14 Jun How to Kill Your Church Quickly
This summer, we are opening someone else’s mail. We are studying 1 Timothy, a letter that was written 2000 years ago by a Jewish mentor named Paul, a pastor who was in the sunset of his life. Like Yoda to Skywalker, teacher to pupil, Paul sends messages to his protégé, Timothy. This young man was in the dawn of his life, leading a church in a place called Ephesus and in over his head. In 1 Timothy 2, we get into the practical. (Read the passage here.) Paul essentially warns the young pastor about specific things that will destroy the church if he lets them linger.
Here are 5 ways to ensure the death of your healthy church:
1. When you gather, pray shallow prayers that pertain only to insiders.
There is a tendency for churches to focus only on themselves. It happens naturally. When a person comes to faith in Christ, he feel like he has come in out of the cold. Christians are like hobbits, wanting to make a fire, hunker down, and stay inside. We are creatures of comfort and we resist going back outside. Paul says, “I urge you to pray for all people.” It’s cold out there and there is only one way to make it warm. Those in here must have a heart for those out there.
2. Spew toxic emotions toward the president/king/government ruler.
“Pray…for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
Several years ago, a well-known pastor of large church in Chicago mentioned the name of the current president inside his sermon. His congregation hissed and a few boo-ed. The pastor stopped his sermon to challenge their attitude and remind them that the Scripture teaches us to honor those in authority. When the body of Christ becomes cantankerous, it loses its voice in the public square. This is not a carte blanche endorsement of all government rulers, or a blanket statement that we should always fall in line and do what the government says. When Dietrich Bonhoeffer secretly schemed with other Christians to assassinate Hitler, he was acting in accordance with his Christian convictions. He believed it was right to remove an evil, murderous, maniacal ruler. Let’s pray for Trump, and Obama, and Clinton, and Bush, and whoever sits on our throne—that God would open the eyes of their hearts.
3. Rarely discuss what makes God happy.
Unfortunately, too many people and too many churches operate as if God isn’t watching or listening. They have stopped asking the question, “In this situation, what would most please God?”
4. Teach that all people get to heaven so long as they are sincere.
When Paul says that God desires all men to be saved, he’s being inclusive. Everybody has an open invitation to the gospel and no person is excluded based on race, or background, or income, or gender. However, Paul is clearly exclusive in saying that there is only one God, and there is only one way to him—Jesus Christ.
5. Argue with one another rather than pray with one another.
When we put too much attention on our own preferences and petty arguments, we lose sight of the goal. We are not here to get our way. We are here to get on board with God’s ways, and to work together for the advancement of the Gospel.
Instead of engaging in these five practices that are sure to kill a healthy church, let’s choose to heed Paul’s warning, and instead live and speak in a way that trusts God’s sovereignty, obeys His Word, and proclaims His gospel.
Questions for Application:
- Do you pray for the world?
- Do you believe that all people must be “saved?”
- Do you think about what makes God happy?