General | On the Perception of the Church | orthodox spirituality

A Series On the Perception of the Church: The Convenient Church (Part III)

In the last two issues, the church was presented as the Pillar of Truth. The church ought to speak the truth in love without discrimination, prejudice, political correctness, or compromise. This spoken truth might cause some to be uncomfortable or annoyed or to even leave the church in search of a more convenient church. It has been noticed that the request for a more convenient church has been getting more and more popular. Statements like “I don’t find myself in this church anymore,” “The priest is great, but I don’t have anyone in my age group,” “The church demographics have changed,” “It’s all different people now!”, “The pastor at the other church speaks to me,” “Their main service is on Saturday night, and that leaves me Sunday with the family,” and “I go to the church near my house now; after all, we worship the same Jesus!” are only part of a short list of reasons for searching for a convenient church. No one denies that these issues are important; nonetheless, when these are the main reason for searching for this “convenient” church, there is a concern. In no way does this mean that one should stick to a church despite a long distance, lack of spiritual growth, and lack of convenience, but the reasons above shouldn’t be the only reason or even the main reason to leave a church.
One isn’t supposed to “find himself” but to lose himself, not to seek his age group” but to serve everyone with a humble and pure heart, considering himself least among all. One isn’t to see that “demographics have changed,” for in doing so, one has already separated oneself from the rest of the body of Christ. A believer shouldn’t only seek a pastor who “speaks to me” but rather who speaks the fullness of truth as revealed and proclaimed by the apostles.
Comfort and convenience in many ways do not mean growth but rather stagnation and status quo; everyone knows that growth happens outside the comfort zone. Growth takes place when the members of a congregation look outside of themselves and serve one another: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:34). The same spirit that pushes believers to seek churches for the sake of convenience will continue to follow them everywhere they go.
It was not enough for the Lord to be with the poor. Despite the inconvenience, He wasn’t only with the poor but became poor Himself. It wasn’t humanly convenient for Him as a thirtyyearold man to be with the sick, lame, lepers, and widows, yet He was not only willing to pray with them but to heal them and be with them under the yoke of pain and suffering. The Lord came not to be served but to serve those who are underprivileged, and He wasn’t ashamed to call them brothers and Himself a firstborn among them. He came to gather those who were scattered abroad to Himself (John 11:52); He came to unite and not to divide. In the church with the most problems, Corinth, St. Paul asked the Corinthians to love one another. Describing love, he said, “Love suffers long,” “doesn’t seek its own,” and “bears all things” (1 Cor. 13).

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