Church hopping/church shopping.
I have written about it before. We have turned church into the mall of God, essentially, and even the pastors have figured this out. If they want to stay in business, they need to meet the customer’s desires and needs “where they are at”. (The real Body of Christ is sustained instead by the Spirit of God, but a business posing as a church operates – below the surface – like any business seeking money and growth.)
We go to “church” where we are “comfortable”.
Stuff like: The preacher says what we like to hear; the music excites us; it’s a pretty building in a nice neighborhood; they give spiritual guidance to my kids; they have a men’s group that my husband needs. It really might be just a matter of having friends there. Or in a lot of cases, it “feels right” – maybe because it’s the denomination or the “doctrine” we grew up with, making us comfortable with nostalgia.
It is both a niche market (lots of small boutiques in the mall of God), and a big department chain (or a mega church you might see on TV). There are lots of ways to separate you from your money and stay in business, but they are all fairly standard, and you can find them all pumping deep into your credit and debit accounts down at the South Plains Mall too.
Okay… I have covered all that before. I reference it only to provide a richer context for what I want to say next.
How about you choose a church where Jesus is comfortable? It’s not exactly, in the strictest sense, a biblical idea, but one worth pondering…. No? Let’s consider it closer. Surely Jesus is Lord where you go to church. Right? Surely he is WELCOME there! Wanna find out for sure?
Jesus tells us in Matthew 25 that the “least of these”/”stranger” is him. He is basically describing a homeless person in need of shelter and care. So if you were to skip your shower a few days, put on some shabby second-hand, dirty clothes, and show up at church on Sunday, how would he (you) be treated?
Surely you have heard the modern-day parable of the pastor who showed up to church like this to discover the church shuns him until he reveals his true identity and shames them. The only part missing in that parable is that the revelation, the apocalypse, is not that the bum is really the pastor, but that the bum is really Jesus! And that goes for bums who are not pastors posing as bums too.
Point being, you can do this exercise ever bit as much as a proverbial pastor can! And you can determine whether Jesus is really Lord in any of these churches, in part, from this exercise. You can determine if Jesus is really welcome there!
How will you know?
I expect that if you dress down like a bum and go in to meet a “church” who might potentially host you, one good indicator is whether or not the “church” makes you feel comfortable. Does someone greet you? Do they greet with sensitivity? Do they invite you to stay and eat? Do they invite you deeper into the life of their church? Do you sense that you have access to their heart?
Do they ignore you? Do they shun you? Do they marginalize you? Do you feel manipulated, engineered, and managed?
I know that here in Lubbock, Texas all across the spectrum of churches, the homeless are offered shelter at Tent City (no longer it’s name), at the Salvation Army, and for very specific people meeting very specific criteria there is the Family Promise and a couple other comparable services all on a very small scale. Then there is the extremely limited Housing First program put on by the Premier Homeless Pseudo Church (not its real name) with a long waiting list while they plan to build more homes for the program (and meanwhile kick people out who don’t meet their requirements (not a “housing first” agenda, really, but a merit-based housing program posing as “housing first”). After that, there is the jail, the mental hospital (if you claim to be suicidal), and on emergency cold weather nights, there is a barn at the Tent City facility.
Yep. Jail, the hospital, and a barn.
So meanwhile, the whole Jesus-is-Lord/Matthew-25 litmus test is too high a bar for Lubbock’s churches to pass. But you could still test them and see. Why take my word for it?
And wouldn’t you really want to go to a church where Jesus is comfortable? Where Jesus is Lord?? Where Jesus is welcome??? When did taking up a cross and following Jesus become a matter of seeking my comfort? Why am I going to a church where I am comfortable? What would be the point of such a church? I mean if you really stop and think about it… What would be the point? Why bother getting out of bed on a Sunday morning to go to a particular church for that reason? Are you gonna show up at the Great Judgment Day and show God your attendance card like a free pass?
Go look at Matthew 25 carefully. It describes the Great Judgment Day in stark terms. The poor stranger will be called to witness either for or against you. He will reveal to you that he was Jesus all along. And you will look at that bum in the witness booth in desperation clinging to every word he says as will the Great King who separates the goats from the sheep. And the mall of God will not prepare you for it despite all the comforts it promises you in the meantime.