In our American culture we are obsessed with size and outward success. This has infiltrated the church and encouraged pastors to use any means necessary to pursue numerical growth for the church. In many ways this is a good thing – more people getting connected to the body of Christ is always positive. Unfortunately, the means that we have used for many years for this growth has caused more people to attend but less people to be disciples. I would even argue that the American way of doing church has given people a false hope of salvation for they have trusted in a false Jesus.
Before you leave an angry comment, let me explain.
This past Sunday I had the honor of teaching through the miraculous healing of a man who had been unable to walk since he was born – over four decades. His livelihood consisted of being carried to the temple each day so that he could beg for money from those coming to worship. On a seemingly ordinary day, he encounters two leaders in the early church – Peter and John.
These men have likely seen this beggar numerous times – the text says he was at the temple daily asking for alms. According to Acts 3:3, when he saw Peter and John about to enter the temple, he asked for money. This is how Peter responds to this man’s request, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!”
Peter offered the man what he needed – not what he wanted.
If we could sit down with this beggar in the first century and ask him what his greatest need on that day was, he would have said it was money. He needed money to purchase food, he needed money to pay rent, and he needed money to simply survive.
What if Peter and John simply gave this man what he wanted? What if they did a fundraiser or a GoFundMe page to raise money for the poor beggar outside of the temple? It would have been a great marketing move; displaying to the Jewish world the generosity of Jesus’ followers. It would have made the poor beggar happy – his monetary needs would have been met and he could have taken a vacation from begging outside of the temple.
But here’s the thing.
If Peter and John offered this man what he wanted, they would have missed out on the wonder-working power of God.
Might I suggest to you that our churches settle far too often for giving people what they want instead of what they need. Here’s what I mean – Most contemporary and outward-focused churches (like Renovation Church) utilize the pulpit to declare self-help messages on parenting skills, marriage tips, financial advice, as well as many other “felt need” topics. The messages generally take the pastor’s ideas or creativity as the starting point and then sprinkle in some Scripture to Christianize it – usually with a vague altar call at the end of the message.
These topics are important but they are secondary to our mission as the Church. The greatest gift we can offer the world is not corny motivational talks but Gospel-centered and expository (i.e. verse-by-verse) preaching of the Bible. If we want to see people truly transformed by the radical message of the Gospel, it begins by introducing people to the richness found in the Scriptures. Life transformation isn’t the result of a 3-week motivational talk on finances and tithing; it’s the result of the Holy Spirit working new birth through the clear exposition and proclamation of God’s Word.
On theologian said it this way, “I don’t go to church to have my needs met, I go to church to figure out what my needs are.”
Pastors, leaders, and church members – quit giving the culture what they want and instead offer them what they need. In the name of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and through the faithful exposition of God’s Word – give them Jesus in all of his beauty, glory, and majesty.