The Village Church in Texas is currently doing a series called “The Dearest Place on Earth.” Believe it or not, this is referring to the church (and drawn from a quote of CH Spurgeon–linked above). I believe it. But many don’t. If you’ve been to a church on a regular basis, you’ve had an experience contrary to anything dear or pleasant—if you’re at a church and haven’t been disappointed or disgusted, just wait.
Although there are a myriad of factors that contribute to toxic situations in churches, the main factor is people. The church is a people, after all, not so much a place. So if your church is toxic, it’s because you have toxic people. If you have toxic people, you have a toxic church. I forget in math what it’s called if a formula works both ways, but this is whatever that is.
Now as for the mindset that causes toxicity and the like, it’s hard to pin down just one, but if I were forced to name a single one it would be that of the “contractual” Christian.
Matt Chandler of the Village Church points out that we live in a web of contracts today. You have a contractual relationship with your energy provider, cell phone provider, cable provider, mortgage company, car lien holder, etc. It’s actually crazy to think about the proliferation of contracts by which we live.
But one place you have not entered a contractual relationship is with the church. And the reason for that is that God didn’t call you into a contract but a covenant. Covenants don’t have clauses that make the relationship null and void. Nobody goes to a wedding and gets teary-eyed over a bride and groom exchanging a series of contractual obligations and conditions for their marriage.
Marriage is a picture of Christ’s love for the church and, as such, is never-ending. Christ has never stopped loving His bride regardless of her repeated infidelities (have a listen to Derek Webb’s song Wedding Dress). Christ remains and pursues regardless of how distant and adulterous we become. So if your relationship with Jesus isn’t contractual, neither is your relationship with the Church of Jesus.
In other words, there is no clause that says the church you joined must do the kind of music with the exact instrumentation that you prefer or else the contract is void. There is no particular clothing which the pastor must wear, lest he nullify your contractual agreement to be there each Sunday. Moreover, your giving money to the church in the form of an offering does not earn you any more privilege or ‘voting power’ at said church.
Why? Because there’s no contract. You are in a covenant relationship that mirrors marriage, which mirrors Christ’s love for His bride.
And thank the Lord there’s no contract. If a contract did exist, the contractual Christian would’ve broken it already ten times over with his sorry attitude, selfish actions, and souring words. We should thank God that He didn’t make us sign a contract. Rather, when HE put our names on a dotted line the top of the form read COVENANT.
And when you, church member, live with the covenant mindset, you’ll start thinking about how to serve the body and contribute to the greater cause of God’s kingdom rather than getting your preferential itches scratched.
So tear up the contract already. There’s no fine print to read with God, and that creates immense joy as we learn to follow Him.