Gary Derbyshire

7 Signs You're Treating Your Church Like a School

Gary Derbyshire
September 5, 2017

This is the second installment of the What is a Church series. You can check out the first one here. Let’s get right to it.

In the New Testament, a local church was a "called out assembly" or ekklesia, of people, whose foundation was Jesus Christ the Son of God and whose goal was to magnify and reproduce the glory of God. Certainly, local churches express this definition a little bit differently depending on their cultural and even geographic context, but the goal is the same. In part due to the thriving of parachurch organizations, I believe many Christians in Western cultures often confuse the local church with something it is not and it is having a drastic impact on the health of their churches.

As Christians lack a biblical understanding of what a church is, they end up treating the church like something it is not. Here are seven ways for you to know you are actually treating your church like a school:

1. If you don’t “learn something” from the sermon, it doesn’t speak to you. Scripture is not always about learning something new, but about experiencing something anew. Any time God’s awesomeness is clearly communicated to you through His Word, it is cause for worship and rejoicing.

2. Your kids are more involved at your church than you are, if you are there at all. As a youth pastor, I see this all the time. Christian parents do this typically because they either want their kids to learn things they as parents already know or for the church to fix behavior issues. Leading your family to do as you say, but not as you do, will cause you to fail as a parent and disciple-maker all at once.

3. You see fellowship and fun activities with your church as a waste of time. It is true that the church is not a social club. However, the first church met regularly in each others’ homes as well and had a central location for devoting themselves to the apostles teaching (Acts 2:42-46). Just because there isn’t going to be a Bible study at a church picnic doesn’t mean it is not glorifying to God.

4. You only recognize the insight, gifts, and impact of paid staff members. Strong church leadership is important, but it is not always defined by professional pastors and paid employees. God’s church is a family, not a classroom. Any mature member can disciple you, not just paid educators.

5. You are either never or rarely with your children during church gatherings. Children’s ministry is important, but the primary disciple makers in a home will always be parents. If your kids never see you sing with the congregation, study scripture, or socialize with other church members, they will never really know what being a healthy church member looks like.

6. Your children are the sole reason you decide on a church. Our children need to be discipled and grown at our church, but if we only care about our kids’ discipleship process, it often leads to idolatry. If we as parents neglect our own growth in Christ, our ability to determine whether or not our kids are getting the Gospel will suffer.

7. If the church doesn’t have a “youth group” or other kids program for your child’s specific age group, it doesn’t care for kids. Just because a church does not have separate meetings just for your kids’ age group, does not mean it will not minister to your kids. Granted, there are some logistical and practical reasons for having some form of childcare, but God doesn’t always call us to a church with all the bells and whistles. He calls us to worshipping communities where we can give the most glory to him using the gifts and abilities he has given us.


This is not meant to be pessimistic or overly critical. However, if a church’s members don’t know what a church is, it will become sick. A local church is a called out assembly, whose foundation is Jesus Christ the Son of God and goal is to magnify and reproduce the glory of God. If that is what you are trying to be a part of in your church, you will take your church one step closer to being healthy. If you don’t, be careful, you and your family may just be attending a Christian school.

Gary Derbyshire

Gary is the Senior Pastor of Apollo Baptist Church in Glendale, Arizona. Gary's biggest life influence is his loving parents, who originally taught him the Gospel and biblical exposition, and still live as missionaries in Asia. The next biggest influence is his loving wife, a gifted worship leader and evangelist to their children.

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Gary Derbyshire