When Robert Irvine of Restaurant Impossible first shows up at a restaurant in trouble, he talks with the owners. After the introductions, he asks them how they came to own the restaurant, what business was like at the beginning, and what it’s like now. Obviously, the current state of business is dire, otherwise Robert wouldn’t be there. But, for the most part, the owners don’t know the cause, and any blame tends to be placed on external factors, such as increased competition, the economy, etc.
Robert then observes a ‘service’. He sees the restaurant in action: how the waitresses serve the customers, how quickly the food arrives, and what the customers think of the food. He also samples from the menu himself. Most of the time the food Robert tastes is, to use his word, ‘Garbage!‘, and he’s not afraid to say so openly. Problems with the meal range from the food being undercooked to it being overcooked, the use of canned or frozen food, under or over seasoned food, or even dangerously spoiled food. In spite of this being the norm, I don’t recall seeing any episode where the owners admitted from the beginning, “Our food is garbage!” They’re usually convinced the opposite is true.
So when Robert gives his verdict, there is usually disbelief, and sometimes anger. If the chef takes offense, saying, ‘Everyone likes this!’, Robert responds if that’s the case, where are all the customers? That usually silences them. If not, then he brings back a customer or two to back up his ‘garbage’ claim.
Blind pride on the part of the owners and/or employees tends to be a very common problem on the show. The most difficult restaurants Robert has to deal with are the ones who stubbornly cling to their belief that their food is good. Unfortunately, with no humble admission of the problem, there can be no solution.
The pride-blindness problem also exists in many churches today, and it’s the primary stumbling block that gets in the way of solutions to other serious problems.
Church pride typically manifests itself through finger-pointing: one member points at the sins and weaknesses of another, or a whole congregation points at another congregation or denomination. There may be some truth to the accusations. However, those that like to blame others tend to be blind to their own serious issues.
You then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?
– Romans 2:21-22
It is easy to think and say, “The problem is not with me!” Pride-blindness has very selective vision. We see the sins of others but not our own. But what would happen if someone comes from outside to examine you – a spiritual Robert Irvine, if you will? What would he find after you deny you have a problem?
For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
– Revelation 3:17
I’ll venture to predict there isn’t going to be a TV show called Church Impossible. No expert is going to come from outside to fix your church problems in two days with $10,000. A solution is going to have to come from within.
Guess what? God has provided the solution for all of our sin problems within the church! The Holy Spirit is the solution! He is fully capable of opening our eyes to see our problems, and fully capable of correcting those problems within us. But just as with the television restaurant expert, the Holy Spirit can’t do a thing if we refuse to humble ourselves and submit to His most thorough search of our hearts, and submit to His leading. (Actually, the Spirit can do something: If we refuse to humble ourselves, He may do the humbling for us, but it would be much more painful that way.)
The first step toward the solution to problems in our churches today is humilty. We in the church need to abandon our pride. We need to humble ourselves and stop pointing fingers at others (even if they are worse than us), so that the Holy Spirit can reveal our spiritual state. (The Spirit will do a much more thorough job of revealing our problems and correcting them than any TV celebrity ever could! Don’t be surprised if the Spirit shows us a whole lumber yard of two-by-fours in our eyes to be removed before we can see clear to remove the toothpicks in the eyes of others.)
* Only with humility are we enabled, with the Holy Spirit’s help, to see our sin (Psalm 139:23-24) and accept responsibility for it.
* Only with humility are we able to confess our sins and repent.
* Only with humility will we be able to submit ourselves fully to the Holy Spirit’s leading.
* Only with humility can we grow as the body of Christ after our sin problems have been put in the past.
On Restaurant Impossible, virtually all of the chefs who were offended with Robert’s initial assessment of their food “repented” once they tasted food cooked the right way. They swallowed their pride and benefited by it. Likewise, a church that consists of believers who live in humble submission to the Holy Spirit know the benefits of this change of mindset, and will not want to go back to their old ways.
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.
– Revelation 3:18-19