A very good, longtime preacher friend of mine shared an blog article on his Facebook wall. The blog’s author, Thom Ranier (of “Surprising Insights of the Formerly Unchurched”), is not a member of the church. Yet, he captures a mentality that knows no religious boundaries. Wherever there is a community of people, especially one that has existed for any length of time, you have the potential for the specific issues he identifies. He calls the article, “The 10 Warning Signs Of An Inwardly Obsessed Church.” Here are the ten:
1) Worship Wars.
2) Prolonged Minutia Meetings.
3) Facility Focus.
4) Program Driven.
5) Inwardly Focused Budget.
6) Inordinate Demand For Pastoral Care.
7) Attitudes Of Entitlement.
8) Greater Concern About Change Than The Gospel.
9) Anger And Hostility.
10) Evangelistic Apathy.
He begins by saying that there is a degree of need for inward focus–teaching, counseling, healing, fellowshiping, and the like. Yet, a church can cease thinking souls and too often it starts thinking primarily and even solely about itself. This is spiritually unhealthy.
As we look at Ranier’s list, especially with the description he gives each one in the article, we may be able to strike off a couple of them out of hand. These, we think, are not troubling us. Yet, few of us could say that we are immune from all ten warning signs. Maybe we attend a church that shows hostility toward one another. Maybe we attend a church where the church building is almost of “iconic status.” Maybe we attend a church where the meetings are predominantly about brick, mortar, and the otherwise material, but seldom, if ever, about soul-winning and, well, souls.
Because humanity in every time and place has always fought the battle of self, we should not be surprised that the redeemed of earth today should struggle with putting the needs of self above others. Oh, and “churches” do not become “internally obsessed” unless “church members” wrestle with that same thing. What I must do is discipline myself to keep my focus outward, while striving to show others the way by example.
No church wants to be labeled “inwardly-obsessed.” It sounds unspiritual, unsound, and unsavory. Yet, in the final analysis, the Lord does the analysis. Like He did for the seven churches of Asia in Revelation two and three, He knows our works. He knows who and what we are. That said, His very message is that change is possible. Wherever any of us is “inwardly obsessed,” may we have the humility, courage, and resolve to change! Scripture repeatedly demonstrates that such is God’s desire.