There is often a joke about a Starbucks being on every corner. Yet, it is a joke backed by some truth. Recently I found myself walking the streets of Seattle headed to a Starbucks for an afternoon of work. While waiting to cross the street, I noticed that two of the four corners had Starbucks on them. Funnier still, neither of these were the Starbucks that I wanted, that one was on the next block. Personally, I am not concerned about how many Starbucks stores there are or where they are located. I find it fascinating to think about something more. While there is a little bit of truth to the comment of a Starbucks on every corner, have you ever considered how many churches there are? As many Starbucks as there are in existence, there are far more churches.
Like Starbucks, where a person can customize their beverage to his or her own preferences, the church is now viewed in the same way. Churches have morphed into a market in which one can pick and choose personal preferences in regards to the style of music, the style of preaching, and even the style of theology. The multitude of churches points to a grand issue in world of Christianity (and I use that term in the broadest sense here). There is a vast array of views on the functions of church.
A Person-Driven Church
The division between churches is quite expansive. It seems that every person has an opinion about every aspect of church and this has lead to the diversity of churches available for a person’s choosing. Ultimately this tells us one thing. The church is being driven by people and their own personal preferences. Picking and choosing what they want to believe and how they want to believe it, people have sought out to create a church that is people-centered rather than Christ-centered.
Paul indicated to Timothy that “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). How indicative that statement is of the church today. The variety of churches available for a person’s choosing today is symptomatic of an unhealthy people who desires a feast on spiritual junk food instead of feasting on sustenance that sustains, not just physically but more importantly, spiritually.
The divisions created by personal motivations has caused a larger issue for the cause of Christ. The true church is unable to stand united and instead falls at the threat of false teaching. As Cyprian was well aware in the 3rd century, a divided church cannot stand. Only a church that is united remains unconquerable. The market-driven and person-centered church of today does a far greater disservice to the cause of Christ and the glory of God than it does to built it up. This is where we find ourselves today.
A Christ-Driven Church
It has often been said that the best churches are people-centered. It is true that the ministry we do is focused on people, it is never done apart from the glory of God. A church and its ministry are not defined by the demands of the people, but instead are defined by the commands of God. A church functioning according to God’s standards and commands is one that is Christ-driven. Christ is the head of the church (Colossians 1:18) and thus, the church should function according to the mind of Christ. The only true church is one that is submissive to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Just as individuals are called to submit to the Lordship of Christ, so to should the entire body. If it were not so, then Christ would not truly function as the head.
A submission to Christ’s lordship requires a submission to His Word. In fact, I would go far as to say that if the Bible is truly the authority by which a person and a church thrive, then there would be no division. Why? Because the church would be Christ-driven and not people-driven. Scripture is truth (John 17:17) and therefore there is a great need to hold fast to what we know to be true rather than what we want to be true.
A church founded upon the Son and the Scripture. That is what we must be. Only then can we get away from a church that honors man and instead establish a church that honors God, which must be our priority.