Let me just offer a couple of examples. When a church becomes more concerned with the beauty of its sanctuary, the size of its building, or the convenience of its parking lot then there just may be a deeper focus on the business than the body. Since when did we need another building, another church on the block, another addition? These are just some things to think about and to ponder in your spirit. Sometimes we do so much in the name of Christ that has nothing to do with Him at all. Another example, when did we stop listening to the Holy Spirit when seeking a pastor for our church rather than a list of credentials? How many times have well-meaning “search committees” gone out saying they are seeking the Holy Spirit in their efforts, only to have their own list of credentials that must be met? The anointing of King David comes to mind. When others saw a shepherd boy, God saw a king. However, if it had been left up to some of the “search committees” of the day, the shepherd boy with mud under his nails and no “kingdom training” would have been left in the meadows tending sheep and wrestling bears. We must at least begin to acknowledge how the world has influenced the church rather than the Body influencing the world.
Many well meaning ministry leaders have taken the tithes into the House of God and have determined that paying another “salary” or “buying better furniture” would be a good use of God’s tithe because it will bring people to church. However, how many churches are only drawing in milk-drinking believers that go from church to church? Are churches really seeking the lost or are they seeking to draw the “Christian demographic” who will tithe and bring in greater numbers and greater offerings? If we are really seeking the lost then we may not get the heftier tithes or the bigger buildings because the lost don’t understand tithing and don’t understand the need for better furniture for our offices. Come on, look at your heart. How many of us worry about numbers, how many will show, who will give and how we will get “bigger” rather than seeking God’s best regardless of the attendance. It is hard, I know. These things I struggle with as well. But do you feel it? The pull of the worldly influence on our understanding of success – more people, more money, bigger offices, larger churches, more services that don’t really serve… the lost?
Read the following verse:
But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?” Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.
Interesting right? Would we hear the Holy Spirit if it told us to take the money that was given to build a bigger parking lot, or to expand the counseling center that already serves the already served, and give it to those “non-christians” that really do need it? Maybe the Christians in your own backyard that don’t live on the right side of town or that don’t come to church or that don’t offer any potential to “give tithes” at this point in their lives? Mary took the jar of nard and poured it over Jesus’ feet because she loved Him and listened to the Holy Spirit. How many of us don’t listen but do what the world would tell us? Then when we build a larger office or get better equipment; we justify like Judas and say we did it for the kingdom. Who did we really do it for? Maybe we might have to admit that we did it so we could feel successful, accomplished, like we were getting somewhere because after all, more money, bigger things, greater exposure, that means success right? Or maybe Jesus was only asking for you to take the “nard” He gave you and give it back to Him by giving it back to one, or two. That doesn’t make us feel quite as successful does it?
I am not saying that reaching more is not good. I am only asking us to look at the motives of our heart and determined if we have been deceived by this world and the business models that we so hold dear. These business models that takes the Body of Christ and molds it to its own making. Have you looked at what makes you feel successful and whose motives you follow? I am looking at myself just as intently. When we begin to seek to build because it makes us feel successful rather than for the Heart of Christ – we may make more, do more, and have more, but are we more to Him? Have you ever wondered if you restrict the power of the Holy Spirit because the Sunday morning bulletins have to match the overheads, which have to be the same theme for Sunday school and then we all have to be done at 11 minutes after 12p because we have to clear the parking lot for the next service? Who really cares if the Holy Spirit wants to move more this morning? Who are we serving then?
Maybe you need to look at where your tithes go? When was the last time you put some money in the “benevolence” fund and that made you feel good? When did you decide that well, giving a little to help those in need was enough? Maybe it was when you decided that if we give 6 percent of our total budget to “those in need” that makes us feel good enough to then go and spend the rest on better office furniture, bigger buildings, more shiny stuff. Again, I ask myself as a minister of a small ministry these same questions. They are hard questions, but real. My hope for our ministry is to be led by the Spirit in everything we do.
These are just some thoughts that were laid on my heart as I watch ministries grow larger in the name of Christ but sure look as if they are growing larger in the name of themselves. I see their heart change, their mission become more worldly, and their leading become more self-centered. Where is Christ? I also watch as “fat-cat” churches get bigger and serve more, but when I look in the pews I only see milk-fattened Christians who go to church on Sunday morning or Saturday nights so that they can “sleep in” on Sunday. They give their 10 percent because it is easy and they are checking a box. It feels good and then they can go to their favorite restaurant after church and feel like they have been with God for the week. What if we are all a little tainted by the world? What if the Holy Spirit is grieved by our laziness and our misguided attempt to serve?
I look at these things and am grieved not just by what I see, but by what I have done. I have been these people. I only pray that my heart be broken for a deeper service to our King. I don’t want to be on the surface anymore and be content with more attendees or more money coming in without regard to where it comes from. I also want to take what He gives and break it over His feet, even when it doesn’t feel like I am successful or when it seems to go against everything the world would offer. Please, pray and see if the line between the world and the Holy Spirit is a bit blurred in your own life. You may see something you hadn’t been looking for…