by Rev. Christopher Lewis,
Nothing is Impossible Ministries
When we went into the foyer, hundreds of people were gathered around drinking coffee. They looked happy to be there, but nobody acknowledged our presence. We tried to catch people’s eyes, and they simply looked away. We attempted to start conversations, and people simply walked away as if we hadn’t said a word. At one point, I even started saying out loud, “This is my last chance! I’ll try out this church and see if it has any answers and, if it doesn’t, I’ll just have to throw myself off a bridge!”
I would never have thrown myself off a bridge. I just wanted to see if there was any way I could elicit a reaction from the people or get someone to acknowledge my existence. However, nobody even looked at me.
What makes a good church?
Go to the average small church, and you will quickly discover that the pastor thinks the whole future of the church depends on how well his sermon is delivered. If his sermons are good, he expects that his church will grow. The worship leader believes that the future of the church depends upon how good the music program is, and the musical people in the church often fight over their definition of what “good” music is because they honestly think that everything rises or falls based upon the music fitting their standards.
Others in the church sometimes get into the act too. The youth leader is convinced that the future of his city depends on how well the youth program is done in his church. The janitor is convinced that the future depends on how clean the place is. The cooks in the church, of course, know that it’s all about how good the food is at potlucks. The treasurer, on the other hand, knows for a fact that it all depends on how well he or she controls the purse strings.
And, of course, they are all wrong.
All of these things are important to the life of the church and, together, they help make a church either a good place to worship or a bad one. Not one of these things, however, is the be all and end all. In fact, if the people themselves aren’t friendly, non-judgmental and loving, none of these other things are going to matter anyhow.
Many people take themselves so seriously in the church-world that they become convinced the only hope for their church, and perhaps for their community, depends on their particular work or ministry. But it doesn’t. While I’ve been to churches with good music and preaching that were completely devoid of any sense of the presence of God, I’ve also been to churches where the music and preaching were below par but the presence of God was evident.
How do churches get to a point like that church in Northern Ireland did, where the programs are great but the love is absent? I believe a great deal of the problem is that the people in charge of these programs take themselves too seriously. They get so caught up in trying to make their particular niche in the church shine that they ignore the things that matter most: loving people and loving God.
If I were a church-doctor making a diagnosis of many churches’ illnesses today, I would write the following prescription to many of our pastors, worship leaders and other leaders and workers:
STOP TAKING YOURSELF SO SERIOUSLY!!! The future does not depend on you. Just do the best you can with what you’ve got, and concentrate on loving God and loving people.
I don’t mean not to strive for excellence. Of course, Christ-followers should seek to do their best at everything they do. They should show the world that God’s people give their best for God. However, as they work hard and do their best, they should stop thinking that they are more important than they really are.
It’s not about you. It’s about God. Love Him and love people. Then do your best in whatever role you’ve been given, but relax! If the music doesn’t turn out the way you were hoping this week, try to do better next week. If your sermon didn’t come off as well as you’d hoped, try to do better next week. But remember that the world doesn’t revolve around your ministry. It doesn’t even revolve around your church.
The work of your church can be important but, in the end, what makes it important is not ultimately about the music program or even the quality of the pastor’s sermon. It’s about how much you love God and love people.
If a stranger walked into your church looking for a last strand of hope before ending his life, would you notice he was there and show him he is loved? Or would you be too busy setting up the sound equipment?
Do your job, but don’t forget to put people first. Stop taking yourself so seriously, but be sure and take the needs of the people who enter your doors seriously. That’s what it’s really all about. It’s not about you.