Local Churches are not a Smorgasbord

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January 30, 2013 by Dwight Bernier

This post is meant to compliment the previous post, “Church, Serve Me!”. Different churches in a city are not meant to act as a smorgasbord for a disciple’s needs. This mentality shows that we are consumers of what churches can offer. Now, I like smorgasbords and food à la carte. It gives me options to stay away from foods I don’t enjoy and partake in more of what I do like. But this is not how Jesus intended His local churches to function.

Jesus has appointed elders over specific local churches to shepherd and oversee that group of people. The clear implication of this office being present is that there are people for the elders to take care of. They are known by the elders, cared for by the elders, led by the elders and protected by the elders. This requires a certain submission on the part of the members of that local church, to live and serve in a way that enables the elders to know, lead, feed, and protect them. This certainly can not happen if each member decides for themselves what they want to put on their ecclesiological platter.

The way this plays out in my city is like this. Maybe someone really enjoys one of our missional communities. They connect well with the people and enjoy them. But they also attend another church on Sunday, where they play in the band and teach Sunday school. They have a Sunday gig at one place and community at another. You might be wondering what the problem is? The problem is that they are not being shepherded fully by either of these local churches. They are taking what they want from each of the communities, and not investing in what they don’t want to invest in. This is very much likened to how one could use a certain provider for internet services, but subscribe to a different provider for cable. This is not a posture of service, but being served.

What happens if the person in the aforementioned example starts to live a life of unrepentant sin. Who is going to step in and call them to the gospel? Who is going to really know? If one of the churches does know, they probably don’t know the person is using the other church to meet different needs they have. No pastor I know encourages their people to be divided.

Beyond this example, many other questions arise. How are they going to give of their time, talent and resources? How are they going to divvy their time? How are they going to get behind the visions of both churches? How will they describe this to people they are speaking to about Jesus? Stop using churches for what you like about them and start serving the church with what the Spirit has gifted you with for the body, not for you.

The exception to this is if a church does not have a certain ministry that an individual or family needs, then maybe another church can serve the church that doesn’t have these ministries. These could include counseling, children’s ministries, and youth groups. This is common in new church plants.

Jesus did not give Himself away so that we could create our smorgasbord the way that we want – a little teaching here, a little community there, a little singles ministry there (because the girls are cute), and then I’m served. Jesus gave Himself away so that we could be enabled to serve out of the grace we have received.

Serve in one church. Submit to one group of elders. Love and partner with other local churches in the city in different ways, but may it be in service, not in consuming.

The gospel frees us to consume Jesus (John 6) and give ourselves away!



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