Sometimes the way people sometimes talk about their local Church can sometimes make me feel a little uncomfortable, it sometimes feels as if people love their particular Church almost more than Christ himself.
Don’t get me wrong, I am want to see people committed to their local Church, fellowship and community, and want people to be encouraged and celebrate what God is doing among them.
Yet I think there is a right and a wrong way of being proud of your Church.
When our pride falls on ourselves, our building, history, denomination, leaders and ideas rather than pride in God’s faithfulness and his provision it is a dangerous place to be.
I believe that Christ’s Church, just as Christian Ministry, can in the end become an idol that can, and does, rob Christ of his rightful place.
I worry about a Church who thinks it has got all the answers.
I worry about a Church who thinks that its leaders are the reason for its success.
I worry about a Church that looks at what they do and think they have nothing new to learn and are sorted.
Such pride, sadly, often comes before a fall.
I think it is a human problem, because we like to share Christ’s glory, we like feeling successful, we crave recognition and significance. The problem is leading a Church can be full of hard knocks and friendly fire, and you want to celebrate the successes, but sometimes things can just drift a little bit into pleasing our ego. Ego, could stand for Edging God Out. Sometimes our Churches have been drifting into self praise long before we joined them, and we are fighting against institutionalized pride, and fighting against a prevailing culture.
Yet we need to re-discover the topsy-turvey world of God’s Kingdom whereby God “opposes the proud but lifts the humble”.
Let us not ignore that beautiful verse, which has blessed me so many times when I have had wobbly moments of feeling ill equipped, where God says “my grace is sufficient for you, and my power made perfect in weakness, for when we are weak, he is strong”… If when I’m out of my depth, God is working strongest, then I’m happy (well, happier) to (tentatively) step further into the deep end.
Another prayer which has brought me comfort comes from an Anglican Prayer when we receive the collection “ALL things come from you and of YOUR OWN do we give you”.
Anything I get proud about, actually originates from God anyway, so it’s all about him and his glory, which helps when tempted to fall into the dangerous trap of competitiveness…
I worry about how quickly those who run big Churches drop numbers into conversations, or those who name drop conference speakers etc, or any of the other ideas we have to make ourselves sound better than the rival Church, who are in effect our neighbouring Gospel Partners, our brother and sisters in Christ.
Is Christ glorified by this? No of course not.
Paradoxically, when we it seems like we are seeing a rise in Churchy pride, we are seeing a growing rise in what some commentators are calling “A Churchless faith”, summed up by a friend as “Love Jesus, struggle with his Church”.
Perhaps when we become self-congratulatory about our Churches, we end up glorifying ourselves and not Christ, and it is he who is the attractive one.
The truth however is, that there are times when we do see local other local Churches and feel uncomfortable about things that are happening there, but this is not a cause to feel smug, actually if any Christian Church in the area is struggling, that is a blow of the Kingdom, and Christ’s local team.
Let us be praying for the other Churches in our area, especially the ones that manage to annoy us, as they might need it the most.
Let us see any advance of the Kingdom of God in any Church as a goal where we all benefit and celebrate.