I recently saw a video of a man standing on the street with a sign asking for help. It said that he was hurting and discouraged and could use someone to talk to. Nobody stopped. Then he turned the sign around, and it said "free money" with cash taped all to the poster. Within seconds, a mob had formed, and under a minute, the money was gone. Isn't that the way it goes: people are more interested in being given something than giving something. Well...can we possibly bring that same attitude towards the church? If I view the church as an institution rather than the people, I will likely view it as an organization to serve me. That's not the church. The church is the people, and we come together not to be served, but rather to be equipped to go out and serve.
Hey everybody, and welcome back to the Set Your Mind Above Podcast! I’m your host BJ Sipe – I’m a Christian, a preacher, a husband, and a father. In this podcast we take everyday, ordinary events and explore how they can teach us extraordinary, eternal truths. I’m so glad that you joined me for this episode. Now, let’s open up our minds, our hearts, and our Bible’s together.
I’ve just come to accept that these podcasts are sometimes not going to drop when I hope for them too, and I’m guessing by now that you have come to understand the same thing. Tuesday was a 17-hour workday for me, and then yesterday our youngest had two follow up appointments in Lexington after her oral surgery last week followed up by Bible study at 7, so…the podcast is dropping today instead. Thanks for your patience and understanding. One of these days I’ll have a boring, predictable, consistent schedule and I’ll miss these crazy times. Anyhow, let’s proceed with today’s lesson.
As I had already said, my workday Tuesday started at 5:30 am and ended around 10:30 pm. After finally jumping off my last engagement for the day, I laid my head down on my pillow and just checked out for an hour before getting some rest. I think we had either Frasier or Perry Mason on in the background, but I really wasn’t paying that much of attention. I was just catching up on messages and playing with Finley, our 2-month-old, on the bed. As I was catching up on messages on social media, a video a friend of mine had shared caught my attention. It was a man holding a big poster board sign in the middle of a busy sidewalk somewhere in New York City it looked like. The sign read something to the effect of, “I am really depressed and have a lot going on. I could use someone to talk to.” A very brave and vulnerable thing for this young man to proclaim publicly to everyone around him. As I watched the video, one minute went by, then two minutes, and so on of people reading his sign…and then just walking on by. No one stopped. No one asked if he was okay. No one offered to sit down and talk with him. Then the video took a sudden turn. He flipped his sign around, with big bold letters declaring “FREE MONEY” with $20 & $10 bills taped all over the posterboard for the public to view. As soon as he did this, within 10 seconds a small mob had formed around him, with dozens of hands clamoring to get their hands on as much cash as they could grab. In less than a minute, all the money was gone. So, he turned his sign back around, showed it to the crowd, and watched them all walk away. They only had interest in being given something by him, but had absolutely no interest in giving him something that he needed which was much more important than money – he needed love, and he needed a friend. The entire experiment turned out to be a very sad commentary on our culture as a whole. Granted, there are of course exceptions to this rule, but by and large in our Western culture people are not interested in serving others, only in serving themselves. It’s about what they can get, not what they can give. I actually saw a quote the other day that summarized what is wrong with our present culture in this one sentence. It claimed, “Putting yourself first above everyone else is not selfish, it’s self-full. Never let anyone guilt you for putting yourself first.” Well, there you have it folks, twisting things to our own destruction at it’s finest.
I am sure that all of us have witnessed the selfishness in the culture that we are surrounded by in varying ways. In part, all I can say is that it the result of the broken world that we live in, and it’s part of why Jesus came to teach us how to be selfless. But I also have this to say today as I thought about this social experiment, and that is how frequently this very same attitude has snuck into how people view the church. Allow me to explain, but before we begin, let’s begin by defining some terms. For starters, we need to clarify what the church is and what the church is not. The church is NOT a building, not a social organization, and certainly not a man-made institution. Again, in our culture, even among believers when they speak about the church they are often referring to one of these things. So, what is the church? Maybe a better question would be “who” is the church? Well, it’s those who have obeyed the gospel and are placed into the body of Christ. In short, the church is the people of God. Speaking of Christ, Colossians 1:18 says, “And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” Christ is the head of his church, which is referred to as his body. Okay, but what does that mean? What is his body? This is explained to us in many places, but let’s reference 1 Corinthians 12:24-27 for now. It reads, “But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” As baptized believers who have responded in faith to the grace offered to us freely in Christ Jesus, we are the church! This is a very important distinction for many reasons, but one of the most important reasons comes in how we view the church. This brings us back to our conversation about selfishness and service. Let me ask you this question: why do you attend the church that you do? I have asked this question of many individuals, and let me be honest, often the answers that I get back are very discouraging. I will often get answers like, “I just love my church. They have free day care, free food, the music is incredible – it’s very much my style. The pastor is funny and makes me feel good, etc.” Do you see a trend in these answers? All of these have to do with ways that they are personally served, and that’s why they love “their church”. The church is viewed as an institution to serve me, and my friends that is not at all what Jesus died to establish and create. We don’t go to church, we ARE the church! And as such, I do not go to assembly in order to be served, but rather I have been called as the church in Christ Jesus to go and be a servant! Do you see the drastic difference here? Rather than coming to the assembly because I want to be given something, I come to the assembly to be equipped to go out & to give something. Consider Hebrews 10:23-25, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” When we come together, we are to motivate and stir each other up to love and good works. The church is the people, and when we come together it’s to not only worship God, but to equip each other to go out and be servants ourselves just as Christ was a servant. Knowing this, you need to ask yourself, have I had the wrong attitude towards the Lord’s church? Am I worshipping where I am simply because I saw the big “free” sign, but have no interest in personally serving & helping others? May God make us servants, as his church & his people, to go out into the world and show them Jesus by the way that we give & love just as he did on this earth.
Thank you for tuning in for this week’s episode, and I would invite you back every Wednesday for a brand-new episode each week. If you haven’t already, be sure to find us on Facebook for occasional announcements and special video sessions. If you have benefited from this podcast, please if you’re able to be sure to share it with someone else that you think could benefit from it as well. Until next time, know that I love you, that God loves you, and may we all each & every day set our minds above.