Ask a Pastor

Mondays are for answering questions! I asked some people if they had any questions they would ask their pastor if they could, even if it was rough. Every Monday I’ll answer those questions! Feel free to message me with your questions. Here’s todays question from Jeff:


I believe in change. I believe that people do change or at least they should change anyways. What’s interesting are the things that make us change. Sometimes people change because their kids get older or because of a life circumstance that they go through, and after falling on the other side of that circumstance, they realize that the things they believed were inconsequential to the people with whom they walked in that circumstance.

Having said all that, the thing that I believe now that I see very differently than before is that I don’t believe the institutional church is set up to make an impact to change the world the way that it thinks it is. In fact, I believe in its attempts to do what it does, it causes a lot of damage.

Now for my reasons. Of course I pastored (and might still continue to do so) at churches for 20 years in high leadership positions, and I know the mindset. The focus is to reach people at any cost, stopping short of sin. This is not wrong, of course, but there is a problem. Scripture is pretty clear (except ironically a few verses in 1 Corinthians 13) that there is only one cost to reaching people: Love.

That in some way our love for one another is how we reach people is a major problem for the American church. When the name of the game is numbers and stats, the end of the game is not about love, but about continually perpetuating more numbers and stats. This is not to say that love cannot come out of the American church. It’s more like, when it happens, it’s accidental.

Consider your work place. Love can happen in your work place, but let me know what happens the next time you put loving your co workers in front of making money. The truth is that businesses have a bottom line, and when the bottom line gets interrupted by anything other than what the bottom line is supposed to be, the ax falls.

It’s possible that you’re thinking the bottom line of the church is to reach people. And I would say that is absolutely correct! I would counter that however by mentioning that reaching people doesn’t produce the fruit of love. So for some places, once you reach people, you then need to use them to help reach more people. None of this actually means love is happening or not happening. But using people is not exactly the first thing I think of when attempting to love someone else.

The church has only one sure fire way scripturally of showing others our Christ-like ways, and that is the love we show one another.

The second way the institutional church is not set up to have an impact the way it thinks it does is the incredible resources it spends on the 1.5 hours a week it provides for its spectators. That might sound harsh, but putting Christianity in a one-day-a-week box is something no pastor ever says it does and almost every church actually does.

But if you look at the budget of almost any church, what you’re going to find is that most of the finances go, not to outreach ministry like feeding the homeless or taking care of the widow, but to the budget necessary to keep a talented staff, technological relevancy, and building upkeep.

Once again, I should reiterate that those things are not wrong, they just don’t produce love, which is the thing that lets others know that we are Christ’s disciples (John 13). I do believe that love can happen at a church service, but Is it the service or Jesus that is being worshipped?

The final way the institutional church is not set up to have an impact is its focus on a few paid people to do ministry. By ministry, I don’t mean stand at a door and greet or play a guitar on a stage. Those things can be ministries of course, depending on your heart and mindset, but when a Christian utilizes his or her spiritual gifts, they do so as they move in and out of the lives of others all seven days of the week.

So whether that’s teaching or evangelizing or shepherding or mercy or prophecy (which the institutional church has conveniently kicked out of its mainstream doors) or any number of gifts we should be using, when we use them, we are ministering in ways that allow the church to grow and multiply, both in love and in reaching people, and the reason that happens is the work of the Spirit rushes through and changes the hearts of people.

Honestly this can’t happen when man’s work gets in the way of the work of God. And that, Jeff, is what I see differently now than before. It’s not an exhaustive answer, but there’s always tomorrow 🙂

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