I heard a preacher make this statement on a podcast this week: “Some people know church but they don’t know God.”
You would think there isn’t a difference or that this is interchangeable. It is not.
There are many people who are more comfortable doing church and all the ministries or activities that go along with it than their own relationship with God.
I can tell you that I have done the church thing. Most of the time I did it pretty well. I have held several ministry positions in the church. I would often think that doing the job of the church was the same as doing it for God. Sometimes it is but there are times when I got so busy FOR God that I slacked on my relationship WITH God.
It wasn’t anything intentional but it was something that was definitely defective in my life at the time. Some people treat church like a business where they assume they will climb the career ladder in ministry. God doesn’t operate that way. Of course, I have known people that have climbed the ministry ladder by “drinking the Koolaid” and achieving man’s approval.
People would always assume that I was going to be a preacher because my father and my grandfather were preachers before me. I never assumed that and I never desired it. Being a preacher involves more than preaching a sermon. I knew that by seeing what my father went through. I’m just not the kind of person to play the politics. It’s not a good career move when you question things or call people out. Yes, there was never a future for me as a preacher.
I tried to “drink the Koolaid” by doing what people expected me to do. I held ministry positions but it just never felt like the right fit for me. I was miserable trying to meet people’s expectations. You fall into the false sense of security that works was scoring points in God’s permanent record.
I learned that you can DO all the things and look like you have it all together on the outside yet have nothing on the inside. People say that church isn’t a building but they sure put a lot of emphasis on what they do in that building.
I was once good at playing church. I would dare say I could have won an academy award for that role. Too many years I spent working to please others yet only feeling miserable when I pulled out of the parking lot. In fact, I felt worse when I left church than when I arrived. No one knew. All that people cared about if you were there at church doing your job.
There is more to God than that.
It wasn’t until I spent a week at a Cistercian monastery that I really found myself with God. There was no preaching, yelling or ministry to do. There was silence and times of reverence to God during the scheduled times at the monastery. I didn’t know a lot that was going on as far as the Catholic rituals but I did appreciate the strict reverence to God and the importance of silent prayer.
We don’t like silence. Silence scares us. When we are silent before God we have to face the truth about ourselves. That’s when God can truly speak to us and deal with the deep things within us. It’s not some wonky meditation thing. It’s a time when we totally unplug from the world and truly spend time with God.
I found that in my time at the monastery. While I don’t think I could ever be a monk, I understand a whole lot more about my relationship with God than all the church I had ever attended before that week. It was definitely a huge spiritual change in my life.
Am I saying that church is not important? Absolutely not. The point I am making here is that God is more than church. I just have seen how easy it is to fall into the church work trap. Being busy for God but not spending time with God.
The one thing that helps in breaking out of that church work mentality is when you serve others instead of staying within the church. When you help others you are truly serving God. I have known of churches that don’t even meet in a building but they go into the community doing what is needed to serve others, not just preaching to people but meeting their needs. That is church and when you help others you are representing God to others. You are also helping yourself.
Ministry titles and years in the church are never more important than our relationship with God.