Alright. So we’re over 2000 years after the church was first born. A lot has happened, both good and bad. The church has survived and lived through multiple cultures, lands and languages. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the very reason why you are a Christian started with Peter preaching the gospel at Pentecost nearly 2000 years ago. Crazy, right?
The modern the church, which is our culture’s primary understanding and experience with the church, is highly misunderstood.
While as Christians we know what God’s Word says about the church, we cannot assume that those who are not Christians understand it. So when they enter the church building, they are immediately interpreting what we believe to be church.
And because of mainstream Christianity (as it probably was in every time and culture), it has produced all kinds of misconceptions and misrepresentations of what the Church really is -both to believers and unbelievers. The only way to truly know what the Church is, what it is for, and why it is so important comes down to the simplicity of reading the Bible and keeping the model of the church biblical.
Here are 5 of the biggest misconceptions about the Church that just need to die.
Misconception 1: Going to Church is a Moral Standard
Buzzer noise. Nope.
This is perhaps one of the most misunderstood things about the Church. This idea that going to church draws a lines between the spiritual and unspiritual is not only wrong, it’s completely ridiculous.
This isn’t, of course, a new problem. Even Jesus dealt with this very issue concerning the Pharisees whom the public percieved as more spiritual because of their regular attendance and work in the Synogogues.
You are no more a moral individual in or outside of a church building.
This is not only vital for us to understand as Christians, but it literally can change our relationship with Christ.
When we come to Jesus by grace, rather than by some church standard, we are set free to serve Him and love Him freely.
Misconception 2: The Church is Full of People Who Deserve to Be There
This misconception seems as old as time, and far too many cliches have birthed from it. If you want to go to church, it’s all dress codes and cologne right? You gotta look good, smell good and by golly, be good!
Sadly, this attitude still bears a lot of weight in many churches.
I hate hearing, after I’ve invited someone to church, that they’re too intimidated to come because they have nothing nice to wear -or even worse, that they aren’t good enough to show their faces.
Christians! -do we gather together to compare our slacks and skirts, or to remember we are undeserving sinners saved by grace? If grace be the answer, why does the world not see it? They aren’t fools! They see the games we play each Sunday and they don’t want to be a part of it.
What if the church at large shifted from posing as Sunday’s dress your best day to being the servants of all. I’d rather have people tell me they don’t want to go to church because we don’t meet their high standards than to hear they don’t want to go because they can’t meet our high standards.
We don’t deserve to be there. It’s not our turf. It’s Christ’s. All should not only be invited, but should feel invited.
If you dress up for church to feel deserving -that’s a misconception. If avoid church because you feel unworthy -that’s a misconception.
It’s only by grace and grace alone that we may come together to worship Jesus.
Misconception 3: The Pastor Defines the Church
Podcasts. Sermon Videos. Blogs.
We live in a day and age where anyone can follow any pastor they want and hear their messages. This is a double edged sword. While we have more access to media surrounding God’s Word, we also naturally choose to listen to whom we consider to be the “most gifted” and “engaging” at the pulpit.
Because of this, over the last decade alone, the church has more and more become defined by the pastor of that church and his preaching rather than the people who attend. This has not only produced celebrity christians, but it has also taken a chunk out of the biblical model for the church.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand that the pastor’s personality and preaching carry a lot of weight in how each church does their services. I’m a pastor myself. I get that. BUT… if church is for the edifying of the body of Christ then it’s not about the pastor.
It’s gotta be Acts 2:42 all up in the house (forgive the slang), or we’re just glorifying a preacher in a building rather than glorifying our Redeemer corporately.
Is not each pastor only a steward and a shepherd appointed by God to lead and teach the body of Christ? We must put this into perspective.
Jesus should alone define the Church. We are Christ’s bride. We ought to be there for Him.
“And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church,” -Ephesians 1:22
“And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.” -Colossians 1:18
“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” -Revelation 2:4
Misconception 4: The Church is an Organization
I once heard a pastor tell a group of other pastors that the greatest investment any pastor could make was to get his business degree. Really?
Sure, I get it. On paper most churches are non-profit organizations and tax-exempt with their bylaws and articles of incorporation. That’s great and fine -but we cannot fall into the temptation to simply be another non-profit organization, because the Church is not an organization.
Instead, the Church is more like an organism -a living, and moving, and breathing body that is empowered by God to do His will.
Organizations are stern on the policy book. Organisms are led by instinct.
In the case of the church, if it is run like an organization than the Word of God is only another policy book on the shelf describing how things ought to run, and sadly in many cases it is replaced by another policy anyways.
But if the church is led like an organism, the Word of God is able to freely lead and guide the body of Christ as the bride of Christ.
Jesus didn’t die and shed His blood for a non-profit organization. Jesus died to build the Church led by the Holy Spirit, which transcends an organization ever to exist.
Misconception 5: Church is an Event
Well… this is where we get theologically technical.
The Bible clearly states that the Church really isn’t a building where you go, but its God’s people wherever they go.
Yes, Paul does speak of how we ought to conduct ourselves in the house of God, but ultimately the house of God is wherever and whenever the people of God gather together corporately.
Naturally, we like to gather in the same place week by week which makes sense, but it’s soon far to easy to gear up the church service like an event full of entertainment, media, professional music and an inspirational message.
In the words of Francis Chan,
“Church services have become far too predictable.”
Events require accessories, like fog machines, projectors and that sound system you’ve always wanted. If you think those things are necessary for church, then you’re more or less looking for an event -not church.
Now can a church have a fog machine? Sure.
Cool lights? Why not?
I’m not condemning assets. But I think we’ve crossed a line in general.
The world thinks church is an event to us. And now, probably many Christians do too because we’ve focused so much on those event accessories.
A church shouldn’t have to function on the power of electricity, just the power of the Holy Spirit. When the lights go out, the church should still be lighting it up.
Here’s my conclusion.
Church is awesome. It’s amazing really.
When you experience a truly biblical setting for church, you’re home and you can see God at work.
Church is also important. Really important.
If you’re a Christian, you should be plugged into a local church. And while many misconceptions about the Church need to be addressed and changed, that is no excuse not to be a part of one. Are you plugged in? You should be, or you’re just creating another misconception about church yourself.
I’d like to know your thoughts. Feel free to leave a comment below.