+27 (11) 867 3505 church@bbcmail.co.za

I recently came across a rather clever, if humorous, meme on one of my social media channels in which two people—presumably church members—were engaged in conversation. The first said, “I didn’t get much out of church today.” The second replied, “That’s okay: We weren’t worshipping you.”

The meme highlights the growing trend within contemporary Christianity to consumerism. We expect to get something out of church and if our felt needs are not met we will quickly resign membership and move on to the next thing. The church becomes simply another human organisation, perhaps different in style to any other social club, but no different in substance.

Paul opens his first letter to the Thessalonians by pointing his readers away from such folly. He and his colleagues greet “the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:1). There is a resounding Godwardness to this greeting. A church that is not in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ is a dead church. God calls his people out of the world to worship and glorify him and then commissions them to take the gospel back into the world out of which he called them. God calls us, not we him, and therefore we must recognise that the church exists for God, not God for the church.

We always face the danger of making the church about us rather than about God. When we do, it is easy to become disillusioned because you quickly discover that not everyone in the church is as committed to you as you are to yourself. We need to course correct and return to a thoroughly God-centred (rather than man-centred) vision of the church. If we do, it will result in at least three things.

First, a God-centred understanding of church will help us to think less about what worship does for us and more about what we do in worship to glorify, praise, and honour God. When we approach church with a God-centred view, thereby diverting our energies to worshipping him, it will help us to be less offended when things don’t go our way and our felt needs are not met. Paradoxically, God-centred worship will minister to our deepest need, which is fellowship with our Creator through his Son, Jesus Christ. But we must approach church with a God-centred, rather than me-centred, view.

Second, a God-centred understanding of church will help us to realise that church ministry is less about having our needs met and more about finding opportunities, as disciples of Jesus Christ, to reach out to others. We will be more willing to serve others because we will realise that, in so doing, we serve God. We will find ourselves more willing to say yes when asked to serve because we will be less inclined to think about how we will benefit from worship.

Third, a God-centred understanding of church will help us to see the need to gather more as an opportunity to show our allegiance to Christ and less as an inconvenient intrusion into our lives. We will not find ourselves irritated that the service is running a little later than anticipated because we need to get home and finish preparing lunch. We will not find ourselves quickly blowing off the gathering of the saints for other, less significant, commitments. We will find ourselves longing for and prioritising the gathering of God’s people as a means to show our ultimate allegiance to Christ.

As we prioritise the church in a God-centred way, it will help us to view all of life through a God-centred lens. We will learn to gauge our ethics and law and morality from a God-centred, rather than a man-centred, perspective, which will enable us to better live all of life for the glory of “God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

As you meditate on 1 Thessalonians 1:1 this morning, ask God for the grace you need to shift your church focus from self to God so that your worship and ministry are more reflective of the gospel.