I have this conversation quite often with members of my church and with believers outside of my church. It is usually sparked by a discussion of something this person doesn’t like about our church or about the church they attend.
Now, let’s assume the disagreement is not related to doctrinal purity, moral integrity, authoritarian abuse (issues I believe are grounds for leaving a church). Let’s also assume this is a gospel-preaching, Word-saturated, bible-believing church. Let’s also assume the disagreement is not over a 2nd-tier issue that is not orthodoxy, but valid reason when choosing a church (mode of baptism, denomination, etc). So we’re dealing with issues of preference.
This is what I tell people who tell me there is something about our church they don’t like or about their church they don’t like: “Good.”
It’s good that you’re involved with a local body of believers with whom you have disagreements and varying preferences. Why? Because that is the whole idea of God calling out and gathering together His local body. We come together, not because we agree on everything and have the same preferences, but because, despite our disagreements, we are united in Christ.
I often say to people and have preached in messages before this statement, “I don’t like everything in our church. And this is good, because if everything here was geared to what I like, it would be great for me, but not-so-great for the other members.” And so it is with you.
Chances are there is something on Sunday mornings you’d like to see differently. Perhaps you like danishes instead of donuts. Or you’d rather sing hymns than songs written since 1990. Perhaps you’re more of an organ person than a guitar person. Or you really hate the color of the lobby walls.
Good! A resounding, spirit-filled good! You’re continued presence at this church indicates you’re willing to lay aside your preferences, sacrifices your pet peeves for the good of Christ’s body. And it proves that you’re not simply going to church to have all of your senses tickled, but to use your gifts to serve God’s people.
When leadership structures a church in such a way that it meets all the pastor’s preferences, it creates a personality-driven church. But when the pastor is willing to lay aside some of his preferences for the good of the people he serves, God is glorified and the people are blessed.
When the people who attend a church stomp their feet and demand certain things at church be their way, it sows division in the church, hurts the pastor, and ultimately undermines the gospel mission to the community. But when people come to church and get involved, even though there are very real things at church they don’t like, they are making a profound statement that God’s work and God’s people are more important than their preferences.
This must be an intentional attitude, because we live in a culture of American consumerism. We can pick and choose churches, not based on anything important but our own pet likes and dislikes. I’m not discounting the importance of church culture, family atmosphere, etc. But ultimately, our role as a Christian is to participate in the local body of believers, to serve with our gifts, and to glorify Christ corporately. When we make our church choices based on personal preferences, we idolize what is unimportant and marginalize gospel witness.
It strikes me that these choices would be irrelevant in many places around the world. I was in Eastern Europe this year where there are very few, gospel-preaching evangelical churches. So if you are a missionary or a Christian in that area, you’re choices are few and you suddenly aren’t as concerned about the coffee and the guitar and the color of the walls. You’re just happy to find people of faith nearby with whom you can fellowship and serve.
So, if there is something about your church you dislike, consider it an opportunity to sacrifice for the greater good of the body.