People or God and Do We Have to Choose

I recently found a quote that went like this:

If you’ve reached a point where you only attend a church because of the relationships you’ve built there and not because of the sound doctrine/teaching that’s actually feeding your soul, then maybe it’s time to evaluate whether you’re attending a sound biblical church.

Well isn’t that just a snap in z formation to the face if I ever read one.

Where to even begin on this topic but what I do want to start with is the intention behind this post. It isn’t to call out any one person or church in particular. There are many people I cherish from past churches and while I have every intention of sharing truth here, it is never my intention to bring hurt or pain. What I do want to bring are accountability and awareness. In fact, the reason my posts have morphed over the past two years is that I have realized there is no time to become complacent or “seeker-friendly” with what I have to share. If what I share from scripture offends anyone, it isn’t me you need to come to terms with. It’s the Lord. He wrote those words through faithful believers.

There is so much that I have compromised for the sake of not offending others or to be “known”. I have lost opportunities to be bold all for the sake of being afraid to lose friendships. Historically, I embraced the “seeker-friendly” mindset that so many churches do. What do I mean by “seeker-friendly”? These are churches, or ministries – not all but most – that are more focused on bringing new people, mostly unbelievers or the curious, into the church. They are adamant about communicating that they want to provide an atmosphere that is welcoming to all. The sermons don’t get too serious or in-depth but are just enough to skim truth in such a way that is “understandable”. Worship trends toward produced and carefully curated for the purpose of not being a distraction or hindrance for others.

When I was ripe in giving my life to the Lord, I loved and appreciated how easy it was to get connected and volunteer. Many will hear the story of how my mentor interviewed me for teaching Sunday School and essentially told me I was the right one for the position immediately. It was only five minutes into our conversation and she just knew. I remember walking out the door feeling empowered, excited, and nervous all at the same time. The notion that I would be volunteering with like-minded, believers in the Lord had me so excited. But, I was also nervous because I didn’t feel equipped enough to teach these young kiddos. Thankfully, everything was scripted and it was super easy to teach the lessons. It was mostly just helping the kiddos pay attention and diffuse little spats.

As the years went by, I would become more and more involved in different ministries including choir, worship team, international missions, and the after-service prayer team. It was incredible to feel needed, known, and, at times, sought after. Friendships were blooming and I just loved that these friends were fellow believers.

In my mid-30’s I moved to Chicago and wanted to find a church similar to the one I had “grown-up” in spiritually. I found one! Or so I thought. At first, it was wonderful. The teaching seemed to be the kind I related to and the worship was pretty amazing and well-curated. The production was what I was used to, if not a little better because hey… we’re in Chicago folks! I have shared in past posts how things started to change for me when I realized how naive I had become when it came to assuming all Christians would agree on various social issues and sin. To me, these were all pretty clear in scripture but my eyes were opened to the fact that not all who called themselves Christians thought the same thing. At the time, I didn’t know how to refute or debate or find the scripture to support what I believed. So, I ignored and justified it all because there were so many other things I wasn’t willing to give up – like the relationships.

Fast forward to April 2022. Two years have gone by since the shutdowns prompted by the “C”. (Yep, I’m speaking in code on purpose. You know what I’m talking about though!) Up until this point, I had gotten really good at avoiding the things that were bothering me when it came to the church I was so committed to. I LOVED and ADORED the people I served with and I hated the thought of what would happen if I spoke up. I shouldn’t put past tense on those two words “loved” and “adored” because I currently love and adore these same people. And it is because of that love I am so desperate to share what I do via this blog and any other written forms. I’m not going to hold back for fear of what others think of me. And man is that hard because, in the past, all my decisions were filtered through what others thought of me.

The only One I am attempting to please is my Lord and Savior. As it should be for you dear sister in Christ. I truly believe we are at a place in time where it is even more important to stand firm in the Word and not to conform to the ways of this world. Arm yourself by reading scripture and digging deep. If your current church does not go deep into the Bible, find one that does. Pray for discernment and wisdom in your conversations that will likely happen. When relationships end, lean on the Lord for what those relationships provided. He will supply more than you could ever ask or imagine! Be prepared to celebrate when those same people reach out for reconciliation.

The important thing to remember is to never compromise the Word of God, simply to win people to church or to maintain relationships. Scripture tells us that many will have itching ears to hear words that conform to their own ideas and thinking. (2 Timothy 4:3). I love how the Amplified Bible states this verse:

For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine and accurate instruction [that challenges them with God’s truth]; but wanting to have their ears tickled [with something pleasing], they will accumulate for themselves [many] teachers [one after another, chosen] to satisfy their own desires and to support the errors they hold.

2 Timothy 4:3 (AMP)

This permeates into the leadership of the church as well and influences the mindset I mentioned earlier when it comes to “seeker-friendly”. If the church you attend skips over scripture or skirts around important issues in order to not create “controversy” or to avoid appearing in the newspaper for offending, it’s time to find a new church. If there is no accountability or elders, it’s time to find a new church. If you are a leader or attend this type of church, seek God’s wisdom and direction in what you should do. If He is calling you to speak up, trust that He will guide your words and be your source of all you need. If He is calling you away, pray for the discernment needed in finding a new church and also remember His faithfulness.

For me, I had to come to terms with multiple things. I was comfortable. I loved being known. And I adored the friendships I had. I am sad to say some have decided to part ways for various reasons. It was not easy at all but, ultimately, knowing that God is the One I serve and aim to please has helped. I am currently working on a blog series focused on how to navigate through the muddy waters of relationship management, especially when it comes to changing your place of worship. It may not seem like a topic big enough to focus on but, it really is. I know I’m not alone in what I have gone through and it is SO important that we remember where to place our focus. 100% on Jesus.

Some may say that being relational is still important. Don’t get me wrong, it absolutely is.

Allow me to use this illustration – do you have a favorite pair of sunglasses? I do! Not only do they do an excellent job protecting my eyes from the UV rays but they are also very stylish. They are the lens I look through so that I’m not squinting. We have different lenses in life to look through as well. Each lens gives us perspective. If we choose only to look through the relational lens, every word, action, and decision we make will be based on being relational. The risk with that is compromising scripture and God’s clear direction given to us for how to live. It’s well-meaning. It’s not entirely bad. In fact, one could find plenty of verses in the Bible to support being relational. However, if we are only doing this through the relational lens, we are out of context.

With the lens of scripture and God’s truth, being relational and loving looks much, much different. Love according to the world’s standard is to bend in order to accept no matter what. And in order to accept, we don’t bring up anything that could offend. The lens of God’s truth shows us we are depraved sinners who deserve the wrath of God. It shows the good news of what Jesus did for us by dying on the cross and taking on our sin. It shows the teachings of Jesus leading up to His death where He held nothing back because He loved us too much not to. By His example, we also should not be holding anything back because we love others too much. We yearn for others to know Him and to accept Jesus as their Savior. We want to show them what the Bible says is sin so they know what to turn away from. Even if it offends. Even if it hurts. Even if it downright stinks because the sin one may need to turn away from is one that seems impossible to give up.

Sister friend, may I give you some sound advice?

Pray. Read your Bible. Pray. Live in Godly boldness. Pray. Read your Bible. Pray. Rinse and repeat.

The road is not easy but wow, what a glorious and wonderful opportunity to fully rely on Jesus. You may not see the “fruit” at first but you will. He will show you.

Some of you may now be thinking, “Melissa, how do I find a sound/biblical church?”

It’s a good and important question and the best answer I can give you is this: Visit churches. If you find one that could be “the one”, reach out to the Pastor and church council. Ask questions and be direct with them. Ask to see the mission, vision, values, and doctrinal statement. A sound/biblical church will be more than willing to share all of this with you! Pray. Ask for the discernment and wisdom from God as you search. Trust that He is faithful because He is!

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