In my last sermon I preached on the first beattitude, Matt 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” As a point of application, I pondered what it might look like for Redeemer as a church to be poor in Spirit. We would not be proud of ourselves because we believe that we preach grace and every other church doesn’t. We would not be proud of ourselves because we believe in discipling kids, not entertaining. When our bible studies lead us to compare ourselves with the world, instead of loving the world, or think about sin generally instead of particularly, we’re not spiritually broke.
But the question then remains, should someone not take some pride in what his/her church does when their church preaches the gospel and many others in the area don’t? Or if not “pride,” how should we think of churches who are faithful to what they feel God calling them to do? Is there place a for confidence and critique of other churches?
Of course there is a place for critique, provided critique is not ALL you do. But 99% of your critiques of other churches will accomplish nothing, and sometimes that may be a good thing. Here are some thoughts which can inspire a God-centered confidence and joy without looking down on other churches who do things differently, or even at times, perhaps glaringly unfaithfully.
1.) Boast in the Lord (II Cor 10:17). We don’t boast in our philosophy of ministry, our theology, our ______, but only in the Lord. He has saved, delivered, and directed us to where we need to be. The church as a whole boasts in the Lord for what He’s done for them, and how He’s allowed us to apply biblical principles to our church ministries. Boast of what the Lord has done at your church and have confidence that He is at work.
2.) Being poor in Spirit (Matt 5:3) allows us to re-visit policies and programs when we need to do so. It allows you to say, “We could do this better in the future,” or “Maybe this isn’t the best use of our gifts and resources at the time.” If you are proud of what you do, you will find little room for evaluation. If you boast in the Lord, you are always looking to Him who may want you to tweak or nix some policies, programs, ministries, etc….
3.) If you boast in the Lord, not simply in your church, you will be aware of what others churches are doing. This allows you to learn from them.
4.) Boasting in the Lord lets you recognize we really don’t want all churches to look alike. We want them all to preach the gospel, disciple kids, do missions and mercy, etc….,but each church will probably play a niche in its community. Boast in the Lord for churches who may reach drug addicts, others single mothers or homeless, still others folks with disabilities or divorces.
5.) Being poor in Spirit does not eradicate the opportunity to critique others, but it does eradicate even the need to judge others. It is Jesus’ church. And yes, we judge those within our own churches. But Jesus may surprise us someday with how he thinks of mega, mini, or multi-site churches. Perhaps we need them all. Regardless, we don’t get a vote. So be careful not to overvalue your own critiques or convictions, or you may just be undervaluing Jesus’ bride.
You should obviously commit to, plug in, and serve the church you feel most responsibly preaches, teaches, and applies the gospel. But remember to boast in the Shepherd, not the shepherd/s, or the sheep.