I don’t think it was ever intentional, but I picked up some church lies growing up. I’m born and raised Baptist, surrounded by (mostly) loving, well-meaning folks. I’m grateful for my heritage, but it isn’t without baggage. Looking back now, here are the top five church lies I picked up from my church childhood.
1. “God never called us to be successful, he called us to be faithful.” I heard this time and time again from churches I attended that weren’t growing, weren’t reaching the next generation, weren’t being successful. Their justification for not changing? “God never called us to be successful, he called us to be faithful.” Sounds great. Sounds spiritual, even. It’s just not biblical. To be ‘faithful’ to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), you have to be ‘successful’ at it. You can’t separate the two. The successful/faithful line was just a convenient justification for their unwillingness to change.
2. “If another church is growing, they must be doing something sinful.” Right in line with the first statement came this one. This was a default attitude towards churches around us that were actually growing. If they were growing, they must be watering down the gospel somehow. Because in their (twisted) minds, being faithful to God meant not reaching anyone, remaining stagnant and inward looking. If you were actually fulfilling the Great Commission and reaching people, you must have compromised your beliefs somehow.
3. “Bible knowledge = spiritual maturity.” The goal of church was to learn more Bible knowledge. That’s why you went to Sunday School, morning worship, Discipleship Training, Sunday night worship, etc. Learn more Bible. If you can just learn enough, you’ll become a true disciple. Obviously we never learned the parts of the gospels where Jesus condemned the Pharisees for having knowledge of the Law but not living it out. It would have been awkward to realize that we were in fact growing Pharisees.
4. “You can honor God or be culturally relevant, but you can’t be both.” Culture wars started early in my church experience. It was us vs. them, and you had to choose sides. Obviously I wanted to be on God’s side, but I was torn. It wasn’t until later that I encountered Christians that had found a way to redeem culture, not just reject it.
5. “The church is for church people.” This was never said outright, but the message was loud and clear. Every time I had the gall of inviting an unchurched friend to come with me to church, I was reminded that church wasn’t for them. They didn’t dress right, act right, talk right. My unchurched friends made the horrific mistake of acting like unchurched people at times, and that was too much for some in my church.
Once again, I’m thankful for my heritage and the foundation I grew up in, but we all have baggage. This is mine.
QUESTION: What church lies (if any) did you learn growing up?