Beware the Spirit of “Churchy”!

Eric Vondy, Flickr
Eric Vondy, Flickr

There is an enthusiastic, hardworking kind that fills churches these days. A false spirit it is, however, crept in the pews, once rarer to find but now easily spotted from the pulpit to the door. What’s its name? I call it…“Churchy”.

What is Churchiness?

Churchiness: the characteristic of false devotion having church routine as its focus rather than God that becomes a substitute for genuine godliness and ministry. It describes a believer or non-believer of every kind of church caught up in doing church rather than being it.

When I think about what I’m observing churchiness do to people’s faith, a term comes to mind: transmogrify. It means to change the form or appearance of in a strange or grotesque way; and that frightens me. Let me paint the picture for you.

  • Churchy people thrive on program and involvement but lack in worship and effective ministry.
  • Churchy people greatly enjoy the glitzy, hyped aspects of church life: performance, personages, roles and titles, numbers, conferences—you name it.
  • Churchiness reduces the church to social club status for the spiritually elite or those who merely wish to use Jesus as their converge theme. Such allows the formation of in-crowds—cliques—that oust others and provide haven for dangerous subversions.
  • Churchiness allows sinners to blend in with the people of God and feel no conviction of the Spirit about the sinful condition of their hearts and essential need for Jesus.

“Do the First Works”

I believe the way to plug this leak of genuine piety is to once again emphasize those basic elements often the lack of which have brought about the problem.

First, we must preach the Word of God. Christian preaching has become very principle-centered and church-oriented; and we are tossing aside scripture-based, doctrinal teaching, which is so foundational. Preaching is being diluted with self-help and capitalist notions, even New Age thought. This shouldn’t be. The end result is people who are spiritually shallow and weak.

Ry, Flickr
Ry, Flickr

Second, ongoing discipleship is essential. We should never stop progressing in Christ or his Word. Churches must facilitate discipleship at every level and in formal ways; and we must individually desire and pursue greater biblical literacy and effective ministry. Progressive discipleship keeps us developing in our salvation (2 Pet. 1).

Third, the wonder of God is vital. I’m talking about worship. We’ll “camp out” reinventing church if we’re not enthralled with the God it serves. This is why some churches have become holy Hollywood fabrications that would wash out if all the ‘lights, cameras, and action’ were taken away. But when one gets a vision of God akin to Isaiah’s, he or she will quickly lose the false sense of importance in non-essentials that attends churchiness.

Finally, clear teaching about the church and its role from a biblical and theological perspective is very important. When was the last time you heard such teaching from the pulpit? But won’t that aid a congregation’s identity, mission, protocol, community, and more? We tend to hear it only when a church is launched. I say the savviest church trends need not replace rudimentary instruction.

Thus, churchiness makes a mockery of the price Jesus paid for a glorious Church. Yet his death affords us no limelight, no laziness, no lackadaisical attitude. Let’s be the church and keep Jesus our highest goal and not settle for a false image of godliness.

9 thoughts on “Beware the Spirit of “Churchy”!

  1. […] Drawing close to God will destroy our assumptions about who he is. That is a good thing and shouldn’t be a surprise. A growing relationship is a learning process that helps us discover things about ourselves and the other, replacing error with knowledge. We assume many things about God and about his motives. People will proclaim “God won’t let” this or that happen, and I will think, Don’t be so sure about that. The notion develops when we are not intimately acquainted with God in a bond cemented by relationship in the best and worst of times, often at his behest. It is to trade insight of his character for low-level spiritual experiences that do no more than keep us excited and “churchy”.  […]

  2. Churchiness is a slow acting virus that spreads through the air, infects minds and hearts, and is usually fatal to a church if left untreated.

    Treatment involves painful heart transplants (Ezekiel 36:26) and a new mind (Romans 12:2)

    The only known defence against this virus is a sharp, double-edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12). Problem is, we got to learn how to use it first by getting intimately familiar with it.

    • So right, Stephen. I can totally see how a church might die if there is no genuine godliness present. There would certainly be no missional impetus. I dread it now that people might come to Christ and get involved with folk who are merely churchy and not “all in” for Jesus. Poignant comment…thanks.

  3. Mike, I wish I could explain how much I appreciate this! I’m disenchanted with the churchiness that has infected the church. I crave open Bible, open heart, open mind, open ears fellowship. I leave church service and wonder why I’m craving popcorn. No wonder! You pegged it. It’s the Hollywoodization of sermons. It’s a veritable magic show. Jesus is not a gimmick. He doesn’t need flashing lights and smoke machines or power points with cool graphics. We have to trust God. We have to tell Him, show Him that He is enough. His Word is enough. We don’t need to add anything to make His Word enticing. We just need to have open Bibles, hearts, ears, and minds.
    Thank you for this poignant and relevant post! Blessings to you, my friend.

    • Yessss! And popcorn–haha! 😀 I visited a really fast-growing church not long ago for the first time. I was excited because I really like the young pastor, and I know of the great works the church is doing. But I was so “disenchanted” by the service. It didn’t feel like church. It felt like my very first rock concert! Dark, claustrophobic, smoky…you name it. They don’t call their services…services, but “experiences”. Fine: it was that, but not one for me. I’m a little old-school. I want to feel Jesus and not noise vibrations going through my body.

      We’ll admire folk who are developed in spiritual disciplines and who have a real connection with God; then we’ll mock them and laugh it off because we assume that we can’t be that. But a problem is that our services don’t get us all the way to him. If we have to defend our Hollywood and trending styles, then we have to accept that our services are not developing quiet spirits in us and are not divesting us of the culture and its noise, but rather leading us closer to them.

      I get all the social media and stuff, but even that has taken a center stage in our churches. We’re now Facebooking and tweeting/hashtagging everything, “mobiling” offerings…everything. I’m not a Luddite. Technology is good in its place, but I’m not trying to sanctify all that unto the Lord. You’re right: just open your Bible, your heart, your mind, and your ears and learn how to wait before the Lord, something this generation doesn’t know how to do. Transformation comes with time and sitting in his presence. (Let me stop…starting to preach! Thanks for the input!)

  4. “Churchiness: the characteristic of false devotion having church routine as its focus rather than God that becomes a substitute for genuine godliness and ministry. It describes a believer or non-believer of every kind of church caught up in doing church rather than being it.” Amen. That says it all right there. Everything we do must have its foundation and goal in our new life in Christ, not in church activities. Even spiritual disciplines can be an idol if the focus is on the discipline instead of Christ.

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