By Arron Chambers
If you were to create a sign that would honestly tell your community what your church is really like, what would it read?
Recently, while driving through Tarpon Springs, Florida, I saw a sign outside of a Methodist church building that read “Church Bizarre,” and I thought to myself, Now, that’s honesty.
They obviously didn’t intend to advertise that their church was odd. But, ironically, in an attempt to attract people to their bazaar, they inadvertently advertised to their community that they were bizarre. And that isn’t very attractive at all.
That church with that sign started me thinking about my church and what kind of sign would most accurately—and honestly—describe it to our community.
If I were to create a sign that would honestly tell our community what our church is really like, what would it read?
Would it read “Church Flexible,” since we’ve never had a building of our own and we’ve had to set up and tear down every Sunday for 12 years? Would it read “Everlasting Church,” since our services tend to last forever?
Or would it read something less flattering, like “Me” Church?
That’s the title of a funny video posted at www.sermonspice.com. It’s a fictitious commercial for a fictitious church that—sadly—is all too real. The commercial begins with the teaser, “Imagine a church where every member is passionately, wholeheartedly, and recklessly calling the shots.”
According to the commercial, “Me” Church is a church that won’t start until you arrive. If your baby starts crying, “You can just stay seated; the others around you can leave.” You don’t have to tithe, but you “can know what every person gives in detail.” While you’re in the service your car can get “a buff, a wax, oil change, and a tune-up.” And if you join you will get tickets to the Super Bowl and a pony. “Look in your backyard.”
“Me” Church is a church where it’s “all about you.”
And “Me” Church is not too hard to imagine. In fact, you may be attending “Me” Church right now, and if you are, you know how bizarre it can be.
“Me” Church is bizarre because the worship is all about entertainment.
The first Christians met in places that were not conducive to PowerPoint, a praise band, and strobe lights, but were conducive to being “The” Church. These early services were not about entertainment; they were all about survival, so they were all about God.
There is an erroneous belief today that the main reason we attend worship is to “get something out of the service,” rather than attending to give our worship to God. Eli Reyes changed the way I worship when he encouraged me to think of worship, not as entertainment, but as a performance for an audience of one: God.
Now, this isn’t a theatrical performance.
Think about the Olympics and the Olympic athletes who get up early and train for hours a day so they are ready for the moment they will stand before the world, performing in the name of their country, not for themselves only. When we worship we are not performing for ourselves, but for our Creator.
In “Me” Church worship is all about entertainment, but in “The” Church worship is a performance for an audience of one.
Another aspect of the Christian experience that seems bizarre at “Me” Church is fellowship.
Mrs. Hyder loved fellowship. Really, I should say, Mrs. Hyder loved fellowship dinners. No, that’s not right, either. If I were being completely honest I’d have to say Mrs. Hyder loved pound cake.
Mrs. Hyder didn’t really seem to care about getting to know the other members of our church during fellowship dinners. Her focus in fellowship was to get a pound cake into her purse before quickly exiting the fellowship hall and heading for home.
Mrs. Hyder would have liked “Me” Church, because in “Me” Church, the goal of fellowship is to get. “Me” Church is full of people who expect to get money, attention, and all of their needs completely met. But in “The” Church, the goal of fellowship is to give.
The first Christians “were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need” (Acts 2:44, 45). They understood the purpose of fellowship in “The” Church is not to get, but to give.
“Me” Church is also bizarre because the desired result of discipleship at “Me” Church is toleration.
Members of “Me” Church expect unconditional acceptance and an environment that makes them feel good about themselves. Their life verse is, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1), and their life goal is to do anything they want to do. They campaign against any preacher who condemns anyone for anything. They avoid any disciple who suggests that true discipleship requires self-denial.
Sometimes discipleship is not pleasant. As we see in 1 Corinthians, sometimes, in the name of discipleship, we must do the difficult but right thing. Paul wrote, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked man from among you’ (1 Corinthians 5:12, 13). This reminds us that in “The” Church, the goal of discipleship is not toleration, but transformation.
Ministry in “Me” Church also looks bizarre, because the goal of ministry in “Me” Church is to be served.
One time someone took my wife and me out to a fancy—and very expensive—steakhouse. We experienced amazing service. Every need we had was met, every desire was anticipated and fulfilled, and every person at the table was treated like royalty.
It’s hard for us to eat out now, because we expect that kind of service at every restaurant. But this is unrealistic, because service in most of the restaurants we can afford typically ends with someone saying, “Thank you. Please drive around.”
Members of “Me” Church expect great service, too. They expect ample parking, comfortable pews, convenient need-based programs, short sermons, constant child care that requires them only to exchange their child for a pager, and the undivided attention of the preacher.
Members of “The” Church give great service because they understand the purpose of ministry is not to be served, but to serve. Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45).
But, one of the most bizarre aspects of “Me” Church is evident in how it approaches evangelism.
Some of our ancestors journeyed halfway around the world on the Mayflower in search of a better life. Many of us won’t journey halfway across the living room in search of a better TV channel!
We live in a world where we can get anything we want delivered to our homes at almost any time. Soon, we may not ever have to leave our homes to get anything. Won’t that be fun? We seem to expect everything and everyone to come to us—including lost people.
The evangelism goal for members of “Me” Church is to get lost people to come and sit down next to them in “their” comfortable pew in “their” air-conditioned church building. But the goal of evangelism for members of “The” Church is to get people to go where the lost people are; members of “The” Church know Jesus commanded us to go.
So, if I were to create a sign that would honestly communicate to our community what our church is really like, I hope it would simply read, “The” Church.
Arron Chambers is concluding his ministry with Southside Christian Church, Orlando, Florida, and beginning his ministry with Christ’s Church in Jacksonville, Florida.