If you’ve been working in ministry for a while, you’ve probably heard the following question when it comes to evaluating your church: Would you go to your church if you weren’t employed there?
I think I understand the reasoning behind the question. It’s important for us to create environments that are exciting and engaging. And if we wouldn’t want to be a part of our church, sans employment, why would others want to be a part of it? It seems like an innocent enough question, right?
Recently, though, I’ve began to see a huge flaw in that simple inquiry. It is still internally focused.
First of all, it automatically paints the church as a building, meeting place, or at the very least, a program or collection of programs. The church is a body. Further, the church is a body on the move. At least, that’s what I read in my Bible. Yes, they met together, but they were called to more than that. They were called to serve. They were called to love. They were not called to just sit back and soak.
Also, a question like this has a tendency to essentially ask if your church satisfies your own desires. Is it doing things that make you happy? Is it a place you want to be? Is it focused on the things you think matters most.
In the end, my purpose on earth is to bring glory to God and help others know Him, in order that they may do the same. It is not to create a “holy huddle” that makes me feel comfortable.
Do not get me wrong. Yes, as the writer of Hebrews says in 10:25, we should not stop regularly meeting together. And I think, by extension, we should enjoy meeting together. It should be something we look forward to doing, but why? Is it because our church sings a specific style of music? Is it because there are certain social events I enjoy? Is it because they are just the right size? Is it because I really like the preacher?
I really enjoy the church in which I am privileged to serve. Do I agree with everything we do or don’t do? No. Do we only sing songs that make me happy? No. Do I wish I had more friends there? Yes. Do we have some areas to grow? Of course! But do you want to know the reason I go there, apart from my employment? It’s because I enjoy coming together with God’s people in any locale to worship Him and help inspire others to share Him with the world around us. I go to this specific church, because God has called me here to this community. It’s not for what they can offer me. It’s because of what God wants to do through me to serve others.
This takes me back to a question I asked earlier about our satisfaction around our church’s focus. Yes, that is an important question to ask. But all too often, I see people stepping away from a church due to their disapproval for where their focus is, instead of being a part of the solution. They are still focused on themselves. This could, and often does, even have an impact on staff leaving churches haphazardly to go work somewhere else. Yes, God does call people elsewhere (that was me a few years ago). But if you do not have a specific calling or if it’s not a toxic environment for you and your family, why ditch a particular body just because it’s not where you think it should be or because it’s not doing things that make you happy.
Perhaps a better question to ask is this: What can I do to serve others and help be a part of the solution?
The style of what ministry looks like will continue to change over the years. It has to! But our purpose will never change. We are called to worship God and serve our neighbor. And I will continue to gather with other Christ-followers in various capacities and locations because of God — not because of what the church can do for me. I feel like Hebrews isn’t talking about just your local body. I think it’s telling us to not give up meeting altogether and try to go at this on our own.
So, would I go to my church if I wasn’t employed there? Yes, because I enjoy meeting with other Christians to glorify God. And because this is the area God has called me to serve right now, I believe I can be a part of the solution. So I would go because God called me to be here. And if our church building ceased to exist tomorrow or if we couldn’t use it again (similar to the pandemic quarantine in 2020), I would still be a part of God’s church, which means I am called to something much much bigger than a specific building, location, or collection of programs.