What If The Church Doesn't Meet My Needs?
There is a troubling trend that I have encountered in Canada with many professing Christians. This trend is a "church-shopping" attitude. They church shop with the list of needs that they feel church should meet. If a particular church does not meet their particular needs, then they are onto the next church that they hope will meet their needs!
Often these needs boil down to four things
1) great music
2) entertaining and relevant preaching
3) friendly people that roll out the red carpet for them
4) programs for children, youth, college and career and even seniors
If you have been a pastor or talked to someone looking for a church, you have heard these things. Now none of these things are bad. In fact I would like to attend a church with all of these things. But these requirements laid out by church shoppers are highly subjective. I have served in the church long enough to know what is great music to one, is noise in the ears of another. "Relevant preaching" is even more of a broad ideal. Some want a more comedian style, others think it is sinful to joke around in a sermon.
The Canadian church shopper mentality is by no means rare in North America. John Crist, a Christian comedian, did a couple of "Church Hunters" episodes, really fortifying what I have already said! He made a mockery of the 21st Century Christian as they go in search for a church. To be honest although he was trying to be funny, I found his two episodes painful because I had experienced this selfishness time and time again in the church.
While I was working on this article, I had another confirming experience of my premise. I met an older Christian couple, who had confessed to me that they had not even been attending church for a variety of reasons. The music was no good, the preaching was no good, the people were no good in any of the churches in the local area where they lived. Unfortunately, they could have had an amazing impact of encouragement on any local body in their area because of their experience in ministry and their love for the Lord and His word. But they have chosen to remain on the sidelines!
I have had many complaints concerning what people did not like about the churches I have served in. But in all my experience no one has ever said that they desire to be involved in the church so that they can look out for other's interests and serve! No one has ever come and said to me, "I would love to come alongside the church and serve the community in the gospel". These attitudes, which are almost vacant in Canada, are in fact the very attitudes we see exemplified and highlighted by Paul concerning Timothy! Even more importantly they flow from the very character of Jesus Christ!
Timothy is described in three amazing ways as to how he is not a Selfish Christian in Philippians 2:20-22:
1) 2:20 Concern for the welfare of the body of Christ
Paul has just said that he is going to send Timothy to them, with the hope that he might be cheered by the news of how great the Philippian church is doing! Here in Philippians 2:20, Timothy is described as someone who is like-minded with Paul or that Paul has no one like Timothy.
Timothy is most importantly described as "sincerely" or "genuinely concerned" for the Philippian Church.
This word "concerned" could be translated as anxious, meaning that Timothy is deeply concerned for the welfare of this church. This often is not the attitude of many Canadian Christians. They are often more concerned about their children's sports, sports, hobbies or other non-eternal things instead of having a concern for the body of Christ! Timothy gives us a wonderful example of where our concern should be for one another in the body of Christ!
2) 2:21 Not seeking own Interests
Paul here speaks about how many people seek their own interests, or they are out for themselves. However, Paul uses the conjunction "but". This is to contrast those who are selfish with those who are of Jesus Christ. To be concerned with just yourself and your own interests really goes against the example of Jesus Christ and His love. In essence, this is what led Jesus to go to the Cross in the first place (Philippians 2:5)!
Paul writes in Philippians 2:3-4 "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."
To be concerned with just yourself and not the interests of others actually violates what Paul calls love in 1 Corinthians 13:5, "It does not insist on (or seek) its own way".
As well, when Paul is dealing with the Corinthian church and their selfish pride, he makes this bold command to them in 1 Corinthians 10:24, "Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbour".
For many of us, our concern from wake-up, to sleep, is with ourselves. But Timothy here by his example calls us to shatter such a selfish notion.
3) 2:22 Serving Others in the gospel
What an amazing testimony Paul proclaims concerning Timothy that he has served alongside Paul in the gospel. We know that Timothy served alongside of Paul by accompanying Paul in his second Missionary Journey. Luke writes in Acts 16:3 "Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek." Timothy is characterized by a lifestyle of service to the gospel. His passion and desire was for the local church and the body of Christ to grow and advance in the good news.
1) Jesus is the Supreme Example of Humility and Selflessness
Jesus was completely selfless. He was not consumed with Himself. In fact when He left heaven, He was most concerned about obedience to the Father and His love for humankind! Just look at the example of Jesus here:
Philippians 2:5-9 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.
Furthermore, the gospels speak about the Selflessness of Jesus. In Matthew 20:28, the apostle speaks about Jesus not coming to be served but to serve and to offer His life as a ransom for many. Jesus humbles Himself and washes the disciple's feet. The Son of God lowers Himself doing an act that only a servant would do, that He might give the example of humility to His disciples and followers (John 13:4-17). The New Testament is clear, the humility of Jesus causes Him to go to the Cross!
2) Confession of Our Selfishness
Selfishness is really something that saturates our whole being. When most of us wake up, we usually do not think how we can serve our parents, spouse, or children, let alone the local church family. Often, you think, "I am tired, I am hungry!" We need to not only acknowledge the selfish gene in our being, we must hate it and forsake it! We do not want to have a church culture of people completely serving themselves. That was the problem with the Corinthian church, and it was a disaster.
Here are some good questions to ask yourself:
1) How do you approach your church if you even attend one?
2) When you come to church do you think, "How can I serve?", or "How can the church serve me and meet my needs?"
3) Do you have a genuine concern for the church body, or are you upset because you feel that people have not given you enough concern?
4) Do you have a God-centered view of worship, praying that even though you do not like the music that the words would minister to your soul and the souls of others?
5) Have you bought into the Canadian consumer attitude that seeks to be satisfied or are you seeking to satisfy the Lord Jesus?
6) If the music does not suit your preference, but still has God honoring lyrics, do you get upset or do you say, "I am glad they are serving in this area of music"?
Chances are these questions have exposed a little selfishness in us all!
Lord have mercy upon us because of our selfishness!
3) Obey Jesus by Serving and Caring
The body of Christ is supposed to be a unit that works together for the Glory of God and for service of one another. This was the whole reason why Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 12-14! Let this be your attitude when you come to church:
1) Serve fellow Christians, instead of looking for ways that you should be served by Christians.
2) Have genuine interest in fellow Christians, instead of thinking of ways that fellow Christians should have taken interest in you.
3) Look for ways to serve the body in the gospel.