I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire. (Luke 24:32)
The title of this is The Biggest Mistake in the Church Today. I know, it is impossible to know the exact biggest mistake in the church today, apart from divine revelation, and it probably changes minute by minute anyway.
But it is such a huge mistake, I’m calling it the biggest mistake in the church today, and here it is. It’s when we try to make people be like us instead of unleashing them to become the people that God has designed them to be.
Philippians 1:6 says that He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it. The church’s mission is to help people discover what good work God is doing in them, and help them become all that God wants them to be.
Every Christian believer is a part of the body of Christ. We are each a body part, a DIFFERENT body part. We have various giftings and callings, talents and personalities, and a huge range of life experiences.
God is calling each and every one of us to fulfill our part in the body of Christ. That is the goal for each and every believer, and the goal of the church is to help each and every person come to God, walk with Him daily, and fulfill their part in the body.
What sometimes happens, though, is that the church doesn’t identify each and every individual as a separate and special part of the body. Instead, we take the easy and common route of lumping everyone together and expecting everyone to become more like us.
Let me say it another way. If I’m a “hand” in the body of Christ, then I look at you and expect you to be more like a hand. But what if you’re a foot? It’s a terrible mistake to try to make a foot operate like a hand. It’s going to be a terrible experience for everyone involved.
Instead, I should try to help you discover God’s callings and giftings in your life, and help you grow into the full person and part in the body of Christ that God has designed you to be.
I’m not talking about compromising doctrine or morality. I’m talking about expecting people to be more like me, instead of being more like God is calling them to be.
For example, and I’ve seen this so many times in the church, extroverts want introverts to become extroverts. They sometimes almost demand a personality shift, as if you don’t even know God, you don’t even love God if you don’t spring forth and become a boisterous extrovert.
“Oh, you don’t want to take the mic and publicly testify about the goodness of God? You must not even love God.”
Do you feel the uncomfortable, unsubtle pressure? It is quite possible that the person in your church who loves God the most is the person who quietly adores the King in their heart.
The prayer warriors think everyone should spend more and more time in prayer.
The hand-lifting praisers think everyone should be a hand-lifting praiser, and once you get that down, you need to go do it at the altar, because hand-lifting praise back in the pew is for the lukewarm, you know.
The Bible scholars think everyone must become a Bible scholar.
The Bible memorizers are like, “What? You don’t memorize the Holy Scriptures? What are you even doing with your brain?”
Then there are the holy huggers who can’t fathom why a person might not want to be hugged.
The homeless outreach people and the prison ministers just know you are missing God if you are not one of them.
Here's one I’ve seen many times: extroverts with a passion for evangelism heaping criticism on anyone who isn’t ready to run out into the streets and shout the gospel. They leave zero room for someone to have a different part in the body of Christ. “No, you must be like me if you really love Jesus, if you’re even saved at all.”
And then, even worse, I’ve seen this. The extrovert with a passion for evangelism STOPS EVANGELIZING, because hey, “others aren’t rushing out with me, so why should I even bother?”
Christian! Stop comparing. Stop looking at others and trying to make them be like you.
Listen to this account from the Bible. It involves the apostle Peter, who was perfectly willing to speak his mind, so we can get some good insights from him and his experiences.
In John 21, the risen Jesus is telling Peter how Peter is going to die, and yes, it was uncomfortable. Then instead of soaking in that information, quietly going away and pondering it, Peter suddenly points out his fellow apostle John, and says something like, “Oh, so that’s my bleak future? What about John?”
Jesus answered with these patient but powerful words, “What is that to you? You follow Me.”
If you ever looked around at other believers and wanted to compare their life or calling to your life or calling, I believe Jesus would say to you today, “What is that to you? You follow Me.”
We each have our own part in the body of Christ. Yes, we are one body, operating in unity, with Christ as the head, but we each have a different part in the body, with different callings and giftings and personality types and backgrounds.
The church’s job is to help each individual draw near to God and discover and walk in their unique callings and giftings and thus fulfill their part in the body of Christ.
But the big mistake we often make is, instead of helping each individual fulfill their part in the body, we lump everyone together and want them to be like me, act like me, respond to God like I do, behave in a church service like I do…and it’s not going to happen. It’s only going to drive people away.
And suddenly I’m going to look up one day and realize that the only people left in church are people just like me.
May God bless you today.
I’m Doug Apple.
(For more information on the body, First Corinthians 12 is a great place to start, plus Ephesians 4:15-16.)