By Brother Michel Lankford
In other words, why does it happen that the way you leave a church or a relationship is the way you will enter into your next church or relationship?
The simple answer is that you are broken, so is the church or other party that you are trying to relate to. Until you develop a lifestyle of overcoming in your part of any relationship, you will continue repeating the same mistakes, or being drawn into the same type of dysfunctional relationships.
The Broken Church System
I don’t want to oversimplify things, but I don’t want to over complicate them either. I’ve been in active ministry now for more than a quarter of a century and there are a few basic and fundamental truths that apply.
- Whether you’re talking about a relationship with a church or other individuals, a relationship takes two. If there is a problem, the odds are that BOTH sides of the relationship have issues that they need to resolve and overcome.
- Most people and groups operate in ‘Maintaining Mode.’ They DON’T typically function in Overcoming Mode, which is a shame, because we are supposed to be overcoming and not just maintaining.
On the one hand, churches are operating with some serious handicaps and fallacies, but so are individual believers. We will discuss that in a moment. First, let’s discuss the church at large. For the most part, the church at large has forgotten its primary purpose and mission to make effective disciples, (Ephesians 4; Matthew 28:19-20); and they have also fallen for some of their own publicity.
For the most part, the majority of churches have developed a business and a factory mindset, instead of a Biblical discipleship mindset. That is to say, that they believe that, “Hey, if you just use our product as directed, [meaning get heavily involved and committed to our church and its programs], then your life will be good, and you will naturally evolve and develop into a disciple, just by virtue of being heavily involved in our commercially designed and predetermined programs.” So, the focus is on designing better and better programs, instead of helping people learn how to become better followers and disciples for themselves. So, the people come to the church expecting to receive better and better fish from the church, instead of expecting to learn how to fish for themselves. That is a serious problem.
More and more churches are admitting that there discipleship programs are weak and failing. So what happens when the cookie-cutter programs are weak, or they don’t work when it comes to truly transforming your life? What happens is the church leadership starts getting disappointed in the people because, “If the people just worked harder and were more committed to our programs, our results would be better.” Or, the people start getting more and more demanding for ever improved programs, in the futile hope that these better programs will somehow transform their lives. Or, you water down the programs and water down the expectations so that people become satisfied with less and less life improvement. As that dynamic of dysfunction continues, people either become disillusioned with church, or worse they assume that it must be the gospel and Christianity itself that doesn’t really work when it comes to transforming your life. Therefore, some people assume that mediocrity must be all there is to Christianity, and they stop expecting anything better, and they settle into the mediocrity, and stop pushing for excellence, and just coast at doing the programs, or they ASSUME that Biblical living doesn’t work and they look for solutions elsewhere to transform their lives. All you have to do is read a few George Barna surveys, and you can pretty well tell that this is where the majority of American Christianity is today.
Another dynamic that you often see in this program focused way of doing church is that over time you will see a huge role reversal in the church. That is that you will see a dynamic where, because we are so program minded instead of discipleship minded, what happens is that the church begins to treat and view people as a resource to further THEIR programs. In other words, a mindset develops where we are so program focused that we come to believe that the people of the church exist to support our programs and build our ministries, instead of the church existing to build people up so that the CONGREGATION can SUCCEED as the ministers, (Ephesians 4).
In many cases, church leadership wants to develop a dynamic where people become church co-dependent, because we need these people as a resource to keep our programs and ministries going. If they learn to study the Scriptures, hear God’s Voice, and follow Him for themselves, they might go elsewhere and we would lose a valuable resource. That is just a summary of how the broken church system is malfunctioning overall. We could discuss countless more details like false doctrines and the Seeker Sensitive/seeker friendly, and hyper grace movements among many other issues that weaken the church as a whole.
More Broken Individual Believers
The other side of brokenness in this relationship rests with individual believers. On the whole, individuals are typically much more broken, and much less mature than in ages past. They come into the church from a world system that teaches them that if they are unhappy with life, then society must change to make them happy. They come from a world where every competitor gets a trophy so that no one has to feel bad; no one has to discipline themselves to overcome and win the race. They come from a public school educational system that is very hostile to the gospel and to God’s Kingdom and its Principles. The golden rule is hardly spoken anymore, let alone written into the national psyche. If I am offended and uncomfortable, then society has to be changed. No longer am I expected to grow and to learn how to respond correctly regardless of how the other guy behaves. The bottom line is that people come to church a lot more easily wounded, offended, and much less prepared to overcome than ever before. More and more, people expect God, the church, and its programs to change so that they will be more comfortable, instead of expecting to grow and overcome so that we come into agreement with God and His Standards.
The upshot is, the more immature we are, the more easily offended we become. So, if I am offended and the church does not change to make me more comfortable, then I will simply go to another church and try another set of programs until I feel satisfied. It becomes a church consumer mindset instead of a discipleship mindset. Churches are not equipped or prepared to re-raise people who are emotionally and developmentally children, but who are physically adults.
What happens many times is if I am not practiced in growing, if I don’t practice overcoming, I become more and more easily offended, and I assume that I have to go elsewhere to get what I feel I need. The problem is that I bring my immaturity and brokenness with me wherever I go. One of the biggest mistakes that people make is that they assume that a different situation will bring about different results. However, the truth is that at least part of the problem is me. Going to a different church is not necessarily going to change that. Whatever problems I had in my last church will still follow me in my next church, if I am not growing and overcoming myself.