We all like to take pride in the things we belong to. This is true whether we’re speaking of our college alma maters, our nation, and even our churches. However, there is a difference between being glad to be part of a congregation and wanting to seek praise for that congregation. For instance, if you’re motivated to have folks say, “Look at ABC Baptist Church and what they’re doing!” I think you’ve got it wrong. I think you’ve got it wrong whether you’re a member of ABC Baptist Church or not. I’m going to draw a fine line here but it’s a line I think needs to be drawn: putting aside praise for ourselves and our churches and instead redirecting that praise to the God who really deserves the credit.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:8-10, ESV
First and foremost, the fact that a group of Christians are able to come together is solely due to God. If God didn’t save us through Christ Jesus we wouldn’t be Christians. The root of who we are is in Christ. Second, we are His workmanship, meaning He’s polishing us and improving us and sanctifying us. The reason we feel a desire to help the poor, to minister to the needy, to provide outreach to the less fortunate is solely because He is guiding us in that direction. After all, Paul reminds us that the good works we do were prepared beforehand for us to carry out. In other words, it’s like being part of a group where you show up and someone has done all the setup. That’s exactly the situation here. God has done all of the setup. Therefore, there’s nothing for us to take credit for. He got things rolling, He equipped and trained us, and then He motivated us and gave us the capability of being there. It’s all God.
So why do individual churches take credit? They shouldn’t. If your church does this, say something. It’s not about what XYZ Methodist Church did. XYZ Methodist Church didn’t do anything. God did it and He deserves the credit. So let’s stop stealing His glory and directing folks to the One who is responsible. Why is this important? It’s important because God doesn’t fail and churches periodically do. Ever see a church come unglued? Gone through a church split? Watch as something that was ungodly was covered up and hidden lest some folks be embarrassed? How about seeing a business meeting “gamed” by a certain group of people in order to get what they wanted, regardless of what the Scriptures said? Maybe you participated in some of these things. The good news is our Lord forgives because it’s not about our good deeds but about His perfect ones. However, if folks are looking from the outside in and they believe it’s the particular church that does the great work, imagine their discouragement when they see some facet of that church fail. They’ve placed their hope in the wrong place. It’s not the church who provides the hope, but the One the church is supposed to point people to.
Therefore, don’t seek praise for your church. Seek praise for the Lord Jesus Christ. When praise comes your church’s way, make sure you are very specific about the fact that God should get that praise. We as individual churches can do nothing of any eternal significance without the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us make sure that those who might praise us understand this. If we do, they then know to place their hope in the One who won’t fail them. They know that the Church is a human institution and as a result the Church sometimes makes mistakes, especially as individual congregations. Those mistakes, however, are our fault and not the fault of the One we worship and love. The more we point folks to the Christ, the more folks will see His perfection and His great and abounding love. This was our original commission: to make disciples. To make disciples of who? Certainly not of MNO Presbyterian Church or PQR Community Faith Congregation. Rather, it is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. So let us send the praise His way, for He is the only one deserving of it.