The Awesome Church
Pastors often say Monday is the hardest day of the week. They feel tired and spent, sometimes beating themselves up over Sunday. However, if you examined the Facebook and Twitter statuses of some church leaders on Monday morning, you would get the opposite impression. Status updates regularly proclaim that the previous Sunday's service was "awesome," "special," and "amazing." The music was "off the charts," and the preacher "killed it . . . as usual."
Not that we expect anything else. In the days leading up to Sunday we read many promises over social media about how Sunday is going to be "awesome," "the best Sunday ever," "not to be missed."
Pulling the lens back even more, e-newsletters and annual reports of various churches confirm the awesomeness of their ministries and the huge influence God is giving them. There is a never a down week, month, year. Everything the church does is clearly blessed and a sign that God is with them.
Maybe all of what's being said is true. Perhaps many churches out there are indeed on the cusp of confirming the postmillennial view and will soon usher in the kingdom of God. Or perhaps many churches (myself included) have fallen prey to a culture that encourages us to constantly promote and market ourselves in grandiose ways.
Props to Jesus
In Matthew 23:5 Jesus talks about the temptation to do things in such a way to attract attention. This is an especially strong temptation today, given the boom of outlets for people to see and know about what we are doing. We are eager to let people know all we have done. Even more, we want to be sure we come across as successful, doing uniquely great things.
Of course, many of us church leaders are quick to say that all we've done is all for "God's glory" and that "the Lord gets the credit." However, if we're honest, we sometimes apply a light glaze of "props to Jesus" over what is in effect boasting about ourselves.
Promoting our churches is necessary if we want to grow and reach more people. But is there a way to bring less attention to ourselves and more glory to God? What if we deliberately don't tell people everything? What if we let some things happen without seeking a way to get credit? What would it look like to celebrate God's work through simple, direct, and honest thanksgiving? What if we gave annual reports that told not just all the good things from the past year but were honest also about the challenges, disappointments, even failures?
This approach certainly swims against the stream of an increasingly self-referential, self-promoting culture. But I think it has the ring of Christ to it. For we follow a Jesus who "had no form or majesty that we should look at him." His humble service has accomplished the kind of glorious salvation and redemption that needs no flashy status updates but only our regular, faithful, ordinary witness.