“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38
McChurch … Me Church … or His Church?, by Randall D. Kittle

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For the last one hundred years the cries of prophetic voices across this land have resounded over and over again declaring God’s heart for the Church: “Let the church be the church … It’s time for the church to be the church!” The reason this cry from God’s heart is so important in our day is that many so-called “Christian” churches have increasingly become like those described in 2 Timothy 3:5 “… having a form of godliness but denying its power.”

Much of traditional church-life in our land has become an “American Churchianity” that has little to do with the principles, plans, and purposes the Lord originally intended. There is a diluted form of “Christian” church-life that, while espousing the name of Jesus Christ, bears little resemblance to the radical, world-changing Church He died to birth and for which He lives to intercede. While the Lord’s portrait may be in the front, and His name may be on the sign, these institutions are little more than social clubs to which people can belong — clubs where paying your dues and attending the meetings are really the only requirements!

When we offer this type of “Christianity” to the world around us, a few may join the club for certain social reasons, but most will simply reject it for what it is — a generic alternative. Years ago I learned the hard way that “generic alternatives” are often far from being equivalent to the brand names. Married at a young age and with a budget to match, I cannot tell you how many times I sat through meals I had ruined because, although my wife had given me a shopping list telling me what to buy, I had decided to save some money by substituting a store brand or generic alternative for what she had sent me out to get. Eventually, I learned that if she asked for Campbell’s soup then she needed Campbell’s soup — accept no substitute!

I can tell you from my own failed experience that if any restaurant tried serving such food using generic alternatives the results would be drastically declining sales. But this is exactly what has been done in much of the church. They are putting forth a bland and watered-down generic “Christianity,” which is no substitute for the real thing. This kind of generic “Christianity” is not only bland and tasteless … it is boring. It results in a dull, purposeless social club with members who are confused as to why they even belong.

It is like the pastor who, following the morning service, called for the church-board to meet in the conference room. When he arrived at the meeting, he immediately noticed the presence of a couple of extra young men who were not church trustees. As politely as possible the pastor looked at the men and reminded the group that this meeting was just for the board of the church. To this one of the young man replied, “Well, if there’s anyone in this church more bored than we are, we’d like to meet him!” This boring American churchianity is one of the reasons there has been such declining church participation across America; so much so that every week more churches close their doors than new ones start.

McChurch
Realizing they are dwindling in numbers and vitality, some of this watered-down churchianity has decided to lay hold of the world’s business philosophy in order to try to gain “market share.” Many churches are now designed to function as Christian businesses partnered with God and having salvation as the “product” they promote! While this may sound far-fetched to some of us, it is readily apparent to those who have eyes to see.

Judson Cornwall tells the story of a foreign minister who stayed with him after having just arrived in the U.S. One morning he asked Judson “Are most of the American churches chain churches?” Judson looked at the man in shocked surprise, and queried, “Chain churches?” “Yes,” the man responded, “like McDonald’s … where they are all alike.” Judson Cornwall admits that there was something about this comment that haunted him. As Judson traveled around the country during the following year, it became clear to him that his friend had hit upon something far more profound than he had realized.

Across America there is a new “business-model” Christianity that knows its product, knows its target market, and has everything painstakingly processed and conveniently packaged so their product should sell. I call these franchised churches McChurch.

McChurch is designed to deliver convenient Christianity with a processed Gospel. They have McWorship, which is filled with happiness and sweetness — no offensive songs that deal with blood or battling allowed. They have a McPastor who is a touchy, feely guy who knows psychology and understands “felt needs.” He shares a McSermon, which is short and easily digested. It has minimal nutritional value while containing substantial portions of sweets and fillers. They practice McPrayer that is centered primarily on material things and personal gain. They give their McTithe, which is whatever stray dollars happen to be left in their wallets. They may have McSins, which are commonly called “boo-boos” and are easily forgiven with quick prayers. They promote McSalvation — a quick nod of the head requiring no discipleship nor real change. Together, these add up to McHeaven where we all live happily ever-after … probably eating happy meals!

While this might sound funny, it is closer to the truth for a portion of American church-life than most of us would like to admit. Still, most Americans recognize when they are being sold something; whether it is a cheeseburger or a church service. So, while McChurch may keep a few immature believers occupied, it can never satisfy those who are really desiring to be followers of Christ.

The Me Church
Realizing that simply pushing a well packaged product will never truly draw the masses, American churchianity has ventured forth with a more refined approach. This new plan of attack is to find out what people really want and give it to them. The call goes out, “We can meet your need!” By looking at opinion polls and surveys they discover what needs people perceive aren’t being met in their lives, and then develop ways to meet those needs. They like to think of themselves as “culturally relevant,” but really they are just indulgent — giving the public what they want!

I call this consumer-oriented church the “Me Church,” and it is very popular with the Me Generation we have just raised up. One reason these churches are relatively successful is because America is strong on consumerism. If the lines are too long at McDonald’s, we just go across the street to Burger King. If our health club eliminates some class we enjoy, we find a new one. When a church runs like this, those who join it are really Christian consumers. If their church doesn’t have a Saturday night service, they will find one that does. If worship is longer than they like, they look for another that offers a shorter worship time. When they listen to a message, they judge the sermon instead of having God’s Word judge their hearts and lives! If they continue on this track, they will find themselves critiquing every church and never really connected or committed to any local church as they continue to search for the mythical “perfect church,” the church that will meet all their needs!

Instead of these churches confronting the self-focused, self-centered, self-satisfying spirit of this age — and calling it sin, they do all they can to serve this un-Christlike character hoping to use it to their advantage. But the only way a church could meet all of your needs is for that church to center its attention on you. Christianity is not supposed to be all about you. It is supposed to be all about Jesus! Jesus Christ alone must be the center around which everything in His Church revolves. The Me Church will attract large numbers of people, but it is not drawing them to Christ, it is offering them self-fulfilment. As such, while it may grow large, it, at best, can only be very shallow.

His Church
God is challenging us in this day, saying that true seekers will not be satisfied with McChurch or the Me Church, but only by His Church. The Lord is declaring that it is time for the church to be the way He designed it to be. This is a call to relationship, not just to attend meetings. It is a call to truly worship, not just to sing songs. It is a call to minister, not just to watch or receive. It is a call not to focus on ourselves nor even on our pastor, but to fix our hearts on Jesus.

The world has tried the generic churchianity so readily available in our society, and for the most part it has not been satisfied. What it needs is the real thing — God’s Church! Only the real Church will touch and draw and satisfy those truly seeking God! When we are called to His Church, it is far more than joining a club, being drawn by some polished marketing scheme, or deciding something can meet our latest unmet desire. It is becoming part of the family of God.

When you belong to a local church, you don’t just belong in the same way you join your local YMCA. It is like a family. You cannot “join” a family. You are born into it. Neither can any person really decide to join the Church. You must be born into it (born-again). Then God takes those who have been born into His family and puts them into a local church to be cared for. Psalm 68:6 tells us that
“God sets the solitary in families.”

The local church is not merely an organization to do the work of God, nor an association for those like-minded in belief to come together for a common purpose — it is the family of God. Father God has always had a heart for sons and daughters with whom He could share His life. We were created in God’s image so we could have deep, personal relationship with Him. Jesus died so that He might bring many sons to glory. He paid the price to purchase us not only
from sin, but for Father God. The Holy Spirit comes to us as the Spirit of Adoption to birth us into the family of God. “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God(Ephesians 2:19). The Church of God is far more than a congregating of believers, it is the very household of God!

Do You Belong?
A truly functioning Church according to the Bible will function like this: they are a family of believers who love the Lord and each other, and realize they belong to the Lord and each other. The first, greatest commandment is that we must love God. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37–38). God must be loved first and foremost. We must love Him before all things and above all things.

But Jesus didn’t stop there. He went on to give us the second great commandment, which is that we must love others.
“And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). We are to show love to all people, but how much more so those who are in our own family of faith. Jesus told His disciples that it is by this love for our Christian brothers and sisters that the world would know we belong to Him. “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John13:35). Our love for our fellow man should begin in the household of faith. “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

We must come to see the central importance of truly loving God first and foremost while also loving the rest of the family — your brothers and sisters in the household of faith. But in addition, we need to comprehend that we also belong to God and to each other. If you are a born-again believer, you belong to God.
“You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). The good news is that most true believers have little trouble understanding that they belong to God.

But again, besides belonging to God, you also belong to other believers in the family of faith. Romans 12:4–5 says,
“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” When you were born-again, you suddenly belonged to Jesus Christ and His Church — that means you belong to all the other believers around you with whom you fellowship. We belong to one another. I am yours and you are mine. This might sound strange, but according to the Bible it is called Christianity. If you belong to those around you, it means you cannot just check out and leave with every little hurt or disappointment you receive. There is a healthy interdependence and co-laboring.

If every charismatic or evangelical church in America put away their individual agendas and petty differences and became a household of God — loving God with all their hearts and truly loving each other, the world would take notice. If we lived our lives like we truly belonged to God and each other, there would be such fellowship, such community, that the world would be drawn. And if every local church set it in their hearts to truly be God’s Church — a living, loving household of faith that lifts up the Lord, loves each other, and gives themselves to one another — the McChurches and the Me churches would begin to shrink away, for nothing can prevail against the true Church of God! Let the Church be the Church!


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