The church is supposed to be the bride of Christ. However, there are certain behaviors the church glosses over that are contrary to the Word of God. These behaviors are sins we consider smaller or less significant than others. Yet, all sin separates us from God. What are some areas Christians can improve on and stop justifying? Here are ten of those behaviors:
“I think we need to pray for him, he is really struggling.” Church is the perfect place for prayer, but it should not be a breeding ground for gossip and slandering others within the congregation, thinly veiled behind a prayer request. Prayer meetings are great but should be used to pray for personal prayer requests pertinent to the person sharing, not an opportunity to air out others’ dirty laundry.
In today’s world, where people don’t want to be judged for their actions, it is becoming more and more difficult for Christians to be the voice in society’s lives. This has caused the church to become apathetic against the sins that are so quickly pervading our world. Jesus' righteous anger burned in him when he saw the temple being used as a place for the gathering of wealth rather than the seeking of God. “My house will be a house of prayer,” he said, as he turned over the tables in the temple. We are quickly allowing boundaries to be crossed when it comes to what we will allow and what we will speak out against. We need to speak out on those issues that rob God of the glory He deserves.
In this on-the-go world, we show off our busyness as if our personal significance depends on it. How can we have eyes to see and ears to hear what God has for us, if we can't slow down long enough to seek and find him? Are you so busy that you don't have time for church, time for quiet reading and prayer in the Word each day, time for ministry or service? Those are all huge red flags that you need to slow down and carve time out for what will truly bring significance - a life given over to Christ.
4. Lack of Consistent Church Attendance
In times past, Sunday was reserved for the Sabbath. This meant people went to church and spent the rest of the day with their families. In today’s world, however, that rarely happens. People often attend church when they don’t have another activity vying for their time, or on the way to something else. This sends a message to our children that church is something that can be done only if/when the mood strikes us.
This also robs us of the intimate connection with God we want for our lives. No matter what activity we fill our Sundays with it will never fill the hole in our hearts for intimacy and connection.
Often, church sermons focus on behaviors—a litany of do’s and don’ts when it comes to a disciple’s spiritual life. When someone hurts us (especially within the church body) we stuff our feelings, failing to deal with it quickly and effectively. This causes bitterness and resentment to take root, separating us from God. Christians carry this unforgiveness around for months (and in some cases, years) without reconciling with the offender.
Matthew 18:15-17 states, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
Churches have to have a format on how to deal with conflict and hurt effectively. If churches can figure out healthy ways to help congregants deal with each other—and others outside the church body in a healthy way, the body of Christ as a whole will be better for it.
6. Disregard for the Truth
So many Christians believe we only need to be kind to one another and forsake our responsibility to speak the truth in love to each other. Grace is an important part of a Christian’s life.
But not without the balance of truth. Part of being a part of a church fellowship is speaking into each other’s lives for our mutual benefits. Ephesians 4:15 says, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
We are so afraid of not hurting anyone’s feelings—or worse, not being liked—we miss out on the opportunity to challenge and sharpen each other as Proverbs 27:17 dictates. Although we must earn the right to speak into each other’s lives, once we have earned that right, we shouldn’t be afraid to treat others in the way we would want to be treated, and that includes having someone love us enough to tell us when we are doing wrong.
7. Focusing on Behaviors Rather Than the Heart
“Read your bible more and pray,” is often the platitude we give our friends at church when things are not going their way. While bible reading and prayer are important, it is not the only way to grow in your faith. What about practicing other disciplines? Daniel fasted. Elijah, during a time of silence, was quiet enough to hear the still, small voice of God.
When we reduce the requirements to commune with God to reading the Bible and checking it off of our imaginary to-do-list, we reduce our relationship to one of superficiality and works. God wants us, not because we can do anything for Him, but because He simply wants to be with us. When we meet with Him out of that same desire, we achieve the intimate connection we crave.
While Christians might be good at not drinking, there are other ways Christians lack self-control. They may turn away from drinking or smoking, they often go overboard when it comes to church potlucks. We need to exhibit self-control in all we do, and that includes our eating patterns.
Make good choices in all we do, including our eating. Just because we don’t have to follow the laws of the Old Testament doesn’t mean we should be able to gorge ourselves on foods that do not benefit us nutritionally. We eat to give our bodies energy so we can serve the Lord, not to abuse it. We must honor God with our bodies, physically, emotionally and mentally.
Ephesians 5:22 says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” While it is important for wives to submit in times of conflict, husbands sometimes use submission to get their way when it comes to a disagreement. This can result in mental and emotional abuse because a man thinks he can do what he wants when he wants without suffering any consequences or repercussions of their actions.
The church often glosses over these abuses instead of dealing with them directly. All churches should have a zero-tolerancee policy when it comes to abuse. Although mental and emotional abuse is more difficult to detect, the symptoms of these abuses are detectable if someone knows a victim well enough. Depression, unexplained marks or bruises, a feeling of hopelessness, etc. are signs someone’s mental state is unstable. Pastors and other leaders need to have a plan or process in place to help victims heal from various abuses. Victims need to surround themselves in a safe environment with those that can help propel them forward in their healing process.
Christians are sometimes silent when it comes to speaking out about the cultural issues and sins pervading our world. Passively posting on social media about issues does nothing to help promote the gospel. Christians can use their voices to make positive changes in the world. Instead of trolling on social media feeds and creating memes, they can call their government officials and advocate for their point of view. Start by talking to your friends over coffee about the world, but don't stop there. Start a ministry in your church to fix issues. For example, if people are incensed over the new abortion laws, volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center or give to a center that educates women on other alternatives other than abortion.
The church, while not perfect, is supposed to be a reflection of the type of relationship Christ wants with His church. The church, however, is messy. We need to figure out the balance between honoring the Word of God in all things and being a welcoming place for His people who mess up. Ultimately, there is no sin that Christ’s blood cannot cover. While there are behaviors the church tends to gloss over, we need to be brothers and sisters to each other and urge us to strive toward the righteousness God wants for our lives.
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Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife and mother. Winner of the Golden Scroll Children's Book of the Year, the Enduring Light Silver Medal and the Maxwell Award, she is a member of the Christian Author's Network and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She is also an associate literary agent with Wordwise Media Services. For more information, please visit her website at michellelazurek.com.