Originally published September 21, 2018
It’s just as easy to fall into a ditch on the right side of the road as it is to fall into a ditch on the left side of the road.
The longer I walk with the Lord, the more I see how true this is in the Christian life. We can be legalistic or antinomian. Crushed by guilt over our sin, or hard-hearted about our sin. Extending too much grace to unrepentant sinners, or not extending enough grace to repentant sinners.
Abandoning the church altogether, or taking ownership of the church and using it for our own purposes.
The purpose of the local church is to glorify God through worship and discipling the saints. Proper, biblical church membership is not optional for Christians. It is not to be treated as unnecessary by “Lone Ranger” Christians, nor is it to be used as a means toward our own ends. We are to be faithful, invested church members, but we’re to do so in a humble, loving, serving, “others first” way.
I’ve talked about the “left ditch” of abandoning the church:
Basic Training: 7 Reasons Church is Not Optional and Non-Negotiable for Christians
Six Ways Not to Forsake the Assembly
You Don’t Need the Internet, You Need a Pastor
Today, let’s talk about avoiding the “right ditch” of doing church the wrong way. Here are five church ladies who use the church for their own purposes- to build their own little empires, to impress others, or to make themselves feel better. Church ladies you don’t want to be, and the Scriptures they need to embrace and obey:
Part-time Paula– Paula is involved in lots of different pursuits: travel, hobbies, volunteer work, her kids’ sports/activities/clubs, social events, political events, family gatherings, civic projects…and church is just one more activity on the list. And it’s not even at the top of the list. Paula comes to church when she has time, when she feels like it, and when church doesn’t conflict with one of her other activities, but she doesn’t have any leftover time, energy, or desire to get plugged in, commit to a place of service, or fellowship with her brothers and sisters in Christ. Paula keeps just enough of a foot in the door at church to assuage any guilt she would feel for quitting altogether, or to be able to keep it on her “resume” of activities to impress others.
Paula’s Scripture: And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25
Screechy Sheila– Sheila knows how this church ought to be run: her way. And if you step out of line – not with Scripture, but with her personal preferences and methods – she’ll let you know. Sometimes she’s loud and vehement. Sometimes she’s quiet and threatening. Sometimes she’s nicey-nice and just educates you on the “right” way to handle things. But you’d better get with the program – her program – or else. Sheila uses the church as a platform for being bossy and exercising control.
Sheila’s Scripture: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Cotton Candy– Forget the meat and potatoes of church – sound doctrine and theology, studying the Bible, serving others, and giving sacrificially – Candy is only there for the fluff. She’ll be there for every fellowship, day trip, and fun-filled women’s ministry event, but she wants her “sermons” chock-full of jokes and stories, and her “Bible” studies to be positive, encouraging, self-esteem builders. Candy uses the church as entertainment or to make herself feel good.
Candy’s Scripture: But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. 1 Corinthians 3:1-3a
Que Será Katie– Katie is a founding member of this church, doggone it, and she’s not going anywhere. Some Katies have been known to say to their less-favorite pastors, “I’ve been here for fifty years, and I’ll be here long after you’re gone.”. Others are more placid, unfazed by unbiblical pastors, faulty doctrine, or spiritually unhealthy practices in the church. They just go with the flow. There’s a lot to be said for a faithful church member who doesn’t cut and run at the least little problem and works hard to help the church become healthier. But that’s not why Katie sticks around. There are biblical reasons Katie should have left this church in the past, but her friends are here, her memories are here, she’s comfortable in these surroundings, and those things are more important to her than whether or not the church is operating biblically. So she stays, loving the church for sentimental reasons.
Katie’s Scripture: Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25b-27
Ulterior-Motive Ursula– Ursula has an agenda and the church seems like a convenient gathering of good-hearted people to use for reaching her goal. Maybe she needs volunteers for a community project. Or she’s trying to get out the vote for the candidate she’s campaigning for. Or she needs a client base for multi-level marketing. Or she’s trying to become the next American Idol and needs a pre-fab audience. Whatever the end game, coming to church where a crowd of people is already assembled is easier than staging a rally or phone-blitzing or setting up a free concert. Maybe Ursula is a faithful member of the church. Maybe she isn’t. But she’s using the church to further her own goals.
Ursula’s Scripture: And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” Matthew 21:12-13
The purpose of the local church is not to salve our emotional wounds, or to fill a void in our lives, or to further our own agenda. The purpose of the church is to focus our attention on Christ – how He gave His life for us, forgave us, and made us His disciples. It’s where we come together to praise Him, honor Him, worship Him, serve Him, serve our brothers and sisters, and get equipped in His Word. We’ve probably all been guilty of being Paula, Sheila, Candy, Katie, or Ursula at times. I know I have. But let’s strive to be the godly women at church – and everywhere else – Christ commands us to be.