The Mechanistic Church

When church members do not feel as though the church is “working” for them, they grow discontent.

When pastors or elders grow discontent in waiting on the Lord to bless His appointed means of grace, they can slide into mechanistic ministry mode–trusting in programs or external accommodations to do the work of ministry for them. This is one of the most difficult issues to expose, since those who begin to do these things are usually not aware that they have begun to do so. It is a subtle and deceitfully sinful mode of operation.

 

Many wrongly view the local church as a social society that exists to meet their needs or desires. On the contrary, the church exists to bring glory to God, to spread and defend the Gospel, to build up and equip the saints unto mutual edification in love and to carry out the good works for which Christ has redeemed a people (Eph. 2:10; 4:11-16). To this end, the Christian life and Christian ministry requires personal commitment, sacrifice and diligence. There is always a real danger that believers will grow weary in well doing (Gal. 6:9). When church members cease “giving all diligence” to living out the Christian life (2 Peter 1:5-7), they sometimes start looking for the local church to live the Christian life for them. They adopt a mechanistic view of the role of the church in their lives. When they do not feel as though the church is “working” for them, they grow discontent. Discontentment then often fosters and fuels division. Likewise, when pastors or elders grow discontent in waiting on the Lord to bless His appointed means of grace, they can slide into mechanistic ministry mode–trusting in programs or external accommodations to do the work of ministry for them. This is one of the most difficult issues to expose, since those who begin to do these things are usually not aware that they have begun to do so. It is a subtle and deceitfully sinful mode of operation.

To be sure, we should all have the deepest love for the local church, because the local church is God’s sphere of special, redemptive blessings (Eph. 3:10). We should long to see believers give the better part of their lives to the growth, provision and nourishment of the local church. That being said, God never meant for the church–in its organization, leadership and structure–to live the Christian life for its members. Likewise, God never intended for programs and ministry accommodations to do the work of ministry for its leadership.

Burk Parsons has made the important observation that often “the local church programs its people with so many activities that people have no time left to spend with their families and friends to enjoy life together and rest together—let alone take care of widows and orphans.” It is also sadly the case that the local church has programmed its people with so many activities that many of the congregants have convinced themselves that they are serving the Lord, when in fact they are merely living as ecclesiastical consumers. Whether it is singing in the choir, volunteering in a church food bank, participating in a home fellowship group or serving on a ministry team, individuals can convince themselves that they are living a faithful Christian life because they are participating in one of these or similar programs. It is altogether possible to be involved in activities in a local church without “making every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love” (2 Peter 1:5-7).

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