Summary: Part 1 the of the series Breaking Free looks at the church. What should the true church today look like?
Part 1: A People with Purpose
Pastor Ryan Akers
Starting a new 3 week series today called Breaking Free. This is not about breaking free from things like worry or addiction or anything like that. This series is all about the church and about us breaking free of the stereo types and misconceptions that are out there about what the church actually is, what it does and what our role as believers are within it. The Lord has laid 3 messages on my heart to share with you and I will tell you they will be challenging for all of us including myself which is why I fought God on them but He won so here we go.
If you’re reading through the NT you have probably noticed a trend. The church is talked about a lot! With all that is spoken about within the text it has made go back and ask myself some questions like, “What is the church? What should it look like? What makes a local church successful?” “How does the church today compare to the church of biblical times?” Lots of people have lots of answers to those questions and over time many stereotypes, misconceptions and false expectations about the church have been formed from Christians and non Christians alike. Outside the church the stereotypes are church is boring, pastor always ask for money, full of hypocrites and bible thumping fanatics, it doesn’t offer me anything worthwhile, on and on that list goes. Within the church there tends to be a theme of impossible expectations. You must dress this way, talk this way, music must be this style, church must have these specific ministries, liturgical prayers and hire these specific people. I’m not really sure where this mentality began (be it upbringing, false interpretation of scripture or something else) and I’m not saying everybody has some extreme unrealistic mentality about church but all of us absolutely have unspoken expectations about what we think the church should be and what our roles in the church should be or how involved in the church we think we should be.
Now, when I say all of this today I am speaking of the church in general not harping on Sand Lake specifically by any means. I’ve been a part of enough churches to know that every single one of them have people who have unspoken expectations and if you don’t live up to those expectations they will leave the church and go somewhere else. Whether you realize it or not there is a definite mindset that says people will only come to church as long as what they want is met. But once something happens they don’t like which could be anything from changing the color of carpet to service times or conflict with another person in the church they are gone. I’ve had my fair share of people get upset over something I did or the church did or something I was no longer doing and leave.
I had a family in my last church leave because I didn’t say hi to them one Sunday. Another person left because I didn’t visit them at the hospital (out patient). I’ve had people get upset at me and threaten to leave because I’ve preached too long or because I don’t honor God by wearing a suit. One man left my church because no one called him when he was in the hospital even though no one even knew he was there because he never said anything about it. I’ve even had people leave my youth ministry, kids and parents complaining because I preached from the bible too much. No I’m not kidding. You could just blame pride or spiritual immaturity as the culprit and you’d be right to a point but also I firmly believe the mentality of our entire culture has played a big part in forming these unrealistic expectations about what the church is and what our part in it should be. Let me explain what I mean.
70% of our economy today is built on consumerism. Meaning if you don’t buy stuff the country will collapse. Because of this media and advertising has done an incredible job of instilling in us a mindset that says we deserve our hearts desire. We deserve the best and we deserve it right now. Don’t believe me watch TV. Commercials, movies, video games, music, sports all bombard us with advertising and false messages that we must have this thing. We need to buy it, own it, love it, charge it because we’ve worked hard and deserve it. Burger King says you should have it your way. Society says the customer is always right. We, the consumers, have the power because we hold the money and so we believe we deserve to be treated well, own the nicest things and have people suck up to us if they want our business because if we don’t like it we won’t keep shopping there or eating there etc. Believe it or not that same I deserve it my way mentality has found its way into the church. Jesus has become a billion dollar business and churches have found themselves having to do whatever it takes to attract you to come to their church. This means that pastors have to spend way more time appeasing people, holding hands, playing nice, putting out fires because if he doesn’t these people who tithe might leave and that hurts the ego and the vote when it comes up to keep him or not. Success is based not on how many people are being saved and discipled but rather it’s based on the size of your church. If you are only 50 then you are failing but if you are 2000 you are a great success. Publishing companies have struck gold marketing children and youth curriculum that is loud, interactive and exciting because there is now a mindset that says if you just have kids read the bible and they aren’t engaged in loud, exciting and interactive ways they won’t come to church and instead they’ll go up the road to the competition. Youth ministries have become more focused on attracting teens through cool hang out rooms, video games, twitter, face book and talking about principles and shallow talks on sex, peer pressure and money rather preach from the Word of God and teach them how to live out their faith in their daily lives.