« Back

I Will Avoid the Traps of Churchianity

Posted on October 28, 2018

I Will Avoid the Traps of Churchianity

Scripture Reading

Luke 10:25-37

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” 29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Introduction: She was one of the most admired women in the world-Mother Teresa, that angelic woman who devoted her life to the least of the least in the slums of Calcutta, India. She denounced her wealth and followed God’s leading in helping the lepers and the down and out in the inner city. The world's greatest leaders wanted to meet her and to experience her love and her moral authority. And actually, she was just a diminutive woman who made such a difference in the world. Some years ago, a young man wrote a letter to Mother Teresa, asking her how he could make his life count as she had with hers. He waited six months for a reply from this very busy lady. Stay tuned to the end of the sermon for the rest of the story.

Purpose: Every believer must see the church as a place to serve, to sacrifice and to share the community we enjoy with those outside the church.

  • Today we will talk about avoiding Churchianity. What is churchianity?

Definition of Churchianity – Practicing our church and religious beliefs according to human standards rather than biblical guidelines – Thom Rainer in his book “I Will”

Transition: Serve, Sacrifice and Share. How are you doing with these three priorities that should be a part of our lives? Let’s look in detail here of the dangers of a church that is fixated on Churchianity.

Signs of an Inward-Looking Church

  • The church is a spectator sport

Illustration: Monday morning quarterbacking / second guessing the coaches

“Football is 22 people on the field who need rest and 22,000 people in the stands who need exercise” – Grantland Rice

  • Some attend but don’t actively participate
  • Some put money in the offering plate to have others take care of doing evangelism or other things in the church
  • Some say they have done their time and they have the T-Shirt to prove it
  • The Bible teaches that in small and big ways, we need to contribute through prayer, through serving, through our finances, through phone calls.
  • It is too easy to sit back and critique others. As members of the church family, I ask you to be a part of the solution when you see issues that need to be addressed
  • The church is about me
    • What are the symptoms that the church is all about me
      • § I told the pastor what I wanted him to preach; he just doesn’t listen to me
      • § I don’t like the temperature in the sanctuary
      • § Someone is in my seat / pew
      • § The Pastor did not visit my sister’s mother-in-law in the hospital, even though I told him to
      • § The Pastor visited me in the hospital and I didn’t want anyone to know I was here. (Even though the chaplain’s office called to let us know that a member of our church was there!!)
      • § The church voted to paint the sanctuary a hideous color. I am angry, I just might stop giving.
      • § You get the picture
      • § Biblical church life is about serving, sacrificing and sharing with others in the church family and in the community.
      • § Churchianity is about being served, receiving, getting what we want, and insisting on our needs and wants before others.
      • The church is about dwelling on its flaws

Illustration: Church life is like marriage

  • You get saved and get involved and then you start complaining first a little about things you see that aren’t always right
  • Marriage – you get married “for better or worse” commitment.
    • The honeymoon
    • Everything is wonderful
    • Then, you start to notice little flaws, little things that annoy you
    • At that point there is a choice to make
      • Focus on the good points of your spouse and remind yourself often why you married her
      • Focus on the flaws and nag your spouse about his / her shortcomings and it could lead to separation / even divorce.
      • What is the better choice?
      • What is the better choice as you look at our church? Focus on the negatives or work to improve them and focus on the positive things we have here at church.
        • Start praying more and stop complaining
        • Know that no one in the church is perfect but neither are we.
        • We should never act surprised when we find imperfections in the churches where we are members
          • Look at the stories of the churches in the NT
          • Look at the church at Corinth
            • Church members had cliques and had formed personality cults

I Corinthians 1:10 - 17

10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

  • There was significant carnal behavior

I Corinthians 3: 1- 4

But I, brother, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

  • The church members and leaders did not deal with sexual immorality and sexual perversion in the church – I Corinthians 5
  • There was a significant level of worldliness and materialism
  • Church members were taking one another to court – I Corinthians 6
  • There was rebellion against apostolic authority – I Corinthians 9
  • They were offering meat to idols and in some cases getting swept up into idolatry – I Corinthians 10
  • The church did not discipline church members who had fallen into sin – I Corinthians 5
  • There was a misunderstanding of spiritual gifts – I Corinthians 12 & 14

I Corinthians 12:1 – 5

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols; however, you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.

  • There were abuses of the Lord’s Supper – I Corinthians 11
  • There were abuses of liberty – I Corinthians 8
  • The church was dealing with heresies concerning the resurrection of Christ – I Corinthians 15
  • You thought our church had problems!!!
  • That was one messed up church but Paul loved it, admonished them and poured into the churches he established.  

I Thessalonians 2:6 – 8

6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

  • Despite their immaturity, their flaws, and all their problems, Paul had this attitude that we should have

I Corinthians 6:9-11

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

  • The Gospel is the story of what did Christ for us through the blood of Jesus Christ
  • John 3:16
  • We should respond out of grace and gratitude
  • That is biblical Christianity
  • But human Churchianity leads us to complain about the Pastor, the leaders, the music, etc.
  • Those are symptoms of churchianity and not biblical church membership
    • Our church is not perfect
    • The pastor and the leaders are not perfect
    • All of us saved or lost have a terrible problem that we struggle to control that is like a cancer in each one of us called sin
    • We have a choice: We can focus on the flaws and the shortcomings and dwell on them and practice churchianity or we can practice biblical church membership and extend grace to one another
    • After all, without the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ working in our lives, we would have not hope for ourselves!!

“I’m so thankful for Bryan Stevenson’s humble reminder in Just Mercy that “each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. … If someone tells a lie, that person is not just a liar. If you take something that doesn’t belong to you, you are not just a thief. Even if you kill someone, you’re not just a killer.” By God’s grace, these same people can learn to tell the truth, to work so they do not lack, and to love instead of hate. We all need compassion and mercy. Our fallenness is a humble reminder of the power of God’s grace, and that is our greatest hope. - Weary in the Wilderness? - Natasha Sistrunk Robinson

  • The church is cliquish among its members
    • Types of cliques
      • Informal Group – people who feel since they have been here a long time it is their church and it needs to be run a certain way
        • It hard for newer people to fit in with the group and be accepted
      • § Formal Group such as elders / church leaders. If the leadership or parts of it become Pharisaical or thinks they are above the people this becomes a problem and they are practicing churchianity.


  • The church is reluctant to try new things.
    • The mantra for this type of church is that we have never done it this way before.
    • Those are famous last words for a church if they adapt that philosophy
      • § Give me a match and let’s see if the gas tank is full
      • § I don’t hear a train, let’s go for it.
      • § Why do we need to change?
        • Sears / Younkers
  • We have to have permission from the church family for the leadership to try things and see if they work or fail. As long as it doesn’t violate scripture, it is ok.
  • If they fail, you move on and try something else but nothing ventured, nothing gained.
  • I am thankful the church has been willing for the leadership to this point to try many, many new things.

Transition: Signs that a church is behind the times and cannot connect with the community around the church.

Signs of an Irrelevant Church

  • The church speaks too much Christian “eze”
    • We must, must guard against speaking in deep theological terms with one another without explaining the meaning of what the words and phrases are.
    • I have given you statistics in the past to show how Biblically illiterate the upcoming generations are and even among born again Christians
    • Terms like regeneration, sanctification, propitiation, hypostatic union of Christ, Calvinism, Arminianism. The Trinity, etc.

Illustration: One of my homiletics professors, Dr. Sterling said, you have to speak in a way that gets the cookies down to the bottom shelf. What good are cookies if you cannot reach them.

  • As you speak in conversation or teach, the person must define the terms or better yet, use common terms that convey the same meaning as a deeper theological term
  • Speak to the hard issues and don’t sugar coat or gloss over them
    • The Summer of Unpreached Sermon Topics
    • Uncomfortable Conversations
    • The church does not think like a guest

We only have one time for first impressions

#1 Parking lot and exterior of the building

#2 The Greeters and the greeting

#3 Giving of directions and info for the church

#4 Kids place

#5 Friendliness of the people before and after the service

#6 The worship experience – music / message / flow of the service

#7 The lobby experience after the service with people interacting

#8 The discussion on the way home to determine to come back or not.

  • The church has as its dominant view of culture as negative

I Peter 2:12

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

  • When you are outside the church and working with people who are not Christ followers let your conduct be honorable and Christ like before them
  • When they speak or attempt to speak negatively of you and reject you as an evil doer
  • They will respect you and see you are a consistent follower of Christ as a testimony before them.
  • When I worked a secular job, I worked around a lot of non-believers. They cursed and they told about their sexual escapades and told their drinking stories but if I said something wrong, out of anger or did something wrong, they would call me out on it because they knew I was a Christian and they could spot my sin, my hypocrisy even though they were not Christ followers.
  • Instead of cursing the darkness, let’s you and I  be the light. Instead of being know for what you are against, be known for what you are for
  • This is a big problem in our media. The way Christians are stereotyped as what they are against.
    • Be pro life
    • Be for traditional marriage
    • Be for justice and taking care of inequality
    • Treat all people of all colors and religions with dignity and respect
    • On and on we could go.


Philippians 2:14 – 18

14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

  • The church views the past as the hero
    • If we only went back to ……..
    • I remember when …………
    • The good ole’ days. As one member shared with me recently about the church some of those days weren’t as good as many remember them
    • Learn from the past, from time to time honor those who pioneered and blazed the trail that brings us to where we are today.
    • But move along and focus on the culture, the community, the people around you today.

Philippians 3:13b - 14

Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

  • The church is disconnected from the community

Illustration: The Dedicated Few Christian Church on 7th Avenue in Rock Island has closed. Why. Because their attitude was us four and no more. They chose not to reach out beyond their walls, to not change, but rather to enjoy the fellowship of a dedicated few and not make disciples who make disciples.

Between 6,000 and 10,000 churches in the U.S. are dying each year. That means around 100-200 churches will close this week. The pace will accelerate unless our congregations make some dramatic changes. - Thom Rainer

  • We must reflect our community in the
    • Style of music. We want people to come in to the church and hear similar the style they listen to on their ITunes, Pandora, radio, etc.
    • We must talk in a way that is down to earth, every day, understandable language.
    • Our building needs to be up to date and reflect the type of institutional buildings you would go into in our community.
    • We must be diverse in the types of people we have because that reflects the culture around us.

Transition: That is some bad news isn’t it. But now, what is the process to overcome and avoid these pitfalls. Well the elders are charged with leading the path into new ways. Here are some suggestions to overcome churchianity here at PVBC.

The Application: Overcoming Churchianity

  • Stickwith the vision – Connect – Grow – Serve
    • KISS – Keep it Simple Stupid.
    • When a church asked us to merge with them, one of our elders pointed out that it does not fit with our vision statement
    • When someone suggests starting a new ministry, we reflect long and hard on the vision statement
    • When some ministry is not doing well, we evaluate it against the vision statement.
    • That is our mark of excellence and how we evaluate things around here.
    • Stayintentionally missional
      • Refer back to Luke 10 – The Good Samaritan
      • The religious are zealous to keep the law and be self-righteous
      • They are not others focused
      • This lawyer wanted eternal life and find out how to earn it for himself.
      • The priest and Levite in the story passed over to get away from the scene. They did not want to be involved.
      • But the hated Samaritan proved to be the one who crossed racial and prejudicial lines to help a fellow human being in need
        • He had compassion
        • It costs him his time and money
        • He gave out of genuine love and to restore the dignity and respect of this Jewish man
        • He had no skin in the game. He would not benefit in any way from this
        • He truly is the kind of neighbor we need to be as we enter this Thanksgiving / Christmas season.
        • We need to be “neighborly” this holiday season
          • Letters and postcards to new move-ins
          • Invitations for all of us to pass out the upcoming Christmas season beginning November 25th – December 30th. We have a great Thanksgiving focus on November 18th and a great Christmas season in store with drama special music culminating in a walk-through scripture and music on Christmas Eve.
          • People are more open this time of year because so many know so little of the Christmas story they are curious. Our culture pauses for little else. On December 24th and 25th, the Western world comes as close to stopping as any other time of the year.  
          • 82% of people are willing to come to church if a trusted friend invited them but only 2% of Christians invite a friend to church.


  • See beyond the walls of the church
    • Get involved in the community
      • Short term
        • Serve Sunday
        • Salvation Army
        • Hope at the Brick House
        • BSF / CBS
        • Local opportunities secular and sacred to volunteer for
      • Long term
        • Ongoing volunteering – John Deere Classic / Tutoring at Hope at the Brick House, etc.
        • Superfaith
          • Get excited about our church
          • Wear your PVBC shirts proudly
          • Tell others about our church
          • Show emotion in the service. Our Connect Group icebreaker / Valentine Dinner
          • Pray and expect God to do great things as you go out intentionally to reach others.

Key Thought: Live like no one else so that you can give like no one else?

Illustration: He waited six months for a reply from this very busy lady. When it came, it was just a postcard with just four words on it-four very powerful words-"Find your own Calcutta."  Who will you influence this Thanksgiving /Christmas season in your family, in your places you have coffee, in your workplace, your friends and classmates at school. Who will you give to in order to bring them to the place of hearing the Gospel and giving them an opportunity to respond? Who will you start praying for today to invite to our Christmas services, to the Thanksgiving Feast?

Questions to Ponder this Week

  1. What commitments can I make to not practice churchianity?
  2. What frightens me most about change at our church and in my life?
  3. What can I do personally to connect with our community?

 “If we're going to impact our world in the name of Jesus, it will be because people like you and me took action in the power of the Spirit. Ever since the mission and ministry of Jesus, God has never stopped calling for a movement of "Little Jesuses" to follow him into the world and unleash the remarkable redemptive genius that lies in the very message we carry. Given the situation of the Church in the West, much will now depend on whether we are willing to break out of a stifling herd instinct and find God again in the context of the advancing kingdom of God.”

― Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church

Let’s Pray

“If you want to help people we have to dive into people wade into the sea of humanity.” ― Hugh Halter & Matt Smay

 “God makes his gospel attractive through people…that is the point of the gospel; it is trans-formative in nature.” ― Gary Rohrmayer – Executive Minister for Converge