The church where joy goes to die

“Joy is the business of Heaven.”  –C. S. Lewis 

What started me thinking of this was a line from former FBI Director James Comey’s book A Higher Loyalty.

“Although I have had a different idea of ‘fun’ than most, there were some parts of the Justice Department that had become black holes, where joy went to die.” 

He explained about his days at the Justice Department: “Places where morale had gotten so low and the battle scars from bureaucratic wrangling with other departments and the White House so deep, I worried that we were on the verge of losing some of our best, most capable lawyers.”

Sound familiar, pastor?

“Where joy goes to die.”  A fit description for a place–a business, a family, a team, a congregation–characterized by low morale, battle fatigue and discouragement.

I’ve worked in places like that. I’ve pastored a church or two like that.  And I’ve known several such congregations.

Dear Lord, help your church. Please.

Comey says,  “The more stressful the job, the more intentional I’ve always been about helping my team members find joy in our work.  Laughter is the outward manifestation of joy, so I believe if I’m doing it right and helping people connect to the meaning and joy in their work, there will be laughter in the workplace.”

Laughter is the outward manifestation of joy.  He said what I preach.  I love to laugh, and I really love it when laughter happens spontaneously in church services. This is the natural kind which you cannot plan or whip up.

Question: Do you know of churches where joy goes to die? 

–A church whose leaders reject new ideas and fail to welcome new people is a graveyard for joy.

–A church where the pastor preaches harsh messages and delights in sending people to hell is a stranger to joy.

–A congregation where the leadership looks askance at newcomers, forbids children from having fun and being children, and turns a cold shoulder toward innovation and instrumentation in the services is a joyless place.

We were having some kind of event at church and the sweetest little child, a boy perhaps two or three years old, stepped into the aisle and began dancing.  It was so charming.  One of the older ladies of the church, first cousin to Ebenezer Scrooge, no doubt, called out, “Someone stop that child from dancing in the church.” To their credit, the people around her ignored Madame Scrooge and enjoyed the child.

–In one church I served, the deacons worked overtime looking for ways to stop other men from being qualified to serve as deacons.  This was their little club and they had to protect it from intruders.  Joy is a stranger to such a gathering.

–One church voted against my coming as pastor because I had used humor in the introductory sermon.  The Lord sent me anyway (I’m smiling) and they either learned to loosen up and laugh or found another church.

–I’ve known congregations that treated laughter as an intrusion into a worship service, rather than an integral part.  When they laughed, you got the impression they felt guilty about it and abandoned the practice as quickly as they could.

–In sketching congregations far and wide, I tell people, “Look me in the eye and smile.”  You’d be amazed how many Christians tell me, “I don’t smile.”  I have had more than one pastor say, “I don’t smile.”  Often I will ask, “You don’t smile? Are you saved?  Then you have everything to smile about!”  I told one pastor, “Fully one half of your members told me they did not smile.  My friend, there’s something wrong here.”  He dismissed it as unimportant.  Which probably explains everything.

The Lord Jesus had much to say about joy.  Here are three statements from the Lord’s last night with the disciples in the Upper Room….

–“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full”  (John 15:11).  This joy we feel is HIS joy!

How would you like to feel His joy radiating inside you?  That’s what He gives!

–“I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice; and no one takes your joy away from you” (John 16:22).  This joy of ours is HIS, and it is permanent!

How would you like your joy to be everlasting, untouchable by doom or gloom?  That’s what this is!

–“Until now you have asked nothing in my name;  ask and you will receive, that your joy may be made full” (John 16:24).  Our joy runs over when we are constantly being used of Him.

How would you like to know what David meant when he said “my cup runneth over”?  That’s the kind of abundant joy Jesus gives.

The Lord wants our joy to be full and He wants it to be permanent, lasting.

Why should we rejoice? 

We rejoice “in the Lord” (Philippians 4:4).  What does that mean?  It means to make a conscious decision to praise Him and love Him, to serve Him and thank Him.

When the disciples returning from their preaching mission on fire–“Lord! It was wonderful! Even the devils were subject to us!”–Jesus agreed with them.  Then, He said, “But do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you.  Rejoice because your names are written in Heaven” (Luke 10:20).  Do that and you will never run out of reasons to rejoice.

Joy is the business of Heaven, C. S. Lewis?  Perhaps Dr. Lewis is remembering Psalm 16:11. “In Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”  Billy Graham consistently called that his favorite verse.

Given a choice, I’d rather my church be a birthplace for joy, not the black hole where joy goes to die.

And make no mistake– we always have a choice.

Hey friend, choose joy.

1 thought on “The church where joy goes to die

  1. I love this! I read a devotional this morning discussing the difference between worldly happiness and Spirited joy. My favorite part was, “If the Spirit of Christ is always inside me and will never leave me, then my joy will never leave me. No matter what I go through, I can have joy because my God is with me. Good days – joy. Bad days – joy. Suffering – joy. When everything goes my way – joy. When nothing goes my way – joy. My joy remains because my Christ remains…. The world’s idea of happiness is directly tied to circumstances – it’s an extremely dangerous scenario when outward forces control our inward feelings.” Thank you for this message <3

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