(This is the fourth in a 10 part series. Number 6 will be released tomorrow. If you are just starting to read this series, you will need to start with Top 10 Things That Are Killing The Church! first, then #10: Choosing Religion Over Relationship; #9 Ignoring That We Are In A War; and finally read #8: Wrong priorities before reading this one)
First of all, this has nothing to do with this edition of Kingdom Pastor but I stand amazed and in awe of the bloggers I follow who post something every day, sometimes 2 or 3 things a day. I applaud your strength and resolve and am the richer for it. Me? I usually do a couple a week, so needless to say, this is challenging to me. Fortunately, I have many great examples around me in Blog Sphere who let me know I can do this for 10 consecutive days. Maybe it will even inspire me to finish my book. Oh well, enough rambling, on to today’s topic of what is killing the church. Coming in at Number 7 on my list is The Cookie Cutter Attitude.
Normally, I wait a few paragraphs before I introduce the passage that the Spirit has led me to; but today, let’s get right to it. Romans 12:1-3 (The Message)
1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
3 I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.
Now before some purist takes me to task for using this passage out of context, let me explain. I know Paul wrote this to challenge the church at Rome not to be like the world around it, or as The Message puts it–“your culture”. Not only does “the world” have a culture, but so does the local church. A fellow blogger, InsanityBytes, absolutely inspires and challenges me through her blog See, There’s This Thing Called Biology and she taught me a new word: churchian. To me “churchian” is a perfect word to describe the culture of a local church that is declining in influence, and thus declining in membership and attendance.
Somehow, some local churches seem to think that in order to be effective, then everyone needs to see, think, dress and act alike. Cookie Cutters! Where does a local church get the idea that God wants us to look just alike, think just alike, speak just alike, and act just alike? Wait, I know the answer to my own question: it’s the Enemy! The Enemy knows he is no match for the body of Christ when each member is faithfully using their uniqueness in the Kingdom and for the glory of God. No way he can stand up against us. So to help himself (because he certainly does not care about helping us) and his cause, he has convinced some local churches that UNITY can only occur through UNIFORMITY. This is why it has earned a solid spot at #7 on our list of Top 10 Things That Are Killing The Church.
Think about the early churches, particularly the church at Corinth. Every time I hear someone say, “We need to get back to being like the earliest churches!”, I want to gently cup my hands around their face, look them square in the eyes and shout, “Are you kidding me? Have you ever read 1 Corinthians?” Right out of the chute, Paul chastises them for their divisions; some saying they were followers of Apollos or Peter or Paul, as if that made them better than the rest. It was like saying, “You’re not a real church member unless you are like us!” Cookie Cutters! (Oh, and don’t get me on how they were acting during Holy Communion. Come on, you want the church today to be like that? Really?)
And that’s not all, some were promoting the ridiculous idea that God wanted everyone to have the same spiritual gift. If you did not have that particular spiritual gift, well you just weren’t being a part of the true church. Cookie Cutters! But Paul writes in I Corinthians 12:4-6 (The Message)
God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits.
Then Paul gives a small partial litany of those spirit gifts, gifts designed by God for us in order to bring out the UNIQUENESS that HE put in us, not to make us the product of Cookie Cutters. Then Paul does one of the things Paul does well–he makes an analogy with the human body. Same chapter 12, listen to verse 12-13 from The Message:
12-13 You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive. (emphasis mine)
Paul goes on to ask them to imagine the human body if it was just one thing, say for example, an eye. If we think it would look ridiculous if the human body was just an eye (like a scene out of those 1950 Sci-Fi B movies), how dare anyone think that the church looks best when we see, think, dress and act alike. I have heard those in the churchian culture comment about someone who just gave their life to Jesus and was all excited say, “Oh, give them a couple of months, and we will make them just like us.” Every time a churchian says that, the Enemy gives out a belly laugh because he knows he has his instruments in place to keep that church from becoming another one of those churches that he absolutely fears. Cutter Cutters!
One reason that the “Not Yet In Church” crowd (others call them the Nones and Dones; I prefer the term “Not Yet In Church”) give for not becoming a part of a local church is that they do not want to lose their individuality. They see the church as the place of conformity, not the place for transformation. I have personally seen and heard of church after church after church after church after church believe that UNIFORMITY is the key to UNITY. Uniformity will never cause unity because our God is not a Cookie Cutter. He seeks for ways to express a piece HIS UNIQUENESS within the only part of creation that was deemed by Him to bear His Image.
Those “Not Yet In Church” will never come to a church it they see that a church’s mission is to conform them into the “correct” image. Cookie Cutter! Local congregations that stifle individuality and have difficulty accepting others as they are–others who see, think, dress and act differently–then that congregation will continue to fail at impacting their community and thus continue their decline in membership and attendance. Without their own radical transformation, those local churches will die. Cookie Cutters Kill Churches. I dare you to say that 12 times real fast. Better yet, if you are one of those who think Cookie Cutters create unity, then say it slowly, over and over until you know that it is the truth.
The way to reverse this inevitable conclusion is really rather simple. Go back to Romans 12:2 and again from The Message:
Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
Allow God to define you and most of all, allow God to define others. After all, HE knows you and them better than you know yourself, and much better than you know them. Cookie Cutters! Leave them in the kitchen and NEVER bring them to church.