Recently I’ve had the frustrating experience of trying to get three of the largest churches in my city to come around a family in need. The situation at hand is a low-income single mother with six children, whose minivan was recently involved in an accident and totaled. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured. One church never responded, one said they get too many requests to be able to help but did ask what my own church was doing about the situation, and the final church – the one I attend and have been financially supporting – responded they only helped with rent and utility bills and would not be able to contribute towards purchasing a vehicle for the family.
Being a preacher’s kid, I understand the inner workings and dynamics of a church better than most, but I was still left flabbergasted by the lack of assistance these local churches were willing to extend.
The church asking what my own church was doing to help emphasized the fact there is a great divide and unhealthy competition among many churches. I have seen some amazing collaborations between churches in my lifetime, and it is almost emotionally overwhelming whenever I see it because it seems to me it must be what Heaven will look like. I’ve seen it more between a large church and smaller ones, than I’ve seen between two or more large churches. We are one body, commanded to stand in unity (Ephesians 4:1-6). There should be no jealousy or competition within the church. When there is, we’ve missed the point of what the local church is supposed to be.
I was most perplexed by my own church who responded they only helped with rent and utility needs. I mentioned to our campus pastor it was akin to a leper approaching Jesus for healing, and hearing Jesus say, “Sorry, but I only do colds and flu. Please do come back if you catch either of those!” What is the purpose of the local church, if not to come alongside the orphans and widows of our society (James 1:27)? When did followers of Christ begin to believe their obligation to the poor could be categorized into only certain buckets?
It leads me to wonder if our modern world is more interested in being church or doing church? I confess, we’ve gotten really good at “doing church”, but seem incredibly lacking when it comes to “being Church”. More than ever before, people are walking away from the local church. Millennials are leaving in droves. A 2011 Barna study revealed three out of five millennials who grew up in the church had left or were taking an extended break from it. Why? When the church no longer behaves as the Church, it loses its appeal.
Jesus is lovely and amazing to behold. The local church should be a reflection of Him. He’s the reason people are drawn to a local gathering. When we lose His reflection, we lose the reason for attraction. Big churches will continue to be big because they offer enough social activities and conveniences to draw people in, but should that be enough? Do we honestly believe Jesus would be pleased if He still walked in our midst?
It’s true, I’m a bit upset as I write this, but I always get upset when I see people acting as lip-service Christians instead of Disciples of Jesus. Time is so short. We will be judged on how we spend it. For those of us who claim Christ as Lord, we have certain responsibilities and obligations for how we live our lives. We are responsible for our actions, our response to those in need, and the stewardship of the resources God has entrusted to us. I never want to forget why I’m here. I want to always be focused on being the Church, and not on simply doing church.
While it is certainly not the intent of this post, should you have any desire to help this single mother in need, please visit the GoFundMe page I’ve set up to facilitate this at https://www.gofundme.com/single-mom-of-six-needs-a-minivan. Every dollar helps. Thank you!