I Will Avoid the Traps of “Churchianity” by Rick Burdette (With special credit to Thom Rainer and his book “I Will”)
1 Corinthians 12:12-12:28
I WILL – “I Will” Avoid the Traps of “Churchianity”
1 Corinthians 12:12, 27-28 (pg. 799-800) November 22, 2015
I need to openly tell you I stole this title from Thom Rainer’s book “I Will.”
There is no such word as “churchianity” but it fit too well and it conveys the idea of what I’m trying to impress too well not to use it.
I grew up in church…I never remember a time in my life where it wasn’t a part of my family…when I was a child we went to a denominational Church here in Lexington…The Church that was a part of my dad’s heritage…when I was 6 or 7 my dad came into a Sunday School class I was in to get me. He asked the teacher what he was teaching…the teacher responded, “The Myth of Jonah.” How it was just an allegory…or story that represented mankind’s struggle with sin…and pointed to Jesus’ 3 days in the grave…my dad’s response: and you’ll have to forgive me a little…was “I don’t believe that story is a myth…I believe a big “darn” fish swallowed Jonah (dad didn’t say “darn”)
My father shared his struggle with His boss Bill Bachanan at Kentucky Utilities and Bill invited my dad and our family to Southland Christian…the rest of the story is history…we went…mom & dad were baptized by Wayne…and I grew up with an amazing minister, children’s ministry and youth group…who loved us…even when I rebelled…I am indeed a B.U.I.C.K. (A brought up in Church kid.)
I’ve spent almost 37 years ministering in the Church…intern, children & student minister, senior, preaching minister at small, medium and large churches…Kari’s been at my side for 35 of those 37 years…I’ve “done” church for awhile.
Thom Rainer defines “churchianity” this way: “Practicing our church and religious beliefs according to human standards rather than biblical guidelines.”
There’s a horrible trend in many people’s lives when we’ve spent decades “going to church” or being “church members.” Slowly we forget about Jesus…and the vibrant Christianity we had when we first met Him and we slide into “churchianity”…which is something very different than the sacrificial and unifying teachings in 1 Corinthians Chapter 12. Look at 1 Corinthians 12:27-28
“Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it. And God has placed these in the Church.”
When scripture talks about “church membership” (and it does) it describes each of us as part of a body…each of us essential to the whole. Some are ears, others are eyes, some are feet or hands…that’s why he says:
“For as the body is one and has many parts and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body – so also is Christ.” (1 Cor. 12:12)
God’s biblical and self-giving plan is for His body, the Church, to function like a healthy body…with His Son, Jesus, being the head and each member doing what He designed it to do…for His glory…and for His purposes.
But churchianity separates us from the head…and from God’s design and we become much more like “cut flowers.”
There are 5 symptoms of “churchianity” that cause this disease that we should avoid at all costs…first:
SYMPTOM #1 – CHURCH IS A SPECTATOR SPORT
I love sports…I always have…basketball, football, golf, swimming…I spent much of my life playing them or preparing to play them.
I loved being on a team…I loved getting ready for the game…and I loved the competition of trying to win.
But at 55 with 2 artificial hips, both knees done, 2 spinal surgeries and a heart attack under my belt I am now much more an athletic supporter than an athlete…but Man! I love to watch sports…from the stands and in front of my TV. I like to call the plays…yell at the coaches and point out their mistakes…I like to tell my buddies how I’d have done it…I participate as a “spectator.”
Churchianity is like that…members attend but they don’t actively participate. They expect others to do ministry…for some the only time they get passionate about Church is when they don’t like something…where they express their displeasure and anger about how things are being done.
Why do people choose to be spectators instead of committed church members…because I have the appearance of being in Church, but want to live my life like the world…because I can stay unattached instead of making myself transparent and vulnerable, and because I want ownership over my preferences instead of servanthood to others.
The next time someone starts to complain ask one simple question…Have you shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with anyone this month? When there’s silence…walk away.
The 2nd symptom of “churchianity” is “Church is about me”
SYMPTOM #2 – CHURCH IS ABOUT ME
When we have this attitude about church we find more fault than compassion and gentleness…we do not serve instead we seek to be served. We have paid our country club dues so we expect our wants to be met.
What are some signs that a church member has the symptom of “church is about me?” Thom Rainer lists these statements:
* “I told the pastor what I wanted him to preach; he just doesn’t listen tom me.”
* “I don’t like the temperature in the worship center.”
* “If we don’t change our music style, I’m not coming back. I’ll find another church that can meet my needs.”
* “Someone is in our seat/pew.”
* “The church decided not to offer the 7:30 am service anymore because only a few people are attending. Well, that’s my service. If it’s gone, so am I.”
* “The pastor did not visit my sister’s mother in law in the hospital, even though I told him to.”
* “The church voted to paint the worship center a hideous color. I am infuriated. I just might stop giving.”
People don’t complain to me a lot because they usually don’t get the reaction they want…if you find yourself being the conduit for complainers you might ask yourself “Does my reaction reward “church is about me” attitudes…or help them grown up and become servants?”
Biblical life is about serving and sacrifice…It’s about giving and the needs of others…churchianity is about being served, receiving, getting your own way and insisting on your wants coming before others.
SYMPTOM #3 – CHURCH IS ABOUT FOCUSING ON ITS FLAWS
[Do you remember the early days of your courtship and marriage…neither of you could see no wrong in the other…the intense feelings of attraction blinded you to anything you didn’t like.
But then after you’ve lived together for awhile you each begin to notice that the other one isn’t perfect.
This happens in every marriage…and every one of us have one of two choices…we can try to see the best in our spouses and love him or her despite the imperfections (you know…“that for better or worse thing”). Or we can begin to focus on the faults…complain and nag about their shortcomings…maybe to the point of separation or divorce.]
Which one do you think is the better choice?
That’s the same truth when it comes to our relationship with the Church…your leadership (me included), your staff are far from perfect…everyone of us has flaws…but then again, so do you. It’s a whole lot healthier to pray than complain. This reality of church struggling with imperfection goes all the way back to the first churches in the New Testament…In Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinth church he lists a few of them:
• Church members had cliques and had formed personality cults.
• There was a significant amount of carnal behavior.
• Church members and leaders did not deal with sexual immorality and sexual perversion in the church.
• There was a significant level of worldliness and materialism.
• Church members were taking one another to court.
• There was rebellion against apostolic authority.
• The church did not discipline members who had fallen into sin.
• There was a misunderstanding about spiritual gifts.
• There were abuses of the Lord’s Supper.
• There were abuses of liberty.
• The church was dealing with heresies concerning the resurrection.
The gospel is the story of God saving us through His Son Jesus. He poured out grace so we could respond in faith…The gospel is about Jesus dying on a cross…He bore our sin…and our punishment…He became our substitute.
Romans 5:6 says at the right time, when we were still powerless Christ died for the ungodly…verse 8 says, “That God demonstrated His love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
We are recipients of this amazing grace…and our response should be grace toward others…But we don’t do that well at times.
Folks you can be critical of a whole bunch of messed up sinners in church…but please realize you are among them…we can practice churchianity and dwell on flaws and be critical or we can practice Biblical Christianity and extend grace toward others…after all without the grace of Jesus none of us would have any hope.
SYMPTOM #4 – CHURCH HAS LOW EXPECTATIONS
We expect no real miracles…no real transformations…no real God incidents when we practice “churchianity.”
We handle things in our own power and attempt to fix issues with our own plans and power. The Holy Spirit might be mentioned, but in truth we don’t pay much attention to His presence.
A low expectation Church doesn’t help new people move from being a visitor to being connected. Groups stay static and closed off instead of allowing new people to develop relationships. No one is expected to be involved in ministry…even titles like “deacon” or “servant” don’t really mean an expectation to serve. And communication about dreams and expectations come to a standstill.
Churches with low expectations have many members who practice “churchianity.”
The final symptom:
SYMPTOM #5 – CHURCH HAS CLIQUISH MEMBERS
Let me quote Thom Rainer in “I Will” concerning this symptom:
This symptom is similar to #4 in that it’s difficult to get involved in the church. One church has only a few members involved because it is a low expectation church. Another church had few members involved because most members aren’t connected with key cliques in the church.
The cliques can take different forms. One common clique is an informal power group in the church. They represent an informal alliance of typically longer-term members. In many ways, they consider the church “my church.” Anyone has to get tacit approval from that group to get involved or to get anything accomplished.
Another clique can be a family power group. Some older churches especially have a network of connected people whose origin is one or two families. Those families may date back to the birth of the church.
Sometimes the clique may be a formal group such as the elders or deacons or church council. Of course most of these groups are healthy and functioning biblically. But if the group becomes a barrier to members becoming meaningfully involved in the church, the members are practicing churchianity. They are hindered from functioning as biblical church members.
So what do we do when we encounter “churchianity” instead of biblical church members? Or what do we do when the Holy Spirit convicts us of practicing “churchianity” instead of biblical Christianity? Good questions with hard answers…because as Jesus said, “a little bit of yeast effects the whole loaf”…whether the loaf is our lives or our church.
I’ll conclude with 4 quick biblical challenges:
1. You must be willing to speak truth with love when you encounter churchianity
2. You must have ministry leaders, men and women committed to making real disciples.
3. You must be willing to say goodbye and God’s grace to those who refuse to sacrifice and serve and finally…
4. We must be willing to let God search our hearts fiercely for this issue.