"We Just Need To..." Umm, No We Don't!

Text: 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

One of the biggest accusations in the church, from well-meaning parishioners and foolish pastors, is what we can call the “we just need to…” statement. In other words: 

We just need to get more people in the pews.  

We just need to evangelize more. 

We just need to get more young people. 

We just need to have a better children’s program and Sunday School. 

We just need to get more women involved in LWML. 

We just need to increase the giving. 

We just need to add to our building.

We just need to get a better website.

We just need to get better music.

Now, it is important to understand what is behind the “we just need to…” statement. That is to say, typically, when a parishioner or pastor starts a sentence with, “We just need to…” it infers that something is incomplete, lacking, or behind in the church. Now, please do not misunderstand me. I am not talking about how we use this statement for the need to repair a leaking roof, replace a run-down carpet, or fix potholes in the parking lot. These are maintenance needs that need to be fixed so that the roof of the church does not cave in.   Again, I am not talking about these examples. Instead, I am talking about things pertaining to the ministry of the church. You see, what often happens is one of two things. 

First, a parishioner or pastor can develop a sense of urgency or importance with a particular need or want in the church. We often call these felt needs. That is to say, a desire comes forth among church members or the pastor that requires it to be addressed or fulfilled. As a result, the phrase emerges in the church, “We just need to…” For example, there may be a felt need that the sermons need to be more entertaining, the music more upbeat, the bible studies more political, or the fellowship more social and friendly.  If these things changed, the felt need will be met and the parishioners and pastor will be fulfilled, happy, and whole.   

Secondly, if it isn’t a felt need in the church, parishioners and pastors can look at another church down the street or look at another church on social media and then feel incomplete or lacking. For example, if a neighboring church has a hundred kids for VBS, or if they have 20 new members, or if they have a great big concert, it can result in a comparison being made. And once the comparison is made, a pastor or parishioner can then feel as if their church is lacking unless they “just do XYZ.”  

And so, when the “we just need to…” mentality burrows its way into a church, the pastor and parishioner begin to function with desperation. They began acting like they are behind, in want, frantic, and needy. They begin to compare themselves to other churches down the street while also running frantically after the metaphoric carrot on a stick.  

In our reading from the Epistle of First Corinthians, the Apostle Paul confronts this “we just need to…” mentality. In other words, in our reading from 1 Corinthians, the Christians in the Church of Corinth were either ungrateful, tripped up by a false theology that their Christian faith was lacking a secret knowledge, or they looked at the riches of the city, and felt that they weren’t keeping up with the Joneses. They also seemed to be discouraged - feeling as if they were falling behind or in need as they waited for the second coming of Jesus. To the point, though, the Christians in Corinth had the mentality that they were lacking, falling behind, in need, and incomplete. 

In response to the Christians in Corinth, the Apostle Paul reminded them that they didn’t need a thing. He tells them that they’ve got it all. He says to them that they are enriched in everything: all speech and all knowledge. They had all that they needed for edification; they were firmly established. They were completely holy – despite all the problems in the church.  

But why? They were complete, secure, whole, and established because they had the grace of God that was given to them in Christ. They had Jesus.  

The Apostle Paul tells the Christians in Ephesus the same thing. He says, 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.  

Dear friends, Paul uses the same word in his letter to the Ephesians as he does in our reading from 1 Corinthians: πᾶς (all, everything, complete, whole, etc.) 

And so, what Paul is telling the Christians in Corinth, as well as us Christians here in St. Paul’s Minot, is that if we have the grace of God given to us in Christ Jesus, then we don’t need a thing. In Christ, we have it all. In Christ, all the gifts are right in front of us as we walk through this vale of tears, awaiting the great last day or our death – whichever one comes first. 

And so, because we have Christ and Christ has us, “We just need to…” do nothing.  Yes, you heard that correctly: if we have Christ and His gift, we lack nothing as a church. We don’t need to do anything.  

But some well-meaning Christians will respond to this by saying, “But that is being lazy!”  Nope, it is not being lazy. Instead, this is what assurance looks like in Christ.  

Think of it this way: Baptized Saints, if we don’t need a thing and if we have everything in Christ, you and I do not need to act like we are behind, look like we are desperate, and be frantic with our actions. I have been to too many churches as a visitor, where parishioners pounce on you as a newcomer with frantic desperation to fill their pews. I have seen too many churches give into silly gimmicks – slimming the pastor, riding a horse into the sanctuary, and raffling off a flat-screen TV because they are desperate to fill some misguided felt need in their church. I have heard way too many stories where we compare today’s church to the church of the 1950s – if we could just return to the good ol’ days! Dear friends, all of this kind of foolish talk functions as if Christ were still dead in the tomb.  

Please listen carefully; I love our church here at St. Paul’s. We have a beautiful building. We have great parishioners. I love our church personality. I also love our Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. We have a great doctrine and a great heritage. We also have a great state – North Dakota. It is a wonderful place to raise a family with a great work ethic and good family values. However, none of this makes us complete or whole. That is to say, if the acolytes were to burn this church down, if our budget were to fall apart, if our synod would be dismantled by an unknown force, and if our state were to dissolve, we would not – according to the Kingdom of God – need a thing. We would still have every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm by Christ Jesus.  

And regarding other churches? We need not compare. If great things are happening in other churches as they rest in Jesus’ finished work – God be praised. However, if they are doing great things to fill a felt need or try to be more complete – God have mercy on them, for they have failed to realize that Jesus has already done that for them.

And so, we don’t need to do anything at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church to be more complete because we already have everything in Christ. He paid for all of our sins on the cross. He rose from the grave to defeat death. He reigns at the Father's right hand until He returns for us again. Instead, we get to function in Christian freedom, joy, and hope. We get to do a variety of great things to serve our neighbor because we are already whole in Christ. As my old professor used to say, “We don’t do good things to become a Christian; we do good things because we already are Christians.”  

Baptized Saints, you lack nothing. You are holy in Christ. You have His gifts. You have God’s favor in Jesus. And so, you are free to live in joyful-wholeness, complete-peace, and loving-kindness to your neighbor as we all wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the great last day.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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