I remember my first experience at a megachurch.
It was a Saturday night, and we arrived about thirty minutes before the service was scheduled to start. We waited patiently in line with hundreds of other people. Signs covered the walls, each with the title of a previous series. The familiar aroma of freshly brewed coffee hung in the air. Security guards stood by each entrance. Staff members, most barely out of their teens, walked around in skinny jeans and over-sized caps.
Our feet throbbed from the bass thundering inside the sanctuary. It was as if we were waiting in line for a concert. I wondered if it was the same feeling cattle experience when being herded into a fenced enclosure. I believed I even vocalized some mooing sounds while we waited. All in good humor, of course.
Christians are so talented at saying “The church is people, not the building”, yet we continue building bigger and better ones. I’m not anti-church. See my article from last week, Why you shouldn’t go to church.
Jesus wasn’t hip, trendy, fashionable, or good looking. Isaiah 53:2 says:
For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
Yet, as the corporate body of Christ, we feel the need to be all of those things in order to reach people. We have catchy sermon titles named after popular culture. We play secular music before each sermon. We have trendy coffee shops in the lobby.
I’m not saying those things are wrong. I’m saying, let’s not sell out cheap when the Gospel is the most amazing thing ever. Jesus didn’t need any gimmicks to reach people. He loved them.
Society has several factors that determine how successful a church is.
Numbers in attendance. How much money is given to outreach. How big the worship team is. How many locations or campuses. How many books the pastor has published. The list can go on and on.
I’m here to tell you there is a different way to gauge how truly successful your church is. And it’s a very simple concept.
Strip away the smoke machines, the latest technology, the coffee shops, the trendy accessories and clothing, the dazzling websites showing how much money and time you spend in the community, the luxury cars, the fancy houses, the huge buildings, and the CD’s on iTunes.
Strip everything away until there is nothing left but Jesus.
Are you still happy with church?
Everything I mentioned in the previous paragraph will one day burn. None of it has any lasting value in the overall big picture.
If we need to do all of those things in order to get people through the doors, maybe we need to step back and look at what motivates us. Maybe, just maybe, we are spending too much time inside the building playing church and not enough time outside actually being the church.
We say Jesus is all we need, but we don’t live that way. To what lengths are we willing to go in order to ultimately die to our self?
Go to church. Invite people to church. Pray that lives are changed. Preach the Gospel.
If everything around us is gone tomorrow, yet we are completely satisfied with Jesus alone, then we have a successful church.