By Seth Brown, Adult Connection Pastor
Roughly three times a year, Faith Bible Church hosts an event we call the “New Member Connection Workshop”. This event is basically a church orientation where new people can get to know what the church is about and where church leadership can meet new people to our congregation. Honestly, it is one of my favorite events we do on a regular basis – it is relatively short, very informational, fun, and simple.
At the end of the Workshop I get the chance to read aloud a short blog post called “I Am a Church Member” by Thom Rainer in order to sort of set the expectations we have on potential members of our church. Mr. Rainer, by all accounts, is one of the leading experts on church health, and this small blog post is really rich. You can read the entire post HERE – it is well worth the click and few minutes to read.
Amongst his words about church membership is this nugget: “I will not let my church be about my preferences and desires. That is self-serving. I am in this church to serve others and to serve Christ. My Savior went to a cross for me. I can deal with any inconveniences and matters that are just not my preference or style. I am a church member.” (emphasis added)
Every time I read these words about personal preference, I am challenged because (spoiler alert) there is NO CHURCH out there that does everything exactly the way I want it done – not event this amazing church. And I have to be okay with that; I yearn to be okay with that.
In thinking about preference, churches are very unique within our society in that they are gathering places that do not (and cannot) cater to individual needs and wants. Think about it: when you go to a restaurant, you can generally order what you want on the menu how you want it. At your job, if you have a space like a cubicle or office or workstation, you can generally decorate it how you want. At a sporting event, you can cheer how you want and eat what you want and leave when you want. In many ways, all of these public places, events, and gatherings cater to you and what you want. If you think about it, the emphasis on the experience could be described as all about you. Heck, our entire society seems that way – focused on three people: me, me, and me.
But churches – specifically worship services within churches – are different. First, whether we eat or drink or whatever it is we do is never solely about the people there at all – above all else, we desire for what we do to be about God and His glory. This must not be forgotten. Ever.
Second, sure, church is a place where people gather together, but some people may not like the way the space is decorated, others may not like the music, some may not like the songs that are chosen or the passage the pastor chooses to teach on, and sometimes many of us may not FEEL any different than when we walked in the door. Unfortunately when our emotional needs or preferential desires are not met, we get discontent and discouraged because we have been conditioned by the world to feel this way when we do not get our way. These reactions will often cause us to either simply leave to search for something we like more or stay put and make our discontentment known – and perhaps little by little until we are sowing seeds of disunity.
As people united in Christ and Christ alone, may we never be conformed to this pattern of the world. Instead, let us be transformed by the renewing of our minds and the desire implanted in us by the Holy Spirit to glorify and honor God in ALL that we do. Let us each pray that for those few minutes we gather together as a family of believers we remember to put to death what we want and lift up the Christ who died for us and gave us life – the Righteous One who brought us to God. Because the truth is, though we may not always like what is going on or how things are done in our church, at the end of the day it simply doesn’t matter – when we gather to worship our Father, it is never about us or our preferences at all.