Tag Archives: Responsibility

Club Church

club_churchIt’s been said that to succeed in business, you must find your niche and play to your strong suit, whether that’s low prices, high quality, large variety, customer service, etc. And if you offer a product or service that people want, but no one else is providing, you’ll be well on your way to market domination as long as you don’t sabotage yourself with bad choices. Does that apply to how churches “market” themselves?

The church is described in the Bible as the “body of Christ”, and like a human body, there are many functions performed by different parts of the body.[1] There should certainly be ministries to widows and orphans [2], teaching of sound doctrine [3], praising God,[4] fellowship with other believers,[5] and celebrating communion,[6] and more.[7] But where do you fit in building that new basketball gym? Is that a ministry to local kids “starving” for court-time? Or maybe “fellowship”? What if we actually try teaching our youth our creeds and statements of beliefs and why we believe those to be true? Will that cut into pizza and video game time at youth group? Will half the youth group stop attending if we stop babysitting them and start training them to face the battles they’re otherwise heading out to unprepared? What if the power went out, and our well-choreographed worship presentation didn’t have working microphones and amps, and the words to the songs weren’t conveniently displayed on large screens for us to lip-sync with minimal effort? Would we all just go home for lack of entertainment?

Now, before I get branded a crusty old curmudgeon, I understand that many times that basketball gym is keeping kids on the street from looking to gangs for their social structure and their role models; I understand that pizza is a fellowship meal just as much as other foods have been through the centuries; and I understand that kids have played games of one sort or another whenever they congregate, whether modern video games, or kick-the-can, or whatever made-up game could be invented on the spot, for as long as kids have been kids. I’m also not advocating that more contemporary churches burn their electric guitars and sound booth and switch to a Gregorian chant for their worship. But I am asking whether we’ve started majoring in the minors, so to speak – focusing on the details around the edges and forgetting the focal point of all history. When many of Jesus’ wannabe disciples had left Him to go find new entertainment, and Jesus asked the disciples if they too would leave Him, there are some things they didn’t say in response. They didn’t say they were staying because of His engaging style, His charisma, His warm personality, His concern for the causes they personally identified with, or a lot of other reasons people give for attending particular churches. Peter nailed it when he replied “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.“[8] That’s really what it comes down to, isn’t it? If we forget that, we are in danger of becoming just another passing social club.

However, the church makes a poor social club. The world will always be able to offer more enticing clubs. After all, clubs promise immediate gratification and don’t ask for lifelong commitments; they’ll stay conveniently compartmentalized in whatever area of your life you set aside for them; they don’t ask for your all; they certainly don’t ask you to be willing to endure suffering or even physical death for them. But that is precisely the commitment that Christ asks of each of us.[9] Yet there is one area where Christianity has a complete monopoly: only Jesus offers eternal life.[10] And with it comes the added bonus of all the fulfillment and joy that all the clubs in the world can’t provide.

Are your children being equipped as disciples of Christ, or just temporarily entertained while they grow to be “ex-Christians”? Is your worship about what feelings you get out of the experience or what you can offer to God? If people can attend your church, and all they come away with is that you have really good coffee and donuts (but little spiritual nourishment [11]), and the kids had fun (but weren’t getting “the wisdom that leads to salvation” [12]), and the preacher was pretty funny (but conveniently would never convict anyone of the danger they’re in living apart from God [13]), then I would suggest that your church has left the only “market niche” God ever intended for it to occupy.[14]


[1] 1 Corinthians 12, NASB.
[2] James 1:27, NASB.
[3] Most of 1st & 2nd Timothy
[4] Colossians 3:16, NASB.
[5] Acts 2:42, NASB.
[6] 1 Corinthians 11:23-34, NASB.
[7] 1 Corinthians 12:5, NASB.
[8] John 6:68, NET.
[9] Visit Open Doors or Voice of the Martyrs if you have any doubts.
[10] John 14:6, Acts 4:12, NASB.
[11] Matthew 4:4, NASB.
[12] 2 Timothy 3:14-15, NASB.
[13] 2 Timothy 2:23-26, NASB.
[14] Matthew 28:19-20, NASB.

von Braun’s Surrender

Wernher_von_Braun_smallHere’s an interesting story from WWII. Wernher von Braun developed the V2 rocket program for the Nazis, surrendered to the Americans, and played a primary role in developing the Saturn V rocket that enabled us to land a man on the moon. But why did he surrender to the Americans?

On May 2, 1945, upon finding an American private from the U.S. 44th Infantry Division, von Braun’s brother and fellow rocket engineer, Magnus, approached the soldier on a bicycle, calling out in broken English: “My name is Magnus von Braun. My brother invented the V-2. We want to surrender.” After the surrender, von Braun spoke to the press:

“We knew that we had created a new means of warfare, and the question as to what nation, to what victorious nation we were willing to entrust this brainchild of ours was a moral decision more than anything else. We wanted to see the world spared another conflict such as Germany had just been through, and we felt that only by surrendering such a weapon to people who are guided by the Bible could such an assurance to the world be best secured.”

Let that sink in for a minute. One regarded as the greatest rocket scientist of all time chose who would get his powerful knowledge – knowledge that could be used for incredible good or evil –¬†based on the idea that only a people guided by the Bible could be trusted with that knowledge. Why is that? What is it about the Bible that would offer him any hope that the US would not abuse this advantage¬†once they had it?

First, the Bible sets the standard of right and wrong outside of man’s control. No king or president or prime minister (or even popular majority) can redefine what is right or wrong. Right is what is consistent with God’s unchanging character, while wrong is whatever is contrary to that, no matter who does it or how many do it. Thus, no one is above God’s law.

Second, the Bible establishes a standard binding not simply our outward actions, but our innermost thoughts as well. Not murdering someone isn’t good enough, for God sees the motives of our hearts and says we are not even to hate our brother, even if we never act on it. Similarly, stealing, lying, and every other unethical behavior all start with a thought, and Jesus addresses the problem (the action) at the source (the thought) as no other religion or worldview does.

Third, the Christian concept of grace flies in the face of any other world religion when it cleaves merit from salvation. The Bible tells us that there is no amount of good deeds that can earn our salvation. Rather, it is a freely and lovingly offered gift from God for us to either gratefully accept, or reject at our own peril. This then removes the motive of self-interest from the good deeds we do for others. We then help others not to “score points” with God, but to express our gratitude for all He’s done for us and pass on our blessings to others – “Freely you received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8).

So in the end, a people guided by the Bible would perform good actions generated from right thoughts and pure motives. Will a whole nation of people all do that? No. Will any of us consistently do that 100% of the time? Not in our own strength. Only God’s transformative renewal in us can accomplish that. But von Braun correctly saw that the people with that as their aim would be a better safehouse for power than the nation without such a standard.

Would someone with incredibly destructive knowledge entrust it to our country now, knowing the world would be a safer place because of our integrity and our adherence to an unwavering divine standard of right conduct? Sadly, I think it would be questionable.

“Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent, and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” – Revelation 2:5, Jesus speaking to the church of Ephesus and just maybe to us as well.