The local church has changed a lot in my lifetime. As the son of a pastor, I’ve had a front-row seat to many of these changes. I’ve seen pews replaced by theater-style seats, platforms transformed into performance stages, pulpits disappear, and suits replaced with jeans and leather jackets. Worship styles have gone from centuries of tradition to modern and contemporary. Sunday School is fast becoming a relic of the past. Vacation Bible School has transitioned from flannelgraphs to all-out adventure camps.
There’s no doubt the local church is far cooler than it’s ever been. I’ve been a fan of many of the changes. Certainly, some have led to some coming into a church who wouldn’t have dared before. Still, I can’t help to ask, at what cost have we become cooler? I’m convinced what we have lost and what we need today is one and the same: it’s more Jesus.
We need more Jesus. That’s a truism applicable to every situation and conversation. If you are a follower of Christ who disagrees we need more Jesus at any moment, I’m sorry, but I must question your commitment. More Jesus is the antidote to every ill, the cure for any disease, and the solution to every problem. Throughout my life, I’ve gone along for the ride as I’ve watched the typical local church morph from small buildings within each community to gargantuan arenas in a more regional setting. “If you build it, they will come” indeed seems to apply to churches today.
If you are on the north side of 40 years of age, it is an interesting exercise to reflect on the differences between the church in which we grew up and the one we attend today. We have more programs than heart and more employees than missionaries. It didn’t use to be this way, and I’m not convinced it’s been a change for the better. I’ve attempted to stay more plugged into the culture than my parents did as they aged; perhaps that’s the wistful goal of young people throughout history! I determined from an early age to evolve with the younger generations in hopes of remaining relative to them through my various creative endeavors; call it naivete. I now am beginning to see the wisdom in holding fast to the way things were, assuming those things represented truth well.
My point is not to rail against all that is new in the church, but rather to remind us of what is as old as the church itself. We need more Jesus. When the goal of the local church is anything other than being Jesus to the community around us and sharing Jesus within the same community and beyond, we’re lost. The goal of the church is not to entertain the congregation or to dazzle visitors with their technology and comforts. The goal of the local church is to be more and more like Jesus. It’s to care for the needs of others and to develop a community of people who have only one intention: more Jesus.
It is not my intent to condemn every church. Any church concerned with anything other than Jesus condemns itself. I only ask we all take an account of the faith gathering we call home. Does it look like the early church in Acts? Does it consistently emphasize Jesus over the comforts and entertainment of its people? Do they teach less of you and more of Jesus? Fine churches are still out there, and they deserve our attendance and support. Let’s make certain we are stewarding the time and money God has given to us to support churches whose only focus is more Jesus. Anything else is a waste of what God has entrusted to us.