So yesterday’s post rankled a few visitors, and hopefully got some people thinking. Politics have never really been that interesting to me before say… 2001, but lately I find myself pretty passionate about what’s going on in the world. Here’s another thing I’ve found I’m pretty passionate about: what’s going on in the Christian world.
Politics aside, and the fact that the “Christian” right sometimes makes me a little ashamed to be associated with them, I’ve observed some pretty bizarre non-political Christian behavior in my time, and I think I’d finally like to say a couple things:
#1 – Church is for non-Christians. Church is also for Christians.
I’ve heard, and been a part of both sides of this argument. There is one camp who holds that church should be accessible to seekers, to people interested in finding out more about what we believe, so the weekend experience should cater to those folks — at the expense of everything else a church typically does. There’s another camp that believes church is some kind of holy huddle, where we should stick to our comfortable, and to the outsider, often bizarre little rituals, because those make us feel righteous.
The truth lies in the balance.
Church should be accessible to seekers. Guests should feel welcome walking into our meeting place, not intimidated. They should find things there that are familiar to them, and comfortable. Church should be culturally relevant, and the message should be offered in a way that the average person can understand and relate to.
However, to do so at the expense of the existing believer is foolish. Christ told us to go and make disciples — not converts. It is not enough to stop at milk — church needs to offer meat to those who are growing. Serving is not discipleship. Its an important part of becoming a disciple, but there is much more to a relationship with God then having the basics down and serving somewhere.
I realize this can be a difficult and expensive balance to find. How do you keep your message relevant to seekers, while guiding existing believers to new depths in their faith? The answer isn’t that hard, so I’ll give it to you:
The weekend is not enough.
It is not all about the weekend, its all about every single day of the week, walking in faith together with each other and with our savior.
How that takes shape is up to each church and each community, but you can’t stop at the basics, nor can you skip them. Maturity requires both.
#2 – Your church is not the Church.
Our pastor said it well this weekend: each church building, and each body of attendees is simply a localized expression of the Church. Your church and the people who attend it may prefer a traditional worship service with hymn books and wooden pews, and the community in which God has placed you may respond to that. Conversely, your church might want to worship with videos, moving lights, and arms waving to choruses led with electric guitar and drums. Neither church is right, neither is wrong.
God is interested in what’s in your heart. If, in your heart, Amazing Grace on a pipe organ is the most meaningful form of worship you know how to give, then its beautiful to Him. If, in your heart, rocking out to Kutless truly brings you closer to Him, then that’s beautiful too.
You have no right to go around and tell other churches that they’re wrong because you don’t like their music, or their worship style, or their failure to find meaning in some obscure punctuation in the book of Numbers. God is sufficiently equipped to dissolve any organization that He feels is not honoring to Him. Observe point number 1 and have the maturity to put the effectiveness of a given church above your own personal preference.
Here’s another interesting fact: your church contains members of God’s Church!
Each member of your church is uniquely made by God for a specific purpose, and as such, is a member of the global Church body that is His bride. Within your church are people who God has called to a specific ministry — and that ministry may not be something your church offers. When that happens you have two choices, church leaders:
1) Encourage them, disciple them, affirm them, support them and release them to do the work God laid on their hearts — whether its in your building or outside of it.
2) Get the heck out of their way.
Your local church has responsibilities and goals it needs to pursue, but if those responsibilities and goals preclude the possibility of an individual member of the body of Christ pursuing their God-given responsibilities or goals, then you have a serious problem with your organization. Your local church is not the Church. The Church is a world-wide phenomenon with God at it is head, and each of us as members of the body.
#3 – Get out of your church
Seriously, just shut up and go help someone. Us Christians love to feel important while we sit in our comfy buildings, and our like-minded communities, passing judgment on the world around us, but here’s an interesting fact: Nowhere in the Bible does Jesus instruct us to judge non-Christians. God reserves the right to judgment, because He knows that no matter how pious you are, there is horrible, ugly sin in your heart, and it precludes you from that job.
What Christ actually told us to do is to help the hurting, feed the hungry, speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. You can’t do any of those things locked up tight and safe in your nice-looking, mortgaged-to-the-hilt church buildings, or in your self-righteously separated-from-the-world homes. You’re going to have to get outside your Home Team, your Prayer Meeting and your Sunday Evening Hymn Sing, and actually demonstrate Christ’s love — with your hands, your feet, your money.
No, it is not enough to pay tithe on Sunday, and give a little extra offering to a missionary. That is relinquishing your responsibility to someone else — and its no wonder so many of us turn up our noses at people who’s world view is different than ours. We have no “world view” — we only ever see the inside of our sanctuary or our house.
Your local church is a great place to learn and to serve. It should also be a great place to bring your non-Christian friends. But its not “going.” Jesus said “Go and make disciples.” He didn’t say “stay where you’re comfortable and hope seekers stumble upon your meeting place.”
So many Christians rant about how they don’t like things in the world, but all they do is rant, and vote for the person ranting about the same things as them. We have, as a resource, the example of Christ, and letters written by people who walked with Him and who actually worked with Him. We should be the ones with answers to our society’s problems — not the ones causing those problems. And sometimes — most of the time, actually — the answer will be to shut-up, roll up your sleeves, and dig in next to the non-Christians around you who are trying to fix things.
These are not random ramblings. These are observations from our lives and experiences. Claiming Christ obviously doesn’t mean any of us claims to be perfect. But we could still do a lot more good if there were more of us in soup kitchens, on missions field, and in our world and our communities demonstrating God’s love in earnest, before we open our mouths or target people with our wrath and vitriol against the world.