Josh Laxton on Moving From a Country Club to a Commissioned Church, Part 1

Image: Photo by Joshua Eckstein on Unsplash

Josh Laxton currently serves as the Assistant Director of the Billy Graham Center, Lausanne North American Coordinator at Wheaton College, and a co-host of the podcast Living in the Land of Oz. He has a Ph.D. in North American Missiology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of BCNN1.

Recently, I had a two-part series (see Part 1 here and Part 2 here) describing features of a church being more like a country club. The sober reality is many churches fit the bill when it comes to embodying characteristics of a country club. However, very few pastors, leaders, or members want to admit it.

I get why it’s hard to admit that your church has more in common with a country club down the street than the kind of church Christ birthed. Maybe we think it reflects poorly on our leadership. Maybe we don’t want to admit that what we value with our lips, we don’t value with our lives—like evangelism. Maybe it would be an indictment against us as people who claim to live by “the book,” only to find that we are dying by our governing by-laws.

While the previous posts were more diagnostic, I want these two posts to be more prescriptive and restorative. Why? Because there is hope for churches that have more in common with country clubs than the kind of church Christ birthed.

Country club churches can become once again Christ’s commissioned church. However, to experience this transformation, churches—their leaders and members—will have to make, at the very least, the following six shifts.

Shift 1: The church must make the shift from pleasing people to pleasing God.

We live in a consumeristic culture, where people are accustomed to playing the role of a customer. As a result, they are conditioned to see every organization revolving around their needs. However, the church was not birthed to cater to, nor please, people; the church was birthed to advance the mission of God.

Paul puts it this way to the churches in Galatia, “For am I now trying to persuade people or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).

Paul’s not saying that we aren’t to serve people. He is saying that ultimately our call and goal is to serve and thus please Christ. Paul knew that if people became the central focus of the church, the church would be conformed into the image of people not the image of Christ.

Which is why Paul warned Timothy about how people, in the last days, will be “lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…” (2 Tim .3:1–4).

Could you imagine what would happen to a church if such people had their way? Paul did. He knew there would come a time when people would “not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, [would] multiply teachers for themselves because they [want] to hear what they want to hear” (2 Tim. 4:3).

It would bring great joy to my heart if church members were more concerned about what made God happy rather than voice complaints about what didn’t make them happy.

To make this shift from pleasing people to pleasing God will require great humility and sacrifice. However, in the end, it will prove well worth it since God never promised to remove lamp stands that displayed His glory.

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Source: Christianity Today