This is an interesting chapter on what can be described as an issue with American Christianity. The church becomes something little more than a cultural experience rather than a mobilized army for the Lord of Hosts.
He defines “churchianity” this way… “practicing our church and religious beliefs according to human standards rather than biblical guidelines.” Ouch! But he goes back to the biblical passages of what the church is all about, beginning with the sacrificial and functional teaching of 1 Corinthians 12 – “Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it. And God has placed these in the church.” How awesome is our responsibility. Not just to show up on Sunday at 11:00 but that we function as the earthly body of our Lord until he returns.
So, we are to function, we are to sacrifice, and we are to practice vibrant Christianity.
Rainer then describes five symptoms of churchianity:
1) Church is a spectator sport. Like spectators at a ball game, they don’t get involved in the action on the field. The teams who have trained and practiced are the ones doing the work while we just watch and enjoy. As Ken is casting a vision of an equipping culture, fundamentally it means that everyone has a part to play and being a spectator is not an option.
2) Church is about me. Here is where Rainer talks about the church developing a country club mentality; we pay our dues and expect to be served well. This is not the picture of biblical Christianity. Biblical church life is about serving, about sacrificing, about giving, and about putting the needs of others ahead of our own. Churchianity is about being served, receiving, getting your way, and insisting on your own needs and wants before others.
3) Church is about dwelling on its flaws. This can easily develop when we embrace an attitude of criticism and complaining. I love his illustration about a marriage. No one would expect a couple to have a good relationship if we don’t see the best in our spouse, love our spouse in spite of any flaws and imperfections, or complain and nag about shortcomings. We married for better or for worse. This illustration sure hits home as it relates to the church.
We are saved by grace and need to extend the same to others. It is an insult to the people of this church to have some who bad-mouth the pastor, or the choir, or the deacons, or Wednesday night dinner, or some other ministry of the church. Those who know they are not perfect should extend grace to others knowing they are not perfect either.
4) Church has low expectations. What does it take to become a member of this church, what is actually required? Faith in Christ, and evidence of believers baptism by immersion, and that’s about it. We don’t expect (or insist) that members attend the connection class, or join a Bible study, or volunteer in the children’s department, or tithe. We hope people get involved but we never insist on these activities as expectations of members of this body. Our fear is that is we have higher expectations, people will stop coming, so we embrace this low expectation model.
5) Church has cliquish membership. Most churches have friends that hang out with each other. We are always say we are open to new people but what is the reality? Going to some of our classes are like attending someone else’s family reunion. It’s nice enough, good food to eat, a few nice conversations, but you’re not really fitting in. Rainer says these cliques become an informal power group in the church; an alliance of older long-term members who control how much these newbies to the church can do. Avoidance of change and the desire to maintain control flow out of the prime emotion; fear.
Rainer says these traps are in the church due to two main reasons: 1) there can be formal structures that inhibit meaningful involvement (we’re never done it that way before), or 2) members make a conscious decision not to function as a biblical church, and we just let them follow down this unhealthy path.
So, discuss in your groups this week where King’s Grant may fit in this chapter.
- Where do you see our church falling into these traps of churchianity?
- What are the expectations of membership at King’s Grant? What might happen if we upped the responsibilities of being a member here?
- What compromises are we willing to allow?
- How is the clique situation here? Is it hard to get into the small group or “family life” of the church?
- How are we as a class or as individuals breaking down barriers and walls that keep people at arm’s length?
- What would it take to have King’s Grant function like a biblical church? Not just a few, the 20% who do 80% of the ministry, but getting everyone involved in kingdom work?
- What commitments are you willing to make this week?
Thank you for watching this video and having this discussion in your class. May God bless our church and we strive toward serving together for the kingdom’s sake.