For three weeks my wife and I experienced the whirlwind of moving. We boxed and unboxed. We drove to the DMV. We forwarded our mail. By the time I laid down on Saturday night I thought the craziness was over. And that’s when I heard it.
BEEP! BEEP! "Fire…" "Fire…" [in a British voice] BEEP! BEEP! Fire… Fire...
My body jolted. I looked up at our new cathedral ceiling. I couldn't find smoke. I couldn't find fire. But the beeping continued. We tried opening windows. We turned off the breaker. Nothing worked.
The smoke detector was too high to reach. So, we became desperate. My wife stacked chairs. I swung eight-foot poles at it. OSHA had an aneurism. The two of us scoured the house for items that could somehow unscrew the demon-possessed detector. Nothing.
The entire night we tried to silence the British voice of doom. By 3am we even drove to the 24-hour hardware store to buy a lightbulb-changing pole. It still didn’t work. It wasn’t until the next afternoon we called the fire department to remove the smoke detector for us.
The Things We Misuse
The reason we struggled all night was because we committed a crucial flaw. We failed to use our tools for their intended use. The chairs and closet rod gave us poor results because we handled them for incorrect purposes. At the end of the night (or beginning of the day, rather) we remained frustrated and discouraged.
The same is true of life. We misuse it. Marriages should be for loving our spouse. Instead, we use it as an excuse to receive physical pleasure or fulfill a romantic fantasy. Parenting should be to raise godly children. Instead it's a chance to vicariously fulfill our lost dreams. Like swinging a broomstick at a smoke detector, mis-using others leaves us wanting.
Most dangerous of all is when we misuse our relationship with God. Church is one of the most common examples of thus. Even the Apostle Paul knew it. When he wrote his letter to Titus, he described three ways people misused church. Here they are:
1. Going to Church to Talk
Ever attend a church that sounded more like a political convention? Many people attend church simply to vent their opinions on politics, football, and local rumors. Church foyers will even be full of people chatting away while worship service occurs inside. It’s easy to make excuses like "we’re fellowshipping." But it only covers a desire to complain about our boss, diss our neighbor, or blast a politician.
Paul knew this when he wrote to Titus. He warned Titus of “… many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception.” Titus 1:10 He warned the same thing to his other pastoral protégé, Timothy. “Avoid foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.” 2 Timothy 2:23
We ridicule God when we use His spiritual meeting place as a soapbox. We damage His mission when we waste His time of worship to waddle around the halls in gossip. It’s no surprise that people leave churches due to disagreements and controversies. There’s too much talking and not enough singing!
2. Using Church to Promote Ourselves.
People hunt for Facebook “likes” by posting verses they looked up on Google. Others attract Instagram followers by taking pictures of their “devotions.” (i.e. a choreographed photo of our leather Bible on a rustic table next to a latte). Some dream of singing on stage. Others crave the pastor’s friendship. Church has become a place to humble brag instead of praise. It’s become a medium to promote ourselves rather than God.
I first discovered this misuse in Bible college. I knew many students who claimed they desired to enter ministry. What they meant was that they wanted to become Mark Driscoll or Francis Chan. They wanted to sell books and speak in stadiums. They wanted to become famous.
But God does not call us to be famous. He calls us to be faithful. Paul continued to warn Titus of those who misuse church. Particularly, those who “disrupted whole households for the sake of dishonest gain.” Titus 1:11 They contradict what Christ’s taught in Matthew 6:1. “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people so they see you, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”
3. Mixing Church With Other Priorities
The church in Crete was full of people who sought to mix Christianity with their own beliefs. Mischievous Cretans exploited church to make easy money. Jews transplanted there to spread Judaism. For many Americans, church represents a social-construct. Like the gym. Some people go to get in touch with their “spiritual side.” Others attend so they may feel like they’re a good person. I knew a man who once said he went to church because that’s what it meant to be a good American. Others go because that’s where their friends are. After a while, these same people abandon church because it no longer gives what they desired.
Christianity and church are full of endless joys. But using a church for unintended purposes is as futile as me stacking chairs to reach the ceiling. It will crash to the floor.
WARNING: USE FOR INTENDED PURPOSE
We’ve become accustomed to the endless warning labels that exist on our products. What stickers could we slap on the front door of our church? “NOT TO BE used FOR SELF-INTEREST” “NOT A PLACE TO GOSSIP” The list could go on and on.
Things lose their effectiveness when used for unintended purposes. The same is true for Christians and church. There’s an ocean of goodness that God has in store for you. You can find it through His son Jesus. No amount of likes, money, or audience applause can compare.