When anyone begins to talk about the more "Commitment" parts of the local church, predictable reactions happen. Leaders begin to thunder rousing Amens. Lay Workers begins to sigh as if help and relief may be on the way. Casual duty-motivated attenders don't know what the fuss is about. And everyone else gets wiggy.
I understand it. Jesus needs new PR. I get it. Next people throw out Ghandi's "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." And I get it. I've been there too. In fact I left The Church for the very same reasons at one point. I've even heard Christians speak ad nauseum about "Post Traumatic Church Disorder" where they bemoan emotional abuse at the hands of church leaders. We've all seen some bad stuff.
... it seemingly just doesn't matter. As I talked about in Part 1, we are called as followers of Christ to gather together, live life together, worship AND work together. In the areas that would persuade us to do otherwise, we are likely being called to grow up a bit and be responsible for the change. And make no mistake, The Church is in a season of massive reformation.
Where Jesus needs new PR, our challenge is to give him good PR. Ghandi was free to observe wisely, but felt no impetus to be a Christian who reflects Christ... because he was not a Christian! Ghandi had little to no effect on reconstruction of The Church because he was free from this responsibility. WE are not free from this. In fact Christ loved The Church and the Kingdom we're called to reflect that He died for it. When The Church (or anyone for that matter) hurts us, our responsibility is to forgive! It was for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Most of the reasons people give for not being tied into a local church are US-centered as opposed to God-centered.
When we planted Freedom House, we wanted to set ourselves apart and carve out a little niche so we abandoned the traditional Sunday Morning service. We wanted to create a culture in our house where people stopped thinking about what The Church WAS and begin to think about what The Church IS. And sometimes to do that, things that don't really matter have to be shaken up. So we did this for a while, and we got a healthy stream of young people, hungry for God... who went to other churches. They came for the energy rush of a Sunday Night blitz in a dirty old bar, but didn't invest any more than 3 hours a week. It was a taking relationship. What happened was cool... but not full. Our vision is to run a Ministry Centre, where every member is a minister (more on this later in the week) invested in the house. And we found that this was not being accomplished this way. There was nothing to build on.
The day we switched to doing church on Sunday Mornings again was a somewhat disappointing morning for some. Many said goodbye because their "Home" was somewhere else. Some stayed, others came, but the spirit changed. Night vs Morning is theoretically inconsequential which is why we did it in the first place. But if that is true... then there is nothing wrong with Sunday Morning either. In our culture, Sunday morning church is the tradition. We came to the realization that IT was not the boogie man in the equation. As we moved from a young church in an old bar to a maturing church... we heard the call of God to "Grow Up".
The weekend I gave my life to Jesus as a 19 year old, our Pastor preached out of 1 Corinthians 13. This verse was the very first verse that every really... resonated... in me as follower of Jesus
11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
There is something very Godly about growing up and being a man. Taking responsibility for your family and how you function in a home and community. Tucked into the picture of Proverbs 31's "Wife of Noble Character" is a verse that I love. The stanza talks about a wife who blesses, lifts ups, honors, serves... And one of the results is vaulting her husband into verse 23
Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
This is also the result of a matured, responsible Church. This fall, we hosted a Mayoral Debate during the municipal election at Freedom House. We asked the potential leaders of our city how they saw "The Church" fitting into our city's new season of RE-formation. ALL of them saw a role. And all of those roles required "The Church" to be a strong, unified front where men and women who called themselves Christians could function both as individual houses that could be dispatched to assignment AND ONE organized, unified body, willing to work and serve in an organized fashion.
This is not something that is found in many places in a community. But if The Church can rise up to be this (the very things that the New Testament envisioned it being) it would be a transformational unit in a city. What stops it is US. A fractured, unorganized, irresponsible, hurt, immature group is of little to no value to those charged with leading an administering change... doesn't actually make us (or others) feel fulfilled in our group expression, and handicaps God's tool of advancement in His Kingdom coming "on earth as it is in heaven".
It's time to grow up, gather together... and GROW!
Tomorrow in Part 3 I want to talk about church structures and how we can ALL have real purpose in our churches moving forward! Here's Part 1 if you missed it.