Be the change you want to see in your church
Are you more of a passenger than a captain at church? Maybe it's time to step up and take action.
“I just don’t want to stay on a ship that’s sinking” a friend once told me in reference to our local church and youth group, adding “that’s the Captain’s job”. True to her intentions, she proceeded to leave the church, jump ship and join the vast sea of statistics. In fact, according to a recent study done by LifeWay Research, 70% of youth and young adults will leave the church.
Her statement still haunts me; if she was right, what am I doing still standing stubbornly on the deck of a sinking ship? In my personal search, I believe I uncovered a motivation to stay in church that is rooted in my very identity as a Christian.
The church is our responsibility
In 1 Peter 2:9, the Bible gives us not only a detailed job description, but a tried and true method to identify a true Christian. It states “But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.” (The Message)
In Bible days, the priests were the ones that took responsibility for the church. I guess we could compare them to the captain of a ship. So why does God tell us in this passage that WE are chosen for the same type of work in this generation? Why should we act like the church is OUR responsibility?
I think the answer is simple. It comes down to deciding who you are to the church. Are you a passenger or a captain?
Passengers and Captains
Passengers on ships are usually just there to enjoy the ride, complain when things go wrong, be guaranteed a safe exit in case of an emergency, and be served by the Captain and his or her crew.
If you find yourself viewing the church as an organization there to serve you, to entertain you, and to make you happy, you are most likely a passenger at church. But our role within the church is not to sit back and take it easy. It is to follow in Jesus' footsteps and do the work of a captain who serves. This is the highest calling, and one of the secrets to finding fulfilment in church.
I’ll be honest, there are some weekends when I actually wake up and dread going to church. Sometimes the feeling just isn’t there, and going to church seems more like an archaic tradition than a relevant growing experience with God (probably due to a skewed passenger-to-captain ratio). But when I step back and look to the example Jesus set for us, I am left standing there awkwardly with a load of lame excuses.
Jesus - the church changer
You see, in the time of Jesus, "Church" wasn't all that different either. You had the Pharisees and Sadducees and all kinds of other passengers going to the churches during that time. These people could probably take home the prize for being the most hypocritical, fake, self—righteous church members of all time. They had very strict rules and formalities on the outside, but inside their relationships with God were rotting away. In other words, they were experts on masking their true identities. If you don’t take my word for it, read what Jesus has to say about them in Mathew chapter 23!
And yet, in Luke 4:16 it says “And he [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue (or church) on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.” Not only does Jesus actually go to their hypocritical church, he actually leads the service!
While Jesus was on earth, he totally gave the organized church a 180 degree revolution. It didn’t happen overnight — the messed up passengers didn’t all disembark at one time — and the church wasn’t magically “healed”. But change did happen.
One of my all time favorite quotes is from the peace loving Gandhi who once said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world” . And I would venture to say that the same concept applies to church as well.
Change begins with you
If you want the church to be more loving, you have to love the church and the people in it more. Spend time with them, know their names, visit them, and get to know them individually.
If you want the church to be more accepting, start by including the outcasts and those who get left out at church. Maybe it’s an older lady who’s gone to your church for decades, but still gets neglected. Or maybe it’s that awkward new kid who just visited your youth group, you know, the one that the “cool crowd” is ignoring.
If you want the church to be less judgmental, start by not judging the people who judge you. As soon as someone makes a hurtful or unjust comment to you, the easiest thing to do is think they are just being wickedly malicious. But you never know what someone is going through or the motives of their heart. Be fair even if they’re not.
If you want church to be exciting and relevant, get out there and do big things for God. Go on a mission trip to another country. Pledge to introduce Jesus to one of your friends, someone your age, this year. Get involved with actively reaching out to your community. Preach a sermon. Visit somebody in the hospital. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
And then tell me that church isn’t exciting! You see, church is more than going to a building once a week, church is a lifestyle.
Above all, ask God what amazing and exciting plans He has for you individually. Be the change — act like a captain.