By Karl Vaters
Church attendance should be a tool to help people draw closer to Jesus. Not the other way around.
I have a confession to make.
As a pastor, I have too much invested in getting people to attend church.
My salary depends on it.
My reputation depends on it.
My sense of self-worth depends on it.
All to a much larger degree than I’m comfortable with.
And I’m not alone.
Come to Church? Or Come to Jesus?
The way most church systems are structured, many pastors have a greater stake in getting people to come to church than getting them to come to Jesus.
In fact, sometimes it’s detrimental to our bottom-line to have people draw too close to Jesus.
When people are more committed to the church than to Jesus, they will
- Attend regularly and quietly
- Spend all their volunteer hours at the church
- Give all their charitable donations to the church
- Be happy with the status quo
When people are more committed to Jesus than our churches, they might
- Volunteer for some of their ministry outside the church walls
- Find other places that are worthy of some of their charitable donations
- Leave when God calls them into full-time ministry
- Challenge the status quo
- Make us feel threatened by reducing the clergy/laity dividing line
But we have to do it anyway.
We have to point people to Jesus more than to the church.
Church Is a Tool, Not a Goal
Overcoming our tendency to emphasize church more than we emphasize Jesus won’t be easy. And I’m not in a position to point any fingers. I’m as much a part of the problem as anyone.
But I have a longing. For more. For better. For deeper.
I want to live, preach and disciple people in such a way that they’re committed to Jesus, not just their church.
Of course, church is valuable. It matters that we participate in a local body of believers through worship, fellowship, discipleship and ministry. If it didn’t matter, I’d leave the pastorate today.
We’re not commanded to bring people to church. We’re commanded to disciple them into a deeper relationship with Jesus.
But we’re not commanded to bring people to church. We’re commanded to disciple them into a deeper relationship with Jesus.
Church attendance is not the goal. It’s a tool to help us reach the goal.
As a pastor, I have to remind myself of that on a regular basis.
A Matter of Pastoral Integrity
I don’t want to pastor a group of nice, polite church attenders, or waste my time entertaining bored believers.
I want to participate in the gathering, training, and releasing of an army of Jesus-worshiping, people-loving, barrier-breaking world-changers.
Sometimes it feels like my salary depends on the former. My integrity depends on the latter.
I also want my bills paid. But making pastoral decisions that have more to do with holding on to our salary packages than making disciples has made much of the western church anemic.
The church I pastor is no exception to that. At least not as much of an exception as it should be. That’s not their fault as much as it is mine.
Jesus promised that if we serve his kingdom first, “all these things” will be taken care of.
Let’s trust him to do that and turn the church loose.
This article was originally posted at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/karl-vaters/2016/january/invested-in-bringing-people-to-church-or-jesus.html?start=2