Who are We Imitating?
Is there to be a difference between how a follower of Jesus lives compared to a person who does not believe in Jesus? The obvious answer is yes. A Christian, or follower of Jesus, should live their lives in a way that honors Jesus. A follower of Jesus should become like Jesus in every aspect of their lives. There should be a difference between a Christian and a nonbeliever. But is there? I look at my life and in many ways my lifestyle is no different than my nonbelieving neighbors. Again, I ask myself, is my faith in Jesus Christ affecting my daily life, my hopes, my ambitions, and my dreams?
Let’s apply this same question to the church. Should there be a difference between how a church functions in comparison to how a business functions, either a nonprofit business or for-profit business? I hope you answered yes. But again is there a difference. If we were honest, we would say no. Many churches function like a business: the Senior or Lead Pastor is seen as the CEO or president; the other staff members are seen sometimes as the Vice-presidents. There is a push for attendance numbers and meeting the budget and how to increase attendance, which will hopefully increase revenue. Again, I ask, is there supposed to be a difference between how a church is to function compared to a business?
I was reading a sermon a few months ago by Francis Schaeffer entitled, “The Lord’s Work in the Lord’s Way.” In this sermon, he gave an illustration of a Christian businessman who serves on several boards, both Christian organizations and non-Christian businesses. Francis Schaeffer goes onto tell how this man commented that he could see no difference whatsoever between how these organizations, Christian or non-Christian, conduct their business. In both cases only the clever thing was being done. This illustration was made a reality yesterday when I attended the Bedford Borough’s Water Authority meeting. As I walked away from the meeting, thinking about different church board meetings and denominational meetings I have attended, the only thing that was missing from the Water Authority’s meeting was an opening prayer. If the Water Authority would have started off in prayer and sprinkled the name of “Jesus” throughout the meeting, I would have thought that I was in a church meeting. Again, is there supposed to be a difference in how a church is to function and conduct “business” as opposed to a business? When it comes to the local church, are we relying upon business models or upon the Lord? Listen to Francis’ plead to churches:
It is not amazing: though we know the power of the Holy Spirit can be ours, we still ape the world’s wisdom, trust its forms of publicity and its noise, and imitate its ways of manipulating men! If we try to influence the world by using its methods, we are doing the Lord’s work in the flesh. If we put activity, even good activity, at the center rather than trusting God, then there may be power of the world, but we will lack the power of the Holy Spirit.
God has not called the local church to function like a business, using the cleverness of the pastor or the people to “build” a church. Only God can and will build His church through believers that rely upon Him. May we stop trying to imitate the models and practices of the world and instead imitate Jesus.