The Self-Indulgent Church

Sam Rainer

January 19, 2008

This from the Christian Post:

A cutting-edge church leader known for his innovative ideas on reaching a post-modern generation for Christ contends the reason why churches are declining in America is because they are self-centered.

“My primary assessment would be because American Christians tend to be incredibly self-indulgent so they see the church as a place there for them to meet their needs and to express faith in a way that is meaningful for them,” said cultural architect Erwin McManus, lead pastor at Mosaic Church in Los Angeles, to The Christian Post Monday.

“There is almost no genuine compassion or urgency about serving and reaching people who don’t know Christ,” he added.

These words are hard-hitting, and my first reaction was that they were too harsh. But a benevolence opportunity at my church on Thursday would make me rethink these thoughts.

One of many tug-of-wars that pastors and lay leaders face in the church is how to balance meeting the physical, social, and spiritual needs of others while at the same time proclaiming that the church isn’t about them. The Bible is replete with verses on caring for and taking in the needy. It is also saturated with the theme “die to self.” Inevitably, the church that follows the biblical mandates of compassion will attract many who come to have their needs met. The goal is to meet these needs so that they can then move forward in a relationship with Christ and be His disciple, which is the only real cure for a needy person.

I found myself flat on my back after battling this tug-of-war on Thursday. I was riding high after our church was able to help a gentleman keep his gas on (we’re expecting wind chills around 20-below tonight, so heat is a necessity this week). Later that same afternoon, another lady came in seeking help. My secretary recognized her as someone who “makes the rounds” asking for money. While I heard the conversation between my secretary and the lady from the front office, I was busy working on my sermon, so I didn’t even go greet her. We just helped someone else, so we’ve done enough this week. Such were my sinful, self-indulgent thoughts. Satan gave a great tug on the rope, and I ended face deep in spiritual mud. The lady left. I never even saw her face. The gospel message left unshared.

This lady’s merit is not the issue. My heart is the issue.

There is almost no genuine compassion or urgency about serving and reaching people who don’t know Christ.

Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.

Lord, I repent of my own spiritual self-indulgence. Please keep sending people in need to our church. And send us to those in need.

It’s time to make a transition: from spiritual self-indulgence to urgent compassion.

One comment on “The Self-Indulgent Church”

  1. Guy Richards says:


    That is hard hitting. Don’t lose you transparency. Love you brother.

    1 John 1:9

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