The auto-correct on my computer doesn’t like this title because “churchianity” isn’t a real word.
It is, however, a real thing we need to consider.
The difference between churchianity and Christianity relates to our worship.
What is churchianity?
There are so many benefits to growing up in church and continuing attendance as an adult. Church attendance strengthens families, guides the spiritual development of children, and provides a community of faithful people who work to know and care for each other.
I grew up in church and married a pastor. My favorite people in this world attend church and love the Lord. I sometimes wonder who I would have become if I hadn’t known all the mentors and friends I gained from being part of a church family.
There aren’t many downsides to lifelong church attendance, but there are a few. Nothing in this world will ever be perfect, churches included. A lot of us love the church and, if we aren’t careful, we can unknowingly confuse that with our love for Christ.
Churchianity is to worship a church more than we worship Christ.
Not me Lord, not me
It’s possible that your first response to my definition of churchianity didn’t bother you. Those of us who are weekly church attenders would never worship a building or people in the building!
Or do we?
Consider these thoughts:
- On Sunday morning, do you say you are going to church or to worship?
- On the way home from church, do you talk about the moments you experienced the Presence of Christ, or do you talk about who was present in the building?
- Do you remember what you prayed for and learned from the sermon, or do you remember what someone wore, said, or the funny joke the pastor used to open his message?
- Do you remember the songs you sang or the moments you had with the One you sang to?
We want our focus to be worship of God, yet we all have earthly idols and distractions that hinder our worship.
There is a reason the first commandment came first. “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). It’s the same reason Jesus said the most important commandment was “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). Jesus said “all the law and the Prophets” depend on that priority (v. 40).
Churchianity is not Christianity
I hope you attend a church you love, and I hope you are loved and cared for by your church. It’s supposed to be that way. But don’t ask the church to fulfill your spiritual needs. That is churchianity too. An institution can’t meet your spiritual need because that is the work of Christ.
We can’t ask a church to be at the center of our lives. Christ belongs in that spot. You won’t find a church that is able to do what only Christ can accomplish.
A church isn’t great because they have amazing programs, facilities, and a dynamic staff. A church is great if they have the Presence of Christ. A church is great when the Holy Spirit moves among the people. A church is a great institution when it causes people to know and worship Christ.
Now you understand the difference between churchianity and Christianity. Churchianity draws people to an institution. Christianity draws people to Christ.
Does the definition of churchianity bother you a bit more now?
I know it bothers me.
The churches in Vermont
As I mentioned in last week’s blog post, we recently traveled in Vermont. Jim and I thought we were going on a working vacation. Instead, God met us there to change our work. I have no idea how many hours Jim and I spent sharing the thoughts and ideas that were sparked by our visit to that beautiful, yet lost, part of our nation.
- Why have so many churches lost their focus and, quite frankly, lost their members?
- Why have churches lost their crucial position of leadership in most communities?
- Why have churches become institutions instead of “houses of worship?”
- Why did the local ABC affiliate feel the need to run a disclaimer before they televised a local church’s worship?
- What will happen in the years ahead?
As I mentioned in last week’s blog post, most of the churches we saw in Vermont were closed during the week. Many of the church buildings are community centers, libraries, or something besides a church. And many of the church signs we saw were more careful to display a “cause” than they displayed “Christ.”
Churchianity is worshiping a cause instead of Christ. (Maybe I should call that one causianity instead.) And that is true even when the “cause” is something Christ would approve. It’s such a fine line sometimes, but the line is there.
“You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).
In other words, we are always to be more dedicated to our worship of Christ than even the worthiest of our causes.
It has always been a problem and it always will be
The Pharisees weren’t bad people. They had just lost sight of God. They worshiped their traditions and laws. Their devotion to rules became more important than their devotion to God. As I often say, “If you have been a Christian more than three years, you have Pharisee potential.” We can’t help it. It’s hard not to appreciate what we can prove, test, see, and measure.
That’s what Paul taught the church in Rome. We don’t even make it out of Romans chapter 1 before he is talking about the “wrath of God” on those who “suppress the truth” of his word. He tells them creation reveals the greatness of God so no one has an excuse not to believe in their Creator.
Yet, every generation has worshiped other gods. Paul said, “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the created rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (Romans 1:25).
We have Paul’s words and the history of Scripture. We know the truth and we know not to worship a “created” god instead of the Creator.
But, deep down, in that honest place between you and God, is there something in your life that has taken a position of higher value or honor than your Creator?
Churchianity, causianity, or Christianity?
In the book of Revelation, Jesus gives a message for the seven churches, a message to all churches forever. There were things the churches got right and there were things Jesus “held against them.” But after receiving the message to the churches, John was given a vision of heaven. That vision is in Revelation 4. I hope you will have time to read the entire chapter.
For now, I want to point out the worship John witnessed that took place in heaven. He saw “the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying ‘Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Revelation 4:10–11).
To all my dear readers: that is Christianity.
May all of us see that heavenly throne and the One who is seated there.
May we cast our crowns before him knowing only he is worthy of our worship.
And may that be our goal until we stand before his throne one day.
As Christians, we may have Pharisee potential and we will fail sometimes. But, if we know the goal, we know what to shoot for.
And our world needs us to draw people to Christ because the church can’t save and fill their souls. That work is accomplished by Christ alone.
May we invite people to church but lead them to the throne.