We do not come to Christ on our own terms; we come to Him, recognizing that we are sinners in need of a Savior. And, ideally, we don’t participate in the local church on our own terms – certainly, we can select areas of teaching and ministries, but by affiliating with a local church, we recognize that we cannot demand that 100% of all that transpires will be to our liking – and that of everyone else.
Now, there are other elements of accessing truth that you could consider “on demand” – you can choose to listen to Faith Radio or access our content online. There are other content providers, including Bible teachers, who have online content available, and we should make those choices in order to grow in Christ, not necessarily what makes us feel good about ourselves.
There is some interesting data that has just been released that does give some insight into attitudes about the practices of the local church. It seems that the “lede” that I had been seeing has something to do with shorter sermons – however, as The Christian Post reports:
Fewer than 10% of Evangelical Protestants want to have shorter sermons during worship, while nearly a third want more in-depth teaching, according to recently released survey data.
The article notes that Grey Matter Research and Infinity Concepts had teamed up and unveiled the findings of a report called: “The Congregational Scorecard: What Evangelicals Want in a Church.”
According to the report, “only 7% of respondents want sermons to be shorter, while 85% believe the sermon lengths are acceptable as they are. About 8% percent said they wanted sermons to be longer.” The Post article also notes, “These trends were fairly consistent across generations…”
The article quotes Mark Dreistadt, CEO of Infinity Concepts, who stated, “The most surprising insight was that 30% of evangelicals want more in-depth teaching than their church is currently providing…,” adding, “This demonstrates an opportunity for pastors to go deeper into the Word of God. This is good news at a time in our culture when biblical literacy is so low — there appears to be a desire among Evangelicals to deepen their understanding of biblical truth.”
There has been much analysis of the relationship between faith and politics, and this survey actually shows that a majority of those surveyed did not mind political content in sermons; the article says that the “report also found that around two-thirds of respondents liked the political messages or political involvement of their churches, while 22% wanted less political involvement from their churches.”
The survey apparently covered a laundry list of topics; including how much music and the type of music; also, according to the article, “Respondents were asked for their thoughts on their churches’ focus on evangelism, social issues, outreach, overall service length, congregation size, racial diversity, how often donations are requested and the number of women in leadership.” On average, around 3/4 of people were “content” in these areas.
We cannot go to a kiosk somewhere and order up the church that completely fits our liking – but that’s not the point. Our decision to affiliate and participate in the local church means that we have chosen to serve the Lord together with a group of people who love God and are committed to drawing closer to Him, serving one another and serving the community. If we have prayerfully considered where to attend church, then we can be convinced of God’s call to fulfill His purpose in and through that congregation.
It may not be perfect, but we don’t do ourselves or the church any favors if we develop a cynical attitude or a hyper-critical point of view. If we find ourselves becoming divisive or frustrated, then perhaps the problem is not with the church. And, to adopt a “grass is greener” attitude and think things might be better somewhere else, you might just find that another church won’t meet your expectations, either.
While the local church may not be perfect, it is the instrument that God uses to exalt His name. Our ambition should be to find our place in the body of Christ and identify where God wants to use us. The work of the local church is made more effective through the obedience of the various members – I have said that Faith Radio, as a support to the local church, is devoted to helping believers grow in their walk with the Lord, which makes for stronger churches. As part of the body, we are directed to use our gifts for His glory through His Church.
Finally, we should pray and support our pastors and church leaders and make sure that we possess a humble and obedient attitude. And, we can pray for one another, that God would have His way in all our lives.