I have recently discovered a new word: churchianity. You may have come across it before. It’s a word, I think, that encompasses another familiar modern-day phrase: ‘fake news’.
The Gospel means the Good News, but the truth is that ‘fake news’ can creep into the household of faith and make captives of us all. We’re living in perilous times. Spiritually speaking, ‘fake news’ is personified in people who have a form of godliness – people who have been Christian for years, who preach the Gospel but don’t live it. They spread gossip rather than grace; are critical rather than caring, and have unforgiving attitudes. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 puts it like this: ‘There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.’
Paul is not talking about the bench-warming Sunday morning Christians; he’s referring to those who are active in ministry – people like you and me. My deepest concern is that any one of us could unwittingly trade our Christianity for churchianity. All it takes is for our lives to get so busy that we merely go through the motions of what’s familiar. The flame that once burned brightly is dimmed by the affairs of life. Slowly our prayer lives begin to suffer but, because we’re ‘professional’ Christians, we can wing it for a while… that’s until everything around us either just becomes annoying or stops working altogether.
If you have the Holy Spirit on the inside of you, you will be able to sense churchianity – and its pernicious seduction – working its way into your faith walk. And it must be stopped in its tracks.
It’s easy to read the list in the verse above and think, “Yeah, that’s that brother in the ushering team” or “I know lots of Christians like that”, but I think Paul wanted Timothy – and us – to do some soul searching when reading this, and ask: ‘Lord, is it me who needs to change? Am I drifting away from You?’
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of saying one thing and living differently. The reasons why some of our unsaved friends and family talk about hypocrites in the church is because, sadly, there are a lot of hypocrites in the church! I am going to make sure I am not one of them, and I urge you to do likewise.
But how can we do this? Ironically, sometimes the answer is to take a step back. Do a life audit, take a couple of months out of church life – church life, not church! – and focus on your personal relationship with Christ. It’s a great exercise, and sometimes life will make you do this. I have very young children, so am not as active in church life as I used to be. Half the time I don’t even get to hear the message. My one-year-old often decides he has more important revelations to share than my pastor has! My faith is pretty much dependent on me picking up the Bible at home, and reading and studying for myself.
I am not saying to forsake the gathering of the brethren; I’m suggesting that sometimes we need to retreat. Even Jesus went up to the mountains to pray. When we are so focused on tasks and what we are doing in church, we can become consumed with activity and take our eyes off Jesus and that vertical relationship.
This is conference season, so choose a good conference and attend it. Immerse yourself in a completely different spiritual environment and be refreshed. It doesn’t have to be you putting out the chairs in your church every week. You’ll be surprised: one week off rota will take your ushering duties to a whole new level!
I really believe that our spiritual maturity and growth are dependent on rest and retreat, and taking an honest look at the condition of our hearts. Rest has a way of refocusing us and reminding us of the important things in life. It helps us to become balanced and maintain a Kingdom mindset. Go on holiday – even if it’s two nights away – and do something completely different. Look closely at your finances – I bet you can afford it – and I know you’re worth it!
God bless you x