The Christian church and its faith are based on the sentiments captured in Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Whether it was Paul, Barnabas, or Luke who penned those words, the concept remains unchanged – true faith begins with hope and a certainty in the face of the unknown.
The certainty that we as Christians embrace and accept comes only from Christ. His final words were, “And I am with you, always, to the very end of the age.” We have the assurance that Christ is with us in all things, and will guide us through all things.
If we accept this belief fully for our personal lives, why is it that the Church seems to have forgotten? Across the world every day, churches find themselves immersed in discord and internal feuding that seems more commonplace in a board room than in a fellowship hall. Why does the Church’s spiritual foundation seem so shaky?
The answer is fear.
It is true that churches are made up of flawed humans. When flawed humans come together, the results can either “make it or break it.” Or, as Tony Early once said, “I think that whenever two or more people gather in God’s name, it’s only a matter of time before they start trouble.” Fear of change, fear of authority, fear of public perception – all of these can signal the demise of a church. And yet, inherently it is those three things – change, authority and public perception – that are an integral part of the sustainability of a church.
Attend any church business meeting and you will see fear seated comfortably in the back of the room. Sit in on any deacons’ meeting and fear has saddled up to the table. You can even sit at Sunday lunch with any church family and note the fear that underlies the loaded comments.
So, what is the church afraid of?
- We don’t have enough money to hire new staff.
- We’re not growing because the pastor isn’t here enough.
- We don’t have the membership growth we should have.
- We aren’t meeting our budget.
Do you hear any mention of God in those concerns? Where is the commitment to His divine plan and guidance? In the Christian church today, it appears that God’s plans have taken a backseat to the short-term concerns of the members. Or, perhaps more accurately, church members seem to have forgotten that God’s ways are not our ways.
Every church is a team – the Holy Homerun Hitters for God. Each church committee is a team. Every Sunday School class is a team. The beauty of the church is that each team has the same leader. The saving grace of the church is, unlike His team members, our leader is perfect.
Does that mean that the church can run on faith alone? No. Light bills still must be paid and repairs must still be addressed. Does that mean that the fears of the team members justify ignoring the CEO? Not at all. Fear and irresponsibility are not mutually exclusive. But, too often, fear begets irresponsibility, to the detriment of the team.
King Solomon had it right, and his message should be heard again by all churches: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and He will make your paths straight.”
The Christian church is the world’s greatest organization. It has changed lives, saved souls, and healed hearts. It was founded on the purest mission statement and the clearest vision for the future. Its CEO is perfect in His wisdom and direction. However, as with any organization, it is the responsibility of the team members to live out the mission statement and work towards the eternal vision, all the while seeking the guidance of the CEO. Without the team members actively living the mission, the organizational structure and sustainability will suffer.
I remember vividly a cross-stitch that hung in my grandmother’s house throughout my childhood. Its message still rings true: “Work for the Lord. The pay isn’t much, but the retirement plan is out of this world.”
The Christian church must strive to be God’s eternal vision for the future of His kingdom. But, the church must also work together for the good of its members. It must always contribute to its members’ spiritual 401(k). To do that, try searching the most eloquent employee manual ever written.
And, if the team has questions about its direction for the future, just ask the CEO. His door is always open.