Church Mission vs. Church Business


churchbusinessI was sitting in the waiting room of the service department waiting on my oil change when I overheard the phone conversation on the man next to me.  I wasn’t creeping on him but his conversation was unavoidable to overhear.

He was deep in conversation about the politics within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and the local baptist churches. It was all about who was doing what and who wasn’t doing their job in their positions. If I had listened more intently I could have probably gotten some real juicy gossip to write about. Instead, I started writing this blog post because this makes me sad.

Once upon a time I was all about the business of “doing” church. My life revolved around who was in what position and which church had the largest membership. I think sometimes people who are in the church for a long time can easily slip into this business about the church and lose sight of the true reason for the church in the first place.

The business isn’t about the Southern Baptist Convention or any other church organization, it is about THE mission that Jesus gave in Mark 16:15:

“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

What about that’s mission? What about that business? All too often churches are more concerned about their buildings, their group of people and their organization than they are about loving people and reaching people.

I am happy to say I am not about the church business anymore. It was frustrating and unfulfilling. When I was growing up in the church if you became an overseer then you made it. You were big time. I remember how we would basically roll out the red carpet when any overseer would visit. For a pastor to get one of the big churches, you had to be in good with an overseer. Politics. Pure and simple. I remember seeing church deacons politicking to get the pastor they wanted to be appointed to their church.  It was about who you know and not the God you served. It all really disenchanted me about the church.

Fortunately, I learned to separate church from my relationship with God. I was never with the “in” crowd anyway so it was silly to chase any of that.  I reflect now on how I remember the popular ones were always in front of everything and had their photos taken for church youth camp annuals. They were the life of the party.  Yeah, I will admit that as a teen I wanted that but now I’m glad I never was part of any of that. The church was too much about pleasing man and being cool rather than about God.

So this man next to me in the waiting room of the service department is deep into his opinions about leaders in the SBC. I have not heard one word about God, reaching the lost or helping others. All political talk. That’s disappointing.

To be fair, I think people mean well but sometimes lose their sight of what’s really important and why these churches exist in the first place. God certainly does appoint people and leaders to carry out the mission of the Gospel. There are some who are doing that while others what to be the next big thing in their church or seek to further their own agenda in doing God’s work.

As I was sitting here waiting on my car, I also read about people like John Knox, George Wishart, John Welsh and others who were early pioneers of the church and sacrificed their lives for the Gospel, not some church denominational political agenda. I can’t help but wonder how this man next to me would do in the face of what these pioneers faced.

In today’s world, people need help, hope and love, not church politics. I have had people through the years who assumed that I was going to be a preacher just like my father. I would tell them that being a preacher is not something hereditary but a God-called.  Everyone can’t be preachers.  All believers won’t be able to get behind a pulpit but everyone can do something to support the mission.  The mission is God’s commission, loving others and people of integrity.  People who are hurting don’t care what you church title is.  They don’t care if you are an overseer, pastor or assistant worship pastor.  None of that matters in the grand scheme of things.  When people are hurting, they need healing, hope and love.

I wonder if this man understands this?

Do You Know Church Or Do You Know God?

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.