Have you ever heard someone say: “There are too many chiefs and not enough Indians”? If so, they are saying that there are too many people who want to be leaders and not enough people who are willing to be followers. In Mark 9, Jesus’ followers were arguing about who was the greatest. Jesus told them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35). What happens when a local church is filled with members wanting to be leaders rather than followers? The result is a church that is self-centered, entitled, and miserable. Today, we shall continue our sermon series based on the book “I Am a Church Member” by Thom Rainer and consider how churches can cease to be self-centered church and become a Christ-centered.
- The Misery of a Self-Centered Church. Thom Rainer’s research team did a survey of churches that were declining and found that the most dominate behavior pattern was an attitude of entitlement. This entitlement is revealed in conflict over music, facilities, programs, money, change, etc. Rainer wrote: “In almost every [conflict] church members were looking out for their own needs and preferences.” This is why James wrote in James 4:1 that conflict comes from the self-centered passions that are at war within us against the Spirit. Paul wrote that “enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions” (Gal 5:20) are works of the flesh that causes great harm and must not be done by Christians. Paul then wrote: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Gal 5:25-26). How do we put an end to the misery of a self-centered church?
- The Joy of a Christ-Centered Church. Self-centered churches must take the focus off of itself and turn it back to where it belongs: Jesus Christ. Christ-centered churches are joyful churches that are making an impact in the lives of one another and in the community and the world. But, how does a church do this? The church must repent of the sin of pride and embrace the role of servant. Consider Jesus who “did not come to be served but to serve” (Matt 20:28). Rainer wrote: “But the strange thing about church membership is that you actually give up your preferences when you join [because] you are there to meet the needs of others. You are there to serve others. You are there to give. You are there to sacrifice”. God calls us to be servants, not rulers (see Matt 20:25-28). Did you know that the word servant occurs 57 times and the word serve 58 times in the New Testament? You will never be satisfied in a local church if you demand to be served. You will find joy and contentment in any church where you serve.
Consider the foolishness of being in Jesus’ presence and attempting to make the case that you are the greatest. Now consider the foolishness of being a Christian in a local church who demands that his/her desires and preferences be met or else. Church members must remember that there is only one Chief: the Lord Jesus Christ. We are all His followers and we submit to Him. Jesus is our Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4) who tells us to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:18-20) and to love one another. Let us go to God in prayer and ask Him to reveal to us whether or not we are a self-centered member or a Christ-centered member?
Grow Group Guide
Me, Myself, and I! (Mark 9:35)
As a result of this sermon, prayerfully consider making the following pledge to God to be a functioning Church member:
I will not let my church be about my preferences and desires. That is self-serving. I am a member in this church to serve others and to serve Christ. My Savior went to a cross for me. I can deal with any inconveniences and matters that just aren’t my preference or style.
10 dominant behavior patterns of self-centered churches: (From “I Am a Church Member”)
- Worship Wars – One or more factions in the church want the music just the way they like it. Any deviation is met with anger and demands for change.
- Misguided meetings – Most of the meetings deal with inconsequential items, while the Great Commission and Great Commandment are rarely topics of discussion.
- Facility focus – Fights over carpet, windows, walls, etc. are sadly common in self-centered churches. These church buildings are filled with “sacred cows” (items/rooms/etc.) that cannot be moved or changed with a fight. How do you know if something is a sacred cow? Move it and find out.
- Program driven – Programs continue without any evaluation to determine effectiveness. Programs become an end instead of a means to a greater end.
- Inwardly focused budget –Very few dollars actually reach outside the walls to help. Also, the church has a large amount of money set aside with no intention of using.
- Inordinate demands for pastoral care – While the Pastor, staff, and Deacons must be serving in the local church, self-centered churches have demands on them. Whenever a member beckons or calls (for any reason or no reason) they must be attended to quickly or else. There is no concern for other priorities on the schedule.
- Attitudes of entitlement – You may hear, “I pay my tithes so therefore you must…”.
- Greater concern about change than the Gospel – Change is a bad word in self-centered churches. While change just for the sake of change is not good; avoiding change for the sake of avoiding change is also not good. When change evokes the ire of members who are not concerned for the reason behind the change, there is a problem.
- Anger and hostility – There always seems to be a problem in self-centered churches. Many times the problem has nothing to do with the Bible or the Great Commission. Many times conflict arises from gossip and/or forgiveness.
- Evangelistic Apathy – When everything else becomes more important than evangelism, it is not a surprise that the church is struggling. A church that has forgotten its mission and purpose is a church that is on the road to death.