Every time Jesus turned around, he seemed to be breaking another rule: healing on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6), eating grain heads (Matthew 12:1-8), even washing hands (Matthew 15:1-2). Now to be clear, Jesus never broke the commands of Scripture, living a sinless life. What he did break though with seeming regularity were the church rules that had crept up around the commands and choked the very life out of them. So in that vein and in honor of Jesus, the chief rebel and instigator of our faith, here are five church rules that are made to be broken:
1. You can give your second-best as long as it’s for Jesus. I’ve seen this far too often. Churches putting out their second best because they’re convinced that as long as they love God he’ll accept whatever they bring to him. The way you love God is by giving him your best. So when church buildings and facilities are dirty and in disrepair, when the music is as awkward as an elementary recital and when the preaching is dull and lifeless, that’s not a sign of hyper-spirituality, that’s a sign of laziness masked in pseudo-spirituality. Jesus deserves and demands our best.
2. Ministry is reserved for the clergy. This is a myth that has been perpetuated for centuries now, that there is a clear distinction between the clergy and the laity. Although it’s great for our job security as clergy, this myth is decidedly anti-biblical. It’s gotten to the point where a common misperception is that the job of the church members is to come to church and give money to support the staff/clergy who are doing the real ministry. Read Ephesians 4:11-13 to disabuse yourself of that notion. We’re all called to minister.
3. Emotions have no place in worship. We are so in love with knowledge that we sometimes see emotions as a weakness to be avoided. How often do people sit in worship services that stimulate the mind but make no effort to prick the heart or engage the emotions? Jesus told us to love God with all of our heart, our soul, our mind and our strength (Mark 12:30). He told the woman at the well that God is seeking worshippers who will worship him in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24). If you’re in an environment where emotions are frowned upon in worship, there’s a rule that’s made to be broken.
4. Church is exclusively for church people. If you want to know why a large majority of churches are plateaued and declining today, this rule (that’s made to be broken) is to blame. Whether it’s through the insider language we use, the penchant for more discipleship (far easier) than more evangelism (much harder), the songs we sing, the sermons we preach or simply the way we interact with guests, too many churches scream with their actions that their churches are just for church people. You are more than welcome at church as long as you already look, talk, act and believe the same as everyone else. The curious or seeking need not apply. Yet when you look at the life and ministry of Jesus, you see the opposite: Jesus shunning the religious leaders and instead hanging out with the tax collectors and ‘sinners’ (Matthew 9:10-11).
5. One big mistake and you’re out. Churches have become far too proficient at shooting our own wounded. We triumph in church discipline while we’ve neglected biblical restoration. In a world laden with traps and pitfalls, we do the easy thing and push someone out for making a grievous mistake rather than doing the hard work of not only holding them accountable, but loving them, walking with them, and ultimately restoring them. Too many people bear church scars (see my post on that topic here) from situations where they made a legitimate mistake but instead of being healed and restored they were put down like a horse with a bad leg. Jesus’ life was characterized by scandalous mercy (John 8:1-11), and our lives should reflect the same.
QUESTION: What other church rules are made to be broken?