Tag Archives: Church

Object Lesson

The young woman was obviously distraught.  She approached me and asked how to get to the George Washington bridge.  She told me she was going to throw herself off.  I was pretty young and did not know what to do.  But we were standing right next to a very large, famous church in New York City.  It was a landmark.  “Let’s go in here and see if we can find someone to talk to,” I suggested.  But the stone-faced receptionist inside informed us that, “Unless she has an appointment, there is no way for her to see anyone.” I don’t remember what ultimately happened, but at the time I wanted to blow the place up.  How could they call themselves a church and have no time for someone who had lost all hope? Imagine an emergency care clinic where you needed advance reservations…

Jesus was frustrated with the Temple bureaucracy because they were not doing what they were set up by God to do: attract people to God and show them how to connect with Him.  Several places in the Bible, this failure is compared to a fig tree that does not produce figs. If fruit trees don’t produce fruit they become firewood.

Right after His confrontation with the Temple authorities (See: Buying God and Risk it All) Jesus acted out a living parable for His disciples:

” Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.” (Matthew 21:18-19

By the time fig trees show leaves they should also have early green figs. If not, they will not be productive.  Before anyone puts the word “Church” or a cross on a building, they also ought to be ready to lead people to a meaningful and satisfying connection with God.  That is what a church is for.  If a church was a fruit tree, connections with God are the fruit.  No fruit?   No church – no matter how high the steeple and how beautiful the stained glass.

How can a church, or any follower of Jesus, be assured of bearing fruit?  Jesus told us:

““I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains [lives] in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 – my parenthetical explanation)

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

What to Look For

If there is a puddle under a used car, don’t buy it.  Same thing with suspicious-looking paint jobs.  But how can you “kick the tires” on a church?  How can you tell if a church really represents Jesus in a true way?  You have heard horror stories about dysfunctional churches; how can you avoid the bad ones and find the good ones?  Here is one thing to look for:  How high and mighty is the pastor?  How closely does the pastor live by these words of Jesus?

“Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”” (Matthew 20:25-28)

Jesus not only commanded His followers to adopt the heart of a servant toward one another, He demonstrated this attitude by His own act of sacrifice.

If you notice a pastor who expects to be treated with special privilege, who struts about with an air of superiority, you can be pretty sure that church is in bad shape.  It may look all nice and shiny, but there is something essentially wrong at its core.  Pastors who know Jesus and follow him will show it by their humbleness and readiness to serve.  The same is true for the rest of the congregation, but it is easier to notice by observing the pastor.

Sadly, this one test is one many, many churches would fail.  But, when you shop for used cars, most of those should be avoided, too.  Not every church is a place Jesus attends.  Don’t overlook this telltale sign.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.