Perhaps you have heard the old story of the pastor who was asked by a friend visiting from out of town, “How is your church doing?” The pastor said, “Oh, poorly. Very poorly. But, praise the Lord, none of the other churches in the area are doing any better than we are!”
It is sad but true that there is often a competitive spirit among churches. Sometimes even marketing strategies are employed in an attempt to lure members away from one fellowship and into another. Part of that can be explained as old-fashioned, selfish greed. If the culture buys the lie that says, “He who dies with the most toys wins,” then the church can buy into it as well, and just substitute pew-sitters for toys. But the danger is that in the midst of trying to build a huge enterprise, we can easily lose sight of what the church is really supposed to be. A huge church can fail just like a small church can fail: by losing its vision and sense of purpose. A tiny church can be a booming success by keeping the main thing the main thing: God and His glory.
Oh, dear people, you must remember this: the church is not a business venture. It has purposes that go way beyond widgets and sales charts and daily averages. The church is not a college. It boasts of results that the greatest college president in the world cannot even dream of attaining. The church is not here today and gone tomorrow, like Bear Stearns or Circuit City. The church is not in danger of losing its relevance to the culture, like those who built gramophones or who designed eight-track tape technology.
Despite the Richard Dawkins delusions and those of other modern atheists, the church is here to stay because its builder is from everlasting to everlasting. Which begs the question: how can anyone who knows Christ have convinced himself that a Christian doesn’t need the church? As if the body and the head can be separated, and that’s ok?
The amazing truth from Scripture, which we are to take literally, says it plainly: the church is the body of Christ, “the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” No business, no college, no political party, no institution of any kind can make that claim. Christ is the head of the church. And the church displays the fullness of Christ to the earth. We cheapen the purpose and the calling of the church when we market it. We bring dishonor to the name of Christ when we compete with one another or when we run the latest gimmick to try to fill the church. God fills it. I don’t know about you, but I am not interested in trying to do something only God can do. In the first place, it is foolish because I simply cannot build the church. In the second place, it is deadly for anyone to think that he can and to say something like, “Excuse me, Lord, but I need to help you with your church. Step aside and watch this, God.”
How is the church doing? It seems like we are losing the battle. It looks like we need to resort to gimmicks and marketing in order to draw a crowd. It appears that the church is irrelevant and needs to give in and give up. That’s only because we are looking around or looking down. Look up! Look at the head of the church, Jesus Christ, and be encouraged. He has already won.