I, like most Americans grew up in a family that went to church. In fact, I was a pastor’s daughter, so I got to see the good, the bad, and the ugly as it pertains to the inner workings of the church. Like some, I chose to stray away from my faith at a young age, and spent my teen years as a “prodigal child”, engaging in drug use, sexual immorality, and anything else that was contrary to the Biblical morality I was taught as a child. It wasn’t until I was 19 years old and almost dead due to addiction that I cried out to Jesus and decided to submit myself to a local church.
Now, I am 30 years old and in full-time ministry. I have dedicated the last 11 years of my life to studying the Bible, knowing Jesus Christ in a personal way, traveling around the world sharing the Gospel, and ministering in churches of nearly all styles and denominations. Some churches I’ve experienced have hymnals, pipe organs, traditional choirs, and dissertations that leave the congregation so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Other churches use loud, contemporary music, bright lights, smoke machines, and messages that have church members clapping, dancing, and vocally praising God.
Of all the churches I have attended, big or small, modern or primitive (one church I ministered in had an outhouse for a bathroom), I would dare to say that none of them had reached “perfection” — yet they all held their individual form of beauty, and the common goal, of leading members into a closer walk with God through Jesus Christ.
But as churches continue to evolve in order to retain and attract new members, I have also seen some extremely dangerous trends which seem to be infiltrating bodies of believers, much like an infectious disease creeps in unaware.
These trends are against the “institutional church” and “man-made” religion. They involve a “new way” of doing church, or, in some cases, doing away with church all together.
While some may see this as a new sense of enlightenment that we have progressed to, I see this as Satan’s way to deceive, and lead the masses exactly where he wants them: into isolation.
Here are five damaging, commonly-held beliefs that I’ve encountered about church:
#1 – Churches today are not culturally relevant. For many, this is another way to say that churches aren’t approving of, and promoting, sins that are completely contrary to the word of God.
Most claim that churches are void of love, acceptance, and are hate mongrels who believe the Bible, versus what culture says is acceptable. True love is speaking truth, not staying silent so as not to offend people. True love, in the words of Jesus, involves obedience to His Father’s commandments, as He states in John 15:10: “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” If Jesus had been culturally relevant in regards to sin, He would have never died on the cross.
#2 – Churches today are full of leaders who want to control people. Although there have been countless cases of Pastors or leaders who have abused their leadership and left people wounded, this is not the heart of God. God is the one who referred to the believers as sheep. And just as sheep cannot lead themselves without a shepherd, believers need Godly shepherds, or Pastors, to care for, instruct, and at times, correct the flock.
#3 – Church should be a place that creates community – with more fellowship and no structure. Today there is what is known as, “atheist churches”. Sounds like an oxymoron, I know. These are people who want to come together to have community without any type of religion attached to it. Today, without realizing it, it has become a popular idea that churches with any type of structure are considered, “religious” (with a negative connotation). I have heard people say that we should completely do away with any type of structure, come together to worship, and if anyone wants to speak, they should be allowed. Paul knew these ideas would come when he wrote to the church of Corinth. He knew that chaos would never lead anywhere good; therefore he wrote to the church in 1 Corinthians 14 about church structure, and doing things, “decently and in order”.
#4 – I do not have to attend church to be religious; I can have my own relationship with God at home. This one is perhaps one of the most common things I hear people say. They have decided to leave the “institutionalized church,”, and make their sanctuary their bedroom, or perhaps their living room. This is dangerous for several reasons. The first reason is that God made church for man, not man for the church. In other words, He created it as a place to strengthen us, guide us, and to bring mutual encouragement among believers. That is why the writer of Hebrews told us in Hebrews 10:25, to “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together.”. Another reason this is dangerous is because it leaves us in a place of isolation. Just as the Bible tells us in 1 Peter 5:8 that, “our adversary the devil prows around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour,”, Satan, just as a lion in the wild, looks to devour those who are all alone. As we assemble ourselves together, we provide mutual prayer support and encouragement for those who need help, or are struggling.
#5 – I can’t find a church where MY needs are being met. This has become a mindset among many Christians today. Rather than seeing the church as an equipping center, where believers are trained to do the work of Jesus in order to effectively go out and reach the lost and dying world, it has become more of a “buffet” bar, where if the dessert isn’t sweet enough, it’s time to move on and find another church where it is. I regularly use the example about what happens if an individual constantly eats, yet stays immobile. The results are simple. The individual becomes obese. Our churches are full of obese Christians with an, “all about me” mentality. They go to church with an attitude of, “bless me”, and “feed me”, but never take what they’ve been given, and give back to others. They find themselves unsatisfied, and unable to receive what their Pastors are preaching, so they go and look somewhere else. Jesus never intended for this to be so. All that we receive in church is to be taken out to feed the spiritually starving. I’ve heard it said before, that if a person constantly looks for a church, but yet never finds one that is good enough, the problem is not with the churches, it is with that person.
Regardless of its flaws, the church has been institutionalized by God for the very sake of His children. Although many may come with new ideas, and want to throw away the old model, it was put together by the leadership of God, and those before us who laid down their lives – in order that we could come together and worship our Lord Jesus Christ together.