It is not about us and our comfort

 

In our “me” world, we think everything revolves around us and our comfort, but the Christian life is not about us; it is about God[1].

 

The Word for Today last Monday recorded: Over half of all Christians now live in the Third World, often in anti-Christian environments. More Chinese take part in Sunday worship than the entirety of Western Europeans. Lebanon is 40 per cent Christian; Sudan, 5 per cent; Egypt, about 10 per cent. Many of these saints worship at their own risk. Consider their plight. If you were one of them, you may be the only Christian in your Iraqi university, or an Arab woman who offers prayers in silence, or a secret believer in an underground church.

 

Yet in the Western world, the church is in serious decline.  I believe the reason is this: we have forgotten why we come to church; we so often come to church for what we get out of it.

 

The notion of individuality has helped create a consumer mentality in churches. People shop for churches like they shop for a new car or a new pair of shoes. We look around. We try on different models. We compare costs. Finally, we settle on a model we like. We choose based on how it fits and meets our needs. How could it be otherwise? After all, it's all about me.

 

When people decide that church is just one option among many things to do on Sundays, it is about me.

 

When parents with children leave the church because there is no children’s ministry, they are saying it is all about me, rather than saying let me start a children’s ministry with my children and attract other children.

 

When youth are attracted from one church to another with the bright lights and smoke machines and the rock star musicians, they are saying it is all about my entertainment.

 

When we complain about the worship songs or the ability of the worship team to sing songs we like, we are saying it is all about me.  

 

But worship is not about you and me. It is not about "getting our needs met." It is not about a performance from the pastor and singer and choir and musicians to tickle our ears.

 

If our sermons are offering versions of the world’s stories (like 10 ways to be a successful leader, how to get more comfortable, 5 ways of effective time management) with Christian language, Paul’s goal of Christification is slowly being replaced with worldification.[2]

 

All this shows that there is a lack of yearning for the kingdom of God and a lack of hope for heaven in our churches. We really don’t talk or sing about heaven that much today because we really don’t yearn for heaven – because we’re so comfortable right here.[3]

 

There is a thing called a glass ceiling in churches. A glass ceiling is a metaphor used to represent an invisible barrier that keeps things down. Churches talk of growing but in reality, people want to know everyone in the church, so they don’t grow past 100 people. No one wants to be uncomfortable and not know everybody.  That is why the average size of churches in NZ remain at 80 people.

 

Michael Fletcher in his book comments that what makes a small church successful is what will eventually halt its growth. Knowing everybody creates a tight community, composed largely of the kind of people 'we like' - people who were 'like us.' This makes fellowship close and builds a family-type atmosphere. Small churches, without realizing it, intuitively resist growth at some point since continued growth threatens the closeness they so enjoy.[4] 

 

 

 

It is not scientific doubt, not atheism, not pantheism, not agnosticism, not New Age, that are likely to quench the light of the gospel. It is a proud, sensuous, selfish, luxurious, churchgoing, hollow hearted prosperity.[5]  It is the me culture.

 

Yet the New Testament is all about God and all about bringing new people into the kingdom and going out of our way to do so.

 

In 1 Corinthians 9:20, Paul wrote: When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law.

 

The Bible speak a lot about us being in a war against spiritual principalities and powers but seldom, if ever, does it talk about our comfort for our own sake.

 

And when it does speak of comfort, it speaks of us getting comfort in order to give comfort.

 

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

 

The founder of the Salvation Army, Catherine Booth, wrote:  A barracks is meant to be a place where real soldiers were to be fed and equipped for war, not a place to settle down in or as a comfortable snuggery in which to enjoy ourselves [6]

 

The focus of the church is God.

 

Psalm 29:2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendour of his holiness.

 

1 Chronicles 16:29 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him. Worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness.

 

God is "worthy of worship." This is the theme of the final book of the Bible: Revelation.

 

"Who is worthy?" (Rev. 5:2)

"You are worthy...for you were slain and have redeemed us" (Rev. 5:9).

"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain" (Rev. 5:12).

 

 

 

Marva Dawn comments that there is a vast difference between contemporary anthropocentrism (human-centred belief) and the theocentrism (God-centred belief) of the first century. When we view the book of Revelation theocentrically, we read it to learn what it says about God, not about us, and about God’s timing and purposes rather than ours.

 

That will come as a shock for some who think that book is all about us and what will happen to us in the last days.

 

We are in church to give, not to get. People walk out the door frustrated because they didn't "get." The reason they didn't is that they were not there to "get," but to "give."

 

We are giving glory to God, not to ourselves. We know that. At least we say we do. We recite, "...for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory." But is that what we really feel?

 

Yet, if my focus is on myself when I enter the church--getting my needs met, hearing a lesson that blesses me, being lifted by the singing--then Christ has no part in it. He becomes my servant, and the pastor (and all the other so-called performers) are there only for me. It's all about me. [7]

 

A Christian community should be a forward moving group of companions bound together by the same voice asking for their attention.[8]  That voice is the voice of God.

 

The characteristics of a mature Christian life are supposed to be things like being salt and light for others, sacrifice, fruitfulness, intercession for others, humility,

 

Philippians 2:3

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;

 

Spiritual maturity is also about putting others before ourselves.

 

Matthew 5:39-42

But I tell you not to resist an evil person. If someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also; if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well; and if someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.…

 

These words are from Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, which included the beatitudes, a group of hard sayings that we find difficult to swallow:

Blessed are the poor, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are those who are persecuted etc; it does not say blessed are the comfortable.

 

Dependence, simplicity, cooperation, surrender, dying to self and a sense of abandoning self are qualities greatly prized in the spiritual life, but extremely elusive for people who live in comfort…[9]

 

Church is not about us, it is about God

 

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

 

We must seek to be the church for no other reason than it is our calling from God.[10]

 

I know this sounds harsh but if we think church is for us, it is doomed.  Church is for God and we are for God.

 

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;

 

Sometimes we need to re-order our priorities and put God in pride of place, at the head and not at the tail.



[1] Eugene Petersen Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. 335

[2] Jason Hood Imitating God in Christ 108

[3] Nancy Guthrie Holding on to Hope: a pathway through suffering to the heart of God, 64

[4] Michael Fletcher, Overcoming Barriers to Growth

[5] Francis Chan Crazy Love: overwhelmed by a relentless God 65

 

[6] Ray Comfort How to Win Souls and Influence People 2

 

[7] https://www.crosswalk.com/church/worship/7-things-we-regularly-get-wrong-about-worship.html

[8] Henri Nouwen Reaching Out 141

[9] Philip Yancey  The Jesus I Never Knew 116  

[10] Charles Colson Against the night: living in the dark ages 135