Pastors and church leaders are constantly under the pressure of conforming to the ways of the world when it comes to the church. Whether we like it or not, the world in which we live, work, raise our children, and participate in life, becomes the model we try to superimpose upon the church. Jesus, however, saw things differently. He wants to superimpose His Kingdom in all the earth. He wants to change the world's culture to match heaven, and the world wants to change the church culture to match earth. Ugh. What are we to do?
For one, we can refuse to conform to the ways of this world. As children of the Living God, we must refuse the world's mindset and ways when it comes to the church. Here's a small list of worldly ways many people still want to fashion the church after, and we'd be better off without them.
1. "The Customer is Always Right." In other words, the church serves me and if I'm not pleased, well then I'll just take my worship elsewhere. If the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, where is there room for the consumer mindset? There is no room for consumerism in Christianity.
2. "I'm Entitled to My Opinion." Relative truth has crept in to many of the church's ways. When it comes to the interpretation of scripture and beliefs, the church has become just as susceptible to personal, relative truth as the rest of the world. This should not be so. Increasingly it seems that I hear of people speaking out their personal beliefs and they cannot even support them through the scriptures. Presented with sound wisdom from the Living Word, they will still not change direction and simply say, "well. that's how I believe."
3. "So-and-So wasn't nice to me." This mindset comes from dysfunctional family and organizational systems. The focus is on self and not on others. Feet washing, burden carrying, love extending, compassion giving, merciful servants are more worried about others than they are themselves. The world is full of self-focused ideals, but not the Body of Christ... we are to be others-focused.
4. "There's not a lot going on." Pastors are not Activities Directors, they are Shepherds and Spiritual Guides. The primary activity of all disciples is working to see the Kingdom of God established on earth as it is in heaven. We are all called to the work of ministry for Jesus. Pastors are not called to keep a full menu of activities floating for the people. If you feel there is not enough going on, then commit your life to ministry and do something!
There are many more that could be used as examples, but the point is clear: We should not conform the church to the ways of the world. The church has an identity, purpose, calling, King, ways, empowerment, government, leadership model, economy and life all its own. It is unique above and outside anything the world does.
Refusing to conform is hard, but I'm committed to the Kingdom, not the world. I'm just one pastor, but I will stand before Jesus one day and tell Him with a clear conscience that I contended for His Kingdom always.
Brett Heintzman is passionate about the spiritual formation of God's people. These writings are designed to draw us close to God and to help us live out of the riches of His presence. It's all about being in the world but not of the world.