From Chaplain Michael Polite
For many North-American Christians, church is something we judge kind of like we judge commercials—it is more the entertainment value, rather than the content, that attracts us. More and more church goers are becoming okay with not having intimate knowledge of what is seen; instead, the viewer is content with having a surface knowledge as long as an internal good feeling comes from the experience. In his 2012 release Not a Fan: Teen Edition, Kyle Idleman addresses this emerging trend of providing surface knowledge without necessarily having to provide intimate knowledge. “The problem isn’t knowledge. The problem is that you can have knowledge without having intimacy . . . Clearly where there is intimacy there should be a growing knowledge, but too often there is knowledge without a growing intimacy.” In laymen’s terms, our society has become increasingly content with having knowledge that provides certain emotions, but it has discarded a need for building true intimacy, which leads to genuine understanding.
In his book I Am a Church Member, Thom Rainer compares this commercialized view of church with the country club mentality: “[Country Club] membership means perks. [Country Club] membership means privileges. [Country Club] membership means others will serve me. . . And, tragically, this understanding of membership is what many church members hold.” Wow! With this mentality leading so many attendees, how can people expect to find God in their church if the motivating factor of attendance is self-serving? If church is degraded to a blip on the screen of our week, where we are entertained into a placebo high, how can this surface, short-lived moment yield intimacy with an eternal God?
I believe millions of people hate church because they were never taught to function correctly in one. What would happen if members started experiencing church with a servant mindset? Wouldn’t it be refreshing to join a community of faith that can be described like this? “And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need . . . and shared their meals with great joy and generosity.” (Acts 2:44, 45, 46 NLT) Don’t you think we would easily experience God in a community like this?
Finding God in church has never been about what a church can provide a member; it has always been about what a member can provide a church. Being a part of a community of faith can be exhilarating, adventurous, fulfilling, and transformational when members move from seeking a commercially pleasing product to joining a sacrificially committed community. God lives in these type of communities! And so I pray each week that Andrews University would be one of these communities. A place where faculty, staff, and students aren’t content with going to church but are instead daily answering a call to be the church.