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Exploring What the Church is Not, and What it Should Be

What the church is not

I was reflecting on the church world during Easter time, and I began to think about what the church is not and what it should be.

Easter time is like the Super Bowl of church services, so I started seeing more advertising for churches online.

Most of the advertisements I saw looked like this:

Easter post

I don’t like to point out flaws in what believers do or don’t do.

But I couldn’t help but notice that the church advertises “real people, great music, an encouraging message, and fun.”

What about “Jesus, the Gospel, and the story of the death, burial, and resurrection”?

The problem I see with advertisements such as this is that it’s as if we’re embarrassed or afraid even to say the name of Jesus.

I get it. I’m sure their goal is to “reach unbelievers,” and to them, the most effective way to do that is to get them in with secular “hooks,” such as “fun” and “music.”

But I wonder if they’re actually getting Jesus and the truth when they do settle in.

What the Church Is Not

What I’ve learned from the Holy Spirit, the Bible, 20 years of ministry, and leadership is this:

When a church is not doing its Biblical job, it’s usually because it focuses on one thing it deems crucial above all others while mostly or entirely forsaking others.

For example, a pastor might strongly desire to feed the hungry in his community.

Therefore, most of their resources and content centers around this, and they constantly feed the hungry. Great job!

However, how many of those people we’re feeding and those seeing us feeding them will receive Jesus and be changed?

Isn’t that the ultimate goal?

They might respond, “We can’t change them; only God can. Our job is just to do good; hopefully, they’ll start attending church. But either way, we’re doing what God wants us to do.”

True, only God can change them. But our “job” is not to focus 90% of our mission on feeding the hungry. Combining other Biblical things might reach them more effectively.

The pastor and the church might feel like they’re being Biblical because the Bible does say to do good and give to those in need.

But is that the main message of the Gospel? Should we focus most of our time and energy on that because it is our “unique” calling?

Is that all you should be doing?

Problems that can arise from scenarios like the above are:

  • No one is really changing for Christ.

  • The church people themselves lack in many areas because all they know is how to feed people.

  • The main message of the Gospel and other areas are being neglected.

  • The world has the wrong idea about the church’s mission.

There are many “things” a church should and should not do to be Biblical.

But I will narrow it down to four pillars that a church needs. Here they are.

Practical Things

“Practical things” pertain to living out the Christian life. Are you being a good husband, worker, and friend?

Are you speaking the way Christ does? Are you handling situations in a Godly manner?

For example, a sermon on “how to be a Godly mother and father” would be practical.

I know a minister who loves God but hates to work. Practical, life-application things from the Bible would teach him to work:

2 Thessalonians 3:10

For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.

I’ve seen churches focus 95% of their time teaching Greek and Hebrew. I’ve seen some that seem to only do spiritual things, like dancing and speaking in tongues for the entire service.

However, the members learning Greek and Hebrew struggle to be kind to people. The tongue-talkers have failing marriages.

So, the church needs to learn practical things, along with the other things.

Educational Things

“Educational things” are doctrinal issues. According to the Bible, theology matters.

Christians should be learning why they believe what they believe.

I think this is where the church is most lacking, and that’s why my church leans more toward this area (more on particular “leans” in a moment).

For example, teaching about baptism is an educational thing. The church should learn baptism, how to do it, and what it means.

Again, we have tongue-talkers who don’t know beans about the Bible and theology.

We have people who love the practical side of things but hate to learn. This is an incorrect view, according to this scripture:

2 Timothy 4:2-4

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.

So, the church needs a teaching aspect, along with the other things.

Spiritual Things

“Spiritual things” pertain to things of God’s Spirit and could include the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit, praying, prophecy, tongues, and so forth.

Really, everything we do can be “spiritual,” but this category is more about the outward manifestation and usage of God’s Spirit in a church.

This is usually missing in overly religious churches that are all about ritual and schedule.

Believers need to be sensitive to God’s Spirit and engage in the gifts, as this is Biblical, no matter how “weird” the seeker-friendly church says it is.

1 Corinthians 14:1

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.

Christians need to pray and not just come to church to hear a practical message about how to “diet right in God” or “avoid toxic relationships.”

You can follow the steps and learn the doctrine, but they are useless without prayer and the Spirit.

So, the church needs the spiritual things, along with the other things.

Inspirational Things

“Inspirational things” are encouraging, uplifting things that do not condemn the members.

I used to attend Lakewood Church with Joel Osteen. I loved the encouraging words he offered every week.

But I felt I couldn’t stay there because that’s all I was getting.

After a while, we should learn to do things without encouragement and find our strength in the Lord. But there are times when we need it, and it is Biblical.

Constant-encouragement-style churches seem to assume that people are always “going through something.”

“God will get you through.”

“God has a plan for you.”

“Just like David, you will conquer the giants in your life.”

These are all true and good things, but what about practical, educational, and spiritual things?

On the flip side, some churches seem to condemn their members with legalism and hellfire messages every Sunday.

So, the church needs encouragement, along with the other things.

“I’m Sad Because My Church Seems to Focus on Only One of These Things, Too”

Well, not so fast!

Here’s the deal: I do think that God raises up certain people to be effective in particular areas. And if they start a church, it will naturally take on their personality.

I would call this the church’s particular “lean.” For example, my church focuses heavily on the educational side because that’s who we’re called to be.

But we do not forsake the other pillars and are open to them.

I preach all kinds of sermons—practical, spiritual, and inspirational. But my heart is definitely in teaching, and this is where I thrive. It’s one aspect that has helped grow our church.

The advice I would give to all churches would be to be open to including all the pillars as best as they can.

Perhaps this can be done creatively, such as by raising church members with particular leans that the leadership might not have.

Other churches might offer classes that touch on the pillars that aren’t really brought out in the main message.

Our church operates in the spiritual aspect of things quite regularly, but one way we really allow this to flow is by inviting prophets to speak at our church.

Most of the time, the leadership just needs to swallow their pride, study to see if these things are so, and learn to utilize all pillars themselves.

My advice to individual members is to be part of a church that tries its best to offer all pillars.

But if your church, for example, doesn’t really offer the educational side of things, I don’t think it’s wrong to learn on your own and learn from other true teachers in the Body.

However, it’s always reasonable and respectful to share things with your church leadership to see if there is agreement.

Today, set your four pillars up in your life and watch your relationship with God grow!




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