Don't be Such a Cretan
(This is a repost from the blog that I write for The Door Church at www.thedoorchurch.net)
“For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’” (Titus 1:10-12)
Harsh words for the Cretans from a Cretan, eh? It would be like a Coppellian saying all Coppellians are liars. Does that then discredit the statement of the lying Coppellian about other Coppellians? That’s a head scratcher.
Paul planted churches all over the place. He saw it all. Good churches, bad churches, big cities, one goat towns.
Having spent the past 5 years in church leadership, I have noticed there are two types of people that belong to a church. Now there are fence sitters and outliers, but people generally fall into one of two categories: Cretan Complainers or Humble Helpers.
The Cretan Complainer
The Cretan Complainer (or CC, for short) is someone who is quick to criticize and slow to raise their hand to help. They don’t like this ministry or that song or that person and you just don’t hear much from them in the way of positivity. CCs talk empty and they seem to talk often. They bring up problems but never matching solutions.
The Humble Helper
The Humble Helper (or HH, for short) is quick to help and slow to criticize. If they do offer a criticism, it is in love and for the good of the church. The HH talks less and does more. They may or may not like certain aspects of the church or the people within its walls, but they fight to make their contribution because they love the bride of Christ.
Obviously the HH wears the white hat. Hopefully as you read the description of the two you want to be a HH and not a CC. The Bible would certainly condone the spirit of an HH:
“Blessed are the peacemakers.” (Matthew 5:9)
“Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” (James 1:19)
“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
So I think we can agree that an HH is the way to go. If we have CC tendencies, we can repent and move towards and more humble and loving devotion to the local church body to which we belong. We can aim at the 3 verses above to guide our conduct.
We must always look behind the what to get to the why. It is not merely enough that we should have a humble and helpful character, because doing so just because it’s just the right thing to do is a weak motive that won’t last. Doing good because good is good is a circular argument to nowhere. That’s like being obsessed with peace. Someday someone will come along and upend your peace and you’ll throw a rip-roaring (read: not peaceful) tantrum. Motive must come from a place of purity.
When we are saved in Christ, we are saved into a body of believers. That’s called the church. Jesus called the church His bride. And He shed His blood for her. For the church, which is a family of weirdos like you and me. His rescue of us was the most loving act in known history.
Clearly the church matters. Clearly you matter.
The church (the universal church, meaning the body of believers) is not an organization of like-minded individuals that rally around a purpose. It isn’t like the Rotary Club or the Boy Scouts where you sign up or leave at will. The church is a family purchased by the blood of Christ. We belong to one another, and we are immensely blessed to belong.
So Jesus bought our way into His bride, His church. That means if we value what Jesus values we must find our way to a local church. If we want to be near to Jesus we will want to be near His church, and guess what – that means you’ll get to gussy up next to His ragtag people. Throw a bunch of sinful people together, add the grace of Christ, pour over the great news of the Gospel, and stir.
In the Bible Belt, the default mode for most is consumerism. Shop, compare, decide, and scrutinize. It’s how we buy socks and it’s how we shop churches. Now considering the importance of a church home, you should absolutely vet theology and check things out before becoming a member (or more importantly, encouraging your entire family to become members). But if you’re looking for a perfect church, you’ll just keep looking. The only perfect thing about a church is Jesus. So after vetting theology, praying, and then determining a church is right for you, you commit. You buy in.
John F. Kennedy famously said, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” When I was a kid my dad inserted “family” in that line during a teachable moment. Allow me to insert “church” into that line:
Ask not what your church can do for you, ask what you can do for your church.
We will not be useful members of our church until and unless we behold Jesus with our heart and soul and mind. That’s the Great Commandment: love God entirely and then love your neighbor as yourself. You cannot skip to step two because step one is a prerequisite. The imperative here – the action item – is not to simply do more. That is a weak and overly simplistic approach. No, we need to sit at the feet of Jesus. Practically that looks like reading Scripture, preaching the Gospel to yourself, serving others, and belonging to a local church body.
Don’t overthink it, my friend. And don’t feel guilty if you’re more CC than HH. But do remember to check your thinking about the church and repent of your CC ways. You belong to a family that loves you, albeit imperfectly. You belong to that family because God loves you perfectly.