 

The truth is, if you are a Christian, you have been entrusted with gifts and graces that the rest of the body desperately needs. Jesus has arranged the church so that we help to complete what is lacking in one another (Phil. 2:30).  And he wants to work through you to make his body healthy.  

If you see problems in your church (I see them in ours!) then the first step is to start with yourself. Are you functioning to promote the health of the body or are you acting like a consumer?  I want to invite you to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

A Lesson From My Dog: How NOT To Choose A Church

Our family loves dogs, but some would say we are not very good at making our dog follow the rules. I am told that you aren’t supposed to give dogs “people food,” and we generally avoid this indulgence. But once in a while, in a moment of weakness, an unmentioned family member will give our dog a treat.  The person who does this has earned the name “Weak Link,” for obvious reasons. Our dog is highly motivated by food and has learned how to work the system. She will ignore everyone else and follow the “Weak Link” around the house in order to get what she wants. She knows that the other family members won’t indulge her bad doggy manners, so she ignores them. But she knows how to act very cute and beg in order to get what she wants from me.

I thought of this while reading from 2 Timothy 4 this morning.  After exhorting Timothy to preach the word (v. 2), Paul says “The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching , but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” (4:3) People who don’t want to hear the truth won’t stop going to church or listening altogether. They have passions and desires that must be satisfied. So they will act like my dog and seek out teachers and churches who will scratch their itching ears. And what do they want? What is the standard criteria for deciding which teachers to listen to? It is their passions (v. 3b). 

Evidently there were people in the church who had a set of sinful desires and attractions, and instead of indulging these desires, the teaching of the apostles (called “sound teaching”) confronted them and called them to repentance.  Jesus routinely taught that many of the things we naturally desire are violations of God’s law, are bad for us, and end up becoming substitutes for God himself (Matt 5:21-30 & 6:24-33).  These people put up with the truth for a while, but eventually act just like my dog. They ignore anyone who won’t tell them what they want to hear. 

One of the lessons for us is to beware of choosing a church, podcast, blog, etc. based on our desires. Don’t choose teachers who refuse to confront your darker appetites. Especially watch out for the ones that are willing to encourage or normalize the passions and desires that are condemned in scripture. Beware of anyone that that tells you that Jesus wants you to be happy indulging greed, hatred, lust, envy, covetousness, or pride.

By Pastor Matt Troupe