The Wrong Question

LCPI remember my Dad telling me about a guy he knew that was always in jail. Apparently this guy would commit enough of a crime to land behind bars. After he had served his time, he would be out long enough to do something else wrong and go back to jail. He would get caught on purpose. Why? He felt safe there. There were no responsibilities. He was provided a roof over his head and three squares a day. He eschewed his freedom for the secure confines of the county jail.

I thought of him last September when I began the sermon series entitled Local Church Prisoners. Had we, as a church and as individual Christians, become like that guy? Were we content to stay where we felt it was safe and secure?

The first in that series was one of those sermons in search of a Scripture. I finally settled on Ephesians 4:1-6. I did that primarily because of the first verse where Paul calls himself a “prisoner for the Lord…” (Which, by the way, is a far cry from what we had become.) At that point I had continued to go back to the Facebook page, Local Church Escapees. I was haunted by their existence. They caused me to re-evaluate our goals as a local church.

I came to the conclusion that we were asking the wrong question. We were continually asking ourselves, “How can we get them in here?” Making us attractive to new people always seemed to be the main thrust. Even worse than asking the wrong question, we didn’t seem to be very good at answering that question (right or wrong).

The fact is, we’re never told (Biblically) to do that—to lure people to a building. We’re told to seek them out…be “fishers of men”…”go and make disciples of all nations.” We stayed where we felt safe. We did a lot of nice things…good things. But we seldom strayed beyond the confines of our little chapel. We weren’t prisoners for the Lord; we were becoming prisoners of another sort.

I wondered out loud if we had become caricatures of ourselves. We emphasized certain aspects of who we were as the church. However, we did so to the exclusion of many other important attributes. The result was a caricature. We were still recognizable, but not always functioning as we could.

In short, we had become local church prisoners. Like the guy my Dad told me about, we wanted to be safe and secure. We wanted to be protected from the responsibilities of our own freedom in Christ. We were eschewing that freedom in exchange for protection. And we began defending our own image to make ourselves feel better. We looked like the church, but we didn’t act like her.

So what is the church, really? What should we be? What should we look like? How should we act? I finally realized I might have imprisoned myself to avoid being the answer.

5 thoughts on “The Wrong Question”

  1. Years ago my sister came from an Easter Sunday service & on her way home they stopped in for a visit.
    I wished them happy Easter and she said in a forlorn voice, “What is happy about it? They crucified Jesus our Savior on this day.
    I have come to see death as a rebirth. It is not the crucifixion of Jesus that we should mourn but the heart of mankind that had waxed hard. The Pharisees and Scribes had incensed His death because of their worldly lusts.
    Has it changed today?
    It is not what one can do to get the people to church but what one can do for God. God said there would come a time when He will write His Word upon the hearts of all mankind.
    We don’t belong in church according to His Word (Heb. 8) but to teach those who need it and show them how to have a personal relationship until they graduate.
    What church teaches that? Luke 4:18-19
    I have seldom ever been in a church but one day told God I wanted a closer walk with Him. It has been an amazing walk thru the refiners fire.
    I seek companionship in praise of the Lord but do not wish to have my heart filled with mankind’s faulty teaching of God’s Word. There is enough to cleanse myself of just from being in the world.
    Pray and ask God, for it is He that has all the right answers.
    God bless for taking the time to ponder.

  2. I think there are times we don’t bring people into the church because the church isn’t taking care of the people that are already there so how are they going to take care of new people. You are right, we have become too comfortable were we are. We have become too consumed with ourselves and our issues. We want someone else to take that responsibility. We have failed Jesus miserably…..

  3. Dave: The second to the last paragraph really hits home with me.
    “…we had become local church prisoners…we wanted to be safe and secure. We wanted to be protected from the responsibilities of our own freedom in Christ…we began defending our own image to make ourselves feel better. We looked like the church, but we didn’t act like her.”

    The leadership of the church my wife and I recently fled after almost 24 years (7 years as an elder) took a drastic turn toward dogmatism. The gray areas of doctrine were being taught as “thus saith the Lord”. Any other interpretation was labelled as false teaching, even heresy.

    The fear of man and the need for safety and security certainly played a part in this turn. It’s much easier and safer in some ways to blindly follow a creed or confession to the letter than it is to be a Berean and responsible for becoming convinced in our own mind what the Word is telling us.

    Instead of practicing love and accepting brothers and sister who hold differing interpretations on non-essential doctrines, those brothers and sisters were labelled and regarded with contempt. As you wrote, it “looked like the church, but didn’t act like her”.

    We are still in the process of looking for where the Lord will plant us next. Thankfully, there are some hopeful signs at several churches we’ve visited. God is good!

    Thanks for the opportunity to vent a little.

  4. I have lived uncomfortably for over 8 years. A stranger is my best friend. I have no security in this world. I have been in more churches in the past 8 years than those previously, I’m 54 years young. I observe a lot, spend a lot of time with God, and lost my desire for most churches. I desire real fellowship and real love. Some of the churches I have visited play church well but don’t let God lead. Others live out the gospel, I witnessed healings, emotional and physical, heard heart changing truth and witness unconditional love!
    I meet people who don’t live as many in the world but who live for Christ. It’s so refreshing and inspiring. Recently a local church had a melt down and is falling apart. I figure God is tearing it down, wrecking it to rebuild it. Like He has been doing to me. He is the Potter and I am learning to yield. I have prayed for this yet didn’t like the reshaping phase.
    The church is a security blanket. A skirt we hide behind sometimes. I want to be exposed! I want to be in the trenches! I want to love people in the middle of their mess. Because Jesus has loved me though mine.
    Real fellowship is challenging and refreshing!
    Real Christians have a real relationship with Christ and aren’t people pleasers or lovers of self.
    Churches that aren’t making an impact on the world for Christ’s glory don’t interest me.
    Thought I would chime in!

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