There is a noticeable drift in the local church toward “church club.” The church experience has become more about image, entertainment and what’s trending rather than worship, fellowship, serving and making disciples. After all, clubs are typically all about glorifying the individual through an event experience. In contrast, the authentic local church is all about glorifying God through a lifestyle of worship and obedience (ref. Matthew 22:36-38; Luke, 9:37; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:41-47).
My conclusion is based on research and personal experience. In fact, according to a 2018 national survey conducted by Statista, “28 percent of Americans never attend church or synagogue, compared to 22 percent of Americans who attend every week.” So, let’s do the math. This leaves 50% of Americans in the category of attending church rarely and at best, sporadically. This means that the local church cannot expect 78% of all Americans to attend a weekly worship service not to mention praying, serving and giving. With that said, it is also my personal experience as someone who has been intimately involved in a local church going back to 1979, as well as serving as a deacon, small group leader and Bible study teacher and most recently pastoring for the past 15 years, that we can rarely depend on the average church member to attend more than 50% of Sundays. In addition to that, we can only rely on an estimated 20-25% of people who attend worship, including members, to actually serve in ministry on a week-in and week-out basis. In addition, according to Barna Research, Christians give about 2% of our income to the local church. C’mon now. That’s not even a cover charge. My friends, we have been club-ed!
Taking this into consideration, why do I conclude that the local church is drifting toward a church club? A club mindset includes:
- Viewing the church, in its entirety, as a building where they attend an event
- Expecting the church experience be focused on the individual
- Demanding to be served without consideration of serving others
- Wanting something in return for their money
- Forbidding and evading any form of personal accountability
Why is this a problem? An authentic church mindset includes:
- Living in community not limited to a weekly worship experience (Acts 2:41-47)
- Gathering as the church to worship Jesus regularly and to be his hands and feet in service to others (Hebrews 10:25)
- Loving God first and others as we serve (Matthew 22:36-40)
- Giving back to God from our first fruits based on knowing that He owns it all (Proverbs 3:9)
- Inviting personal accountability (Matthew 18:15)
This is only the beginning. So far, we’ve only discussed the mindset of the individual. Now let’s compare the club experience verses an authentic church experience.
The club experience:
- Centered on the individual
- Superficial relationships
- Catered personal service – receiving
- Emotional appeal
- Ambiance (moving the audience through artificial means such as lighting and other affects)
- Illusion/deception (false doctrine, false promises, false expectations, chasing a high, etc.)
- Comfort and ease – self-satisfying
The authentic church experience:
- Centered on Christ
- Highly relational with fellowship
- Authentic worship in spirit and in truth (preaching/teaching, singing, baptizing, Lord’s Supper, serving, caring)
- Trained and equipped to serve – giving
- Grace and Truth appeal
- Belonging (e.g. family, community)
- Reality (e.g. We are sinners saved by grace)
- Disciples making disciples – obedience
All in all, a club mentality is either the result of someone who is outside the faith or at best, spiritually immature. A club environment intentionally plays on the superficiality and self-centeredness of the fleshly and sinful nature of humanity. In comparison, a healthy local church requires a core of engaged, Christ-centered believers who love God first and foremost and are making disciples in obedience to Jesus. Now, let’s get personal. It’s time to look in the mirror. Let me ask you some questions:
- Do you have a club or authentic church mindset?
- Do you expect a club or authentic church experience?
- What are you doing to contribute to our local church’s authenticity?
Think about it. What is at stake if our local church falls short of being authentic?
- The mission will be lost
- The witness will be lost
- The church will be lost
Let’s remember that the authentic local church is all about glorifying God through a lifestyle of worship and obedience. However, there is a noticeable drift in the local church toward “church club.” Yes. You might say we’ve been club-ed. The club mindset seems to have a growing appeal because it’s about glorifying the individual through an illusional event experience. Unfortunately, the church experience has become more about image, entertainment and what’s trending rather than worship, fellowship, serving and making disciples. So then, step up. If you are the church, then be the church! That is, the authentic church.
A Work in Progress,