Welcome to iChurch!
By Larry d. Wright
Our culture has an insatiable appetite for personal choices and as a result many have fallen victim to the “Have it your way!” philosophy of life. Because of the iPod and iTunes revolution, very few people buy a whole CD any more because now you have instant access to millions of songs that can be downloaded to make an individual personalized playlist. Unfortunately this attitude has invaded and infected the church in America.
Welcome to iChurch!
iChurch is an internally focused church. It is driven to provide religious consumers with as many individualized choices as possible. Now, at many churches, you can choose the worship setting that fits your personal taste: traditional, contemporary, country, Celtic or gothic. Simultaneously, Grandma can sing her cherished hymns; Boomer mom and dad can enjoy coffee and bagels in the worship café while the teens lose their hearing in a Rock venue.
In consumer Christianity, the pastor becomes a “spiritual barista”, passing out sacred goods for people to choose from based on their preferences. In an internally focused church, there is little emphasis on whether people are growing deeper in faith and following Jesus in The Way. The focus is upon, “Are they satisfied?”
Every statistic tells us that instead of growing in influence, the internally focused church in America today is becoming less and less influential. Church attendance in the U.S. has dropped steadily while the population has grown. Most churches that boast of significant growth actually benefit from transfer growth, mainly, people leaving small churches to go to bigger churches.
According to Jesus, His church is to be externally focused! The role of the Church is to do so much good in the community that the world outside the four walls of the church building would not know what they would do without us! The Lord promised to bless the externally focused church in three tangible ways:
HONOR. In Revelation 3:12a He promised, “I will make a pillar in the temple of my God.” In the city of Philadelphia they honored their hero’s by engraving their names on the pillars of pagan temples, so that everyone who came to worship would see and remember them. Jesus promised that if we would be external in our focus then He would place our names on the pillars of a temple that will last forever.
SECURITY. In Revelation 3:12b He promised, “Never again will he leave it.” The city of Philadelphia was built on the edge of a volcano and so they were in constant danger of earthquakes. Whenever a quake would strike, they would flee the city for safety only to return the next day. Jesus knew their fear so He promised, “If you will remain faithful to me, you will enter the City of God and never have to leave it!” He promised that the externally focused church would not have to worry about their survival. He will be their security and unshakable foundation. The only reason a church has to fear is when they become internally focused.
IDENTITY. In Revelation 3:12c Jesus promised. “I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem.” In A.D. 17, an earthquake actually leveled the city of Philadelphia. The Emperor Tiberias extended kindness by canceling their taxes so they could rebuild. Out of gratitude they re-named themselves, “Neo-Caesarea” which meant “the new city of Caesar”. Jesus used this local knowledge to say, “If you will be my representative in the world and serve your world in my name, I will re-name you too! I’ll give you the name of My God!”
What could be a greater honor than that?