In this, my first blog for the new website of Garland Road Baptist Church, I have some confessions to make. The first confession is this: I have never before written a blog. Perhaps you will be able to tell as you read along here, but this is my first go-round, this is my first rodeo. My second confession is this: I do not really like blogs nor do I ever really read them. I know that for my schooling, I have to work according to formats. I have to submit my research papers according to a certain style, and I honestly have no idea what the format is or what the style is for a Pastor’s blog, or how these kinds of blogs normally go or how they normally sound.
What is my preference? My preference is not to sit down at a computer and type down a few paragraphs and submit them to a website. My preference is to sit down with people at my church office, sit down with people at a restaurant, or sit down with people in their homes and just talk. I am an old soul in a young person’s body. But, even as I type this word, “preference,” I am reminded of what Thom Rainer writes in a couple of his books, I Am A Church Member and Autopsy of a Deceased Church, about preferences. He writes that one of the signs of a dying church is that it is a “Preference-Driven Church.” He writes that one of the commitments of a real church member is that “I will not let my church be about my preferences and desires.” Rainer writes that if we are not careful as a church, that the church will become like a country club (ironic since Garland Road Baptist Church is right next to a golf course and I see the greens from my office window.) In a country club, “Membership means perks. Membership means privileges. Membership means others will serve me. Just pay the going rate, and you can have others taking care of you while you enjoy a life of leisure…membership is about receiving instead of giving, being served instead of serving, rights instead of responsibilities, and entitlements instead of sacrifices. This wrongful view of membership sees the tithes and offerings as membership dues that entitle members to a never-ending list of privileges and expectations, instead of an unconditional cheerful gift to God” (I Am A Church Member, 10-11). Biblical church membership, on the other hand, “gives without qualifications. Biblical membership views the tithes and offerings as joyous giving. There are no strings attached. Biblical membership serves and ministers as a natural way of doing things” (I Am A Church Member, 15). For people to follow Jesus, they must deny themselves and they take up their cross, and, in doing so, they canfollow Jesus.
Today, what about church, what about worship services, what about ministry, or what about the church building itself are really just your preferences? What of them are really of no moral or theological value, but really are just what you like, just what you are used to, just what appeals to or is attractive to you, or just what makes you feel good? What would happen if Jesus led your church in a direction that was opposed to your preferences?