The Truth About Church No One is Talking About

I can remember lying beneath the pew on Sunday nights with my twin sister.

I can remember coloring and drawing pictures quietly while the pastor preached.

I can remember what happened when we weren’t so quiet.

I can’t remember not going to church.

We rarely missed the three weekly services and that didn’t count Easter Pageant practices and Friday night youth events. I left those pews for Bible college and left Bible college for church staff positions. I spent the first thirty-something years of my life inside the church walls.

I’ve heard hundreds of topical, expository, textual, and biographical sermons. I’ve listened to dozens of personal testimonies and shared some of my own. I’ve attended discipleship courses and witnessing classes. I’ve done Beth Moore Bible studies for countless Thursdays and I’ve attended my fair share of Christian conferences. I have five versions of the Bible and 12 crosses in my home decor. I know a hundred Christian songs.

I took it all in. I was a beefed-up Christian.

But for most of my pew sitting years, I ignored something very important.

I was full of faith, but I wasn’t obedient.

powerful quote about Christians and service

Our churches have everything these days–killer kids programs, cool and traditional decor, an array of worship styles, and some even have bookstores and coffee shops, fitness classes, x-box game rooms, multi media events, but something is lacking.  It’s obedience.

I’ve read the Bible my entire life, but for most of my time on earth, I haven’t done what it said. I stayed away from the big sins and wore my Christian t-shirts. But often when I was asked to serve or say yes to God, I would answer, “Let me pray about it.”

I got fat on the Good News. I hoarded it all to myself and didn’t share it.

And then a few years ago, I got fed up with my unhealthy diet of the American Dream. I was sick to death with affluenza. I was bored and busy with temporal things that didn’t matter.

I was cured when I decided to do whatever God told me.

I said yes and I will keep saying it–even when it feels small, even when I don’t know what to do next, even when I am inadequate. Because it’s not the results that matter–the success or failure–it’s that I am being obedient.

I’m sad that for most of my Christian walk, I fell for the lie that church was the holding tank for believers. If I just went to church, that was enough. But church isn’t the culmination of Christianity, it’s the springboard for our obedience to God.

I love my church. I look forward to attending every week! But the truth is we were never meant to just attend church. There are people all over the world dying for this faith. There are people held captive by sin and poverty, waiting on someone to come share the news about Jesus. Christians don’t have the luxury to add church to their lives like it’s an optional elective.

Church isn’t the place where we draw the line at the door and say to those inside the walls  “We are good. We are right. We are done.” Because when we do that we are saying to those outside, “You are bad. You are wrong. You don’t matter.”

Instead we are commanded to turn our churches into a hospital for hurting people, not a club where we are comfortable. When we walk in obedience, it’s risky. It’s scary as hell. It’s the wildest thing we will ever do. When we are willing to walk away from our comfort zone and say to God, “I will do whatever you tell me,” we’re embarking on a journey that will change our lives. And nothing will ever make us feel more alive or fulfilled.

This is Christianity. This is faith in action. These words from James chapter 2 (Message translation) leap off the page:

Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

18 I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, “Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I’ll handle the works department.”

Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.

19-20 Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That’s just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them? Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands?

21-24 Wasn’t our ancestor Abraham “made right with God by works” when he placed his son Isaac on the sacrificial altar? Isn’t it obvious that faith and works are yoked partners, that faith expresses itself in works? That the works are “works of faith”? The full meaning of “believe” in the Scripture sentence, “Abraham believed God and was set right with God,” includes his action. It’s that mesh of believing and acting that got Abraham named “God’s friend.” Is it not evident that a person is made right with God not by a barren faith but by faith fruitful in works?

25-26 The same with Rahab, the Jericho harlot. Wasn’t her action in hiding God’s spies and helping them escape—that seamless unity of believing and doing—what counted with God? The very moment you separate body and spirit, you end up with a corpse. Separate faith and works and you get the same thing: a corpse.

This is the truth no one is talking about.  Obedience transforms the church from a meeting place to a moving body with flexible parts so that together we can reach a broken world.

A couple of Sundays ago, we drove a loaded u-haul truck in front of our church that they had rented for us to hold the donations. What started as a simple yes of obedience turned into an avalanche of action from our church. My daughter asked, “Are we going into church today?” We had an hour drive to the refugee apartment complex where we would serve the rest of the day. I looked at my watch, “No, honey. Today we won’t be going into church.”

photo copy

“Instead we are going to BE the church.”

We are going to put our faith in action.

We worked like dogs for people who’ve been treated worse than dogs most of their lives. We were hot and sweaty and outnumbered. We were overwhelmed and exhausted.

We were the church inside out.

At one point, as I led an elderly man around with his voucher to choose his 15 most needed items, he stopped and said in broken English, “Do you love the poor? Only people who do this love the poor.”

I stopped and answered slowly, “Yes, sir. I love the poor.”

And without hesitation he looked me square in the eyes and said, “Then you must love Jesus.”

The truth of his words were like a sucker punch.

I am compelled to obey–not because I just want to do more–frankly, I have enough to do. I am compelled to obey because I love Jesus and I have to share him. It’s an overflow of the miracle that has happened within me. This is the gospel.

This is our job. This is the moving body of Christ.

There is a local ministry in place that is helping refugees and I’m just joining in. But as I’ve started talking to local churches about supporting this new refugee endeavor in our city, I’ve been cautioned, “We can give you money, but if you need people, that will be challenging.”

It’s time we exchange our comfortable seats for a place of service. It’s time we say, “We are full; we have enough, it’s time to share.”

It’s time to make our churches a hospital.

It’s time to open our eyes to the needs around us, right in our own cities.

It’s time to stop just attending church and start being the moving body of Christ.

With feet in action.


Comments

  1. 1

    says

    My pastor calls our church “the church without walls.” He continually reminds us that going to church is like going to the locker room to get prepared to go and love people in our neighborhood, work, wherever we go and let them see Jesus living through us. He is an amazing Pastor!

  2. 2

    says

    Amen! I have realized that when I am saying no to any service opportunity, I need to ask myself why. If the answer is some sort of “I don’t feel like it” or “It’s scary” or “It’s inconvenient” then I know it isn’t a valid excuse. But I’ve also been realizing that I’m not looking for those opportunities either. That needs to change.

  3. 4

    says

    Yes, so glad you are sharing this. It’s so much easier to go to church yet ignore the commandments Jesus gave us to take care of those around us. I’m thankful to be in a church that is highly focused on making an impact for our city. Thanks for this powerful reminder.

  4. 5

    says

    Amen..fighting for the wrong things is paralyzing the American church. Thanks for this because we MUST be more, we MUST be the place where it’s safe to serve one another for love (of each other and God.)

  5. 7

    Beth says

    So grateful for the way you obey God to help the least of these. May I suggest getting I touch with World Relief. Not sure if they have an office in your area, but they work with refugees in the US. Maybe they have some resources you can utilize so you are not reinventing the wheel. Blessings!

  6. 8

    Maureen says

    Awesome post Kristen! I have two boys under 5 and am challenged as I read what you and your family are doing. We live in a city that has plenty of need, yet getting out of our comfort can be tough. Thank you for this great reminder and wake up call. I want to say yes to Jesus!

  7. 9

    says

    Thank you for affirming what I have been feeling deeply for so long. I am on my own journey of serving, which is to say, breaking old beliefs and habits of “just enough”. Oh, and thanks for making me cry!

  8. 11

    LeighAnn says

    I appreciate these words this morning. They are an answer to prayer and have helped more than you can know with an upcoming decision. Praise God for His answers.

  9. 12

    says

    Tears. Yes, this is what God is setting my heart on fire for… obedience. Praying that I, and the Church, will be moved by His love to be the Body. I believe your words are prophesy, Kristin… God is calling His bored, lazy church to move.

  10. 13

    Alma Martinez says

    This is honestly and truly the BEST post I have EVER read. Thank you for sharing these words. They changed my life in a matter of minutes.

  11. 15

    Jennifer B says

    Amen! Its amazing what God’s people can do if they move beyond the pew.

    I grew up in a larger for our area 150ish people church. I now attend a church where a good Sunday is 25-30 people. But this smaller church loves and serves more than I had ever seen in all my years at my former church. Its such a blessing to see the work and be a part of it.

    Its uncomfortable sometimes to get out there but I need to keep pushing myself out of that comfortable box I grew up in where helping was a donation in the collection plate. Thanks for your post!

  12. 16

    says

    Your excellent article captures the essence of the faith/works dilemma. As Christians, we need to get off our pews and serve others. Isn’t that what Christ did in His time on earth? Thank you for such an inspiring post!

  13. 17

    Denna says

    Kristen, Thank you for sharing your post. I desire to be more like Jesus but many times grieve the spirit because of feeling inadequate, don’t know where to start, or sometimes just being my selfish stubborn busy self. I am challenged daily because I do indeed recognize needs right here in my community, neighbourhood, at work, home, at my church – thank you for the reminder that it’s not all about the results – it’s about being OBEDIENT! I love Jesus and I want to share Him. Please pray for me to have that thirsting, to be on fire, to serve – I want to be a Jesus hospital for the hurting now and forever!! God Bless you all

  14. 18

    Paula says

    Thank you for sharing this. I, too, am faithful but not always obedient. Your words struck a chord within my soul. Yes, it is our duty as Christians to BE the church! God Bless you!

  15. 20

    says

    YES. I absolutes LOVED this! Too often we forget that we are not only supposed to hear the Word, but to do it too. Too often we have been more like dust than like salt. What a wonderful reminder it is that whatever we do for the least of these, we do for Jesus!

  16. 21

    says

    This attitude of complacency is in not only in America, but Australia as well. Most of the major denominations over here are just a “Bless me” club with little done or taught about helping others… they tend to forget the verse from Jesus’ own lips, “It is more blessed to give than to receive!” Acts 20:35

  17. 22

    ik8tey says

    I love this post! I was having a bad time two weeks ago and called the church to ask for help packing for a move. I’m ADHD, a recovering alcoholic, I have depression and anxiety and I needed to be out of my house by 2/25 because it had been foreclosed upon. I was overwhelmed. My Plan B was suicide. I told my story to the church secretary and she told me that she would look into it. I never got so much as a call back.

    • 22.1

      Katie says

      Your story of the church’s response is just amazing. I’m so glad to hear you did not follow through with plan B, and I pray that The Lord provides you with real love and support from others through this overwhelming time.

  18. 23

    says

    Good stuff! Thank you for sharing and calling us all out. Last year, as we were raising funds for our mission trip to Haiti, I actually had a friend tell me she was sorry she couldn’t afford to help with our trip and in the next breath told me about how she had spent some $65 on a new necklace. It boggles my mind as we prepare again to leave for Haiti to serve an orphanage and we get the same message. We can’t afford to help. Well, neither can we but we’re being obedient to do it because God has called us to. And the amazing factor? God provides for us! I’m at a point where I want to see the body of Christ leaving the church doors to go and serve those who are non-believers more than we serve ourselves! That is what Christ is teaching my family right now. And I am loving the changes I see in our home and in ourselves!

  19. 24

    Laura says

    Well said BE the CHURCH!
    Our Pastor calls the Altar Call time the “IPU” intensive prayer unit. We are a hospital for healing to begin.
    Getting outside of the church building is our focus. Being the church and bringing Hope to our community is love in action. Our very motto, “Loving People so They Ask, “Why”? We want that opportunity to share Jesus. We are adding one more simple thibg anyone can do…. having Bible Study in Starbucks. Read the the Word, discuss the Word, with friends and your favorite drink. Then let people join you as they hear and receive the Word. (Isasah 55:11&12)
    Have a wonderfully blessed day!

  20. 25

    says

    I love this so much. Not because I am good at this obedience thing, but because I am NOT. I needed this kick in the pants today.

  21. 26

    says

    I completely agree that we the church need to be the church, not just sit in a church. But I don’t think it is a truth that “no one is talking about.” I go to a mega church and it is always talked about always. And done too. Our church serves the community in every way possible. Every. Single. Way. We can all do more. Yes, I agree with your entire post. Just think the title is a bit sensational. Lots are talking about it. More need to be doing it.

    • 26.1

      says

      Lauren, you’re absolutely right. I was going for a sensational title in hopes that people’s interest would be peeked. While I regret that choice, I think the message is an important one. Thank you for pointing this out!

    • 26.2

      Keleen says

      I’ve heard sermons all my life on obedience, but they have mostly been directed to the individual Christian and not to the local church functioning as the body of Christ. Just an observation….

  22. 28

    says

    I LOVE THIS!!!! Too many people are far too comfortable to go and actually BE Christians, (as opposed to ‘are’ Christians) if that makes sense!!! Thanks for posting!!

  23. 29

    says

    Thank you for this, I need this to reframe my thinking every. single. time I get scared or selfish or think that church is about making myself feel more comfortable.

    We are planting a church in downtown Grand Rapids and I feel like the whitest girl in the planet, ill equipped and a bad fit for my own calling.

    What I need to remember is that so long as I bring Christ’s grace and love with me, if I see every one of his people as HIS people then I will be fine. Will it be hard, yes, but it will be right, beautiful, freeing and filling. So much gained in what we thought was losing.

    And what will really be gained is that we realized what it isn’t about and shifted toward what it always was about… even when we missed the point.

  24. 30

    says

    many believers are in-house Christians. . I have been an “out-house” Christian since my salvation. Comparing ourselves to each other is deadly.. Some minister mainly to believers, and others to prebelievers. Our LORD is the One who determines our daily missions.

  25. 34

    JT says

    It doesn’t have to be anything big, or big to us, to make a person welcome. Try saying “hello” in a person’s heart language and watch his face light up! Ask for their help with a project. People have skills (butcher, baker, candle-stick maker, willing hands), and need to use them. If English is the local language, let them practice on you, and let them help you with their language.

  26. 36

    justaguy says

    So glad to see Saints of God stirred up to action and obedience outside a gathering place. What about obedience to God and His commands when we do gather together? Are we talking about that as well?

  27. 37

    says

    This was incredible. From The Message’s version of James–whoa, so many corpses. To the sweet elderly man’s revelation that you must love Jesus. May it be so for me!

  28. 38

    says

    Great post! This is the third time this week that the topic of OBEDIENCE has very specifically come up.

    I knew it or thought I did, but I also failed to LIVE it. Thanks for another reminder to help me keep my focus.

  29. 39

    says

    Amen! I am so fortunate to belong to a church that puts this very concept in action in many many ways. Thank you for putting it into words so succinctly! We should be blessing others, not just basking in the blessings God has given to us!

  30. 42

    Debbie says

    Wonderful! We cannot feed the spirit without feeding the body. I am in hopes that this mission extends to the poor and downtrodden who are not “refugees” as well. I don’t want to make a political statement, but we seem to have taken the attitude that the poor and disadvantaged in America are merely lazy moochers while the poor in the third world countries are mistreated, disadvantaged, and deserving of our missions and our monies. It is not Christian to turn our backs on the disadvantaged and the working poor who are struggling to feed their families on minimum wage jobs that are below the poverty level.

  31. 43

    says

    Oh, I am trying to reply with something intelligent but my eyes just welled up when the man said “you must love Jesus”.. because that is it right there.
    I hope that this is the vision my own pastor has when he said he wanted us to be a church that built bridges in the community. just by going out and serving our community. no strings. just love ..and like you say, feet in action.

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