So Much To Say

I have much I would like to say, but I am still in the processing mode. Last year the CMA Conference really gave me a jolt. This year, after being a practitioner of simple church and getting our butts kicked, this conference was an enormous encouragement and confirmation of our journey so far.

I want to make several statements and I hope they are clear and adequately understood. I am not against traditional or institutional church. I don’t think it is wrong or bad. I think church as we typically know it has evolved out of cultural contexts over the course of history which do not currently exist in most parts of the world, including the West, and more specifically America. Many of the things we assume as normal church practices are neither wrong or right. They are, in my opinion and for the most part, neutral. God can change a life inside a church building or without one at all, through the use of well-organized budgets or with no money at all, and can even use our catchy presentations of Jesus as a Bridge or just using a simple conversation about who God is and what He has done to change your life. I don’t know of many people who would disagree with that statement. However, this is not how Christians are familiar with operating, so the admission that things could be different is a difficult place to go, but we must go there. While church as we know it may not be “wrong”, I am convinced that much of what we do actually repels non-Christians. Rather than setting aside our religious pride and strategies for “getting them in the doors” and engaging them where they are on their turf, we hope for the one or two that actually get brave enough or distraught enough to come looking for us. Is that what Jesus did? Is that what He told us to do? How much of what we do, can we find in the Bible? If Jesus is the one we follow, why don’t we seem to be doing what He did?

This movement of authentic discipleship I referred to in my last post, gives no preference to denominations or associations, gender or class, buildings or homes, institutional or organic, or anything we have created to put our thoughts and actions into some kind of box or category. This movement is not defined by models, structures, or plans. In fact, the way I see it, this emerging conversation cannot be pigeon-holed into a nice, neat little package to be carbon-copied by those too lazy to get in the trenches to figure it out for themselves. This is why many either still grab for a “quick fix” or settle for what they have always known, rather than to get their hands and feet dirty out in the fray.

With that thought, allow me to challenge us in this journey. We must think and re-think everything we do. Why do we do what we do? Is it because it is the “religiously” acceptable thing to do? Is it because this is all we know to do? Is it because it is something someone told us we should do? Did Jesus say do it, or even better, did He do it? Can we say that we are making disciples of Jesus, or are we making disciples of our church, denomination, or our own personal way of doing life? Are we engaging people in open dialogue, or are we arguing our points and debating the hell (pun intended) out of people in an effort to convert people to our particular brand of Christianity? How many “conversations” have you had with an unbeliever lately? If you haven’t had any, shame on you! If you have, were you only interested in trying to convert them to your side, or were you seriously interested in their perspective? Do you really care about those who don’t know Christ, or are you just interested in the next notch in your Evangelical belt?

I am not sure about you, but the conviction of God is upon me…. Lord, I repent. I repent of trying to convert people to my point of view rather than leading them to your feet. I repent of being so caught up in my little “Christian” world, that I lost sight of those who are in real need. I repent of being to scared to leave my holy huddles and befriend and love a world indifferent and sometimes indignant toward You. Father, help me see this is not about me or what I can do, but what You desire to do in me and through me for Your glory and renown among the nations. Amen

Thanx!

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5 Responses

  1. Really chew on this question…Is the Church really for non-christians? And don’t answer that quickly. Think on it for a while….maybe the Church is for christians…and christians are for non-christians. Maybe?

  2. Hey bro, I see where you are going with this, and that’s okay. Yes, the church serves a dual purpose. It certainly exists for accountibility, relational networking, missional sending, prophetic declaration of the Word of God (and I don’t mean some wacked out crazy crap, but, instead, the consistent declaration of what God says), a radical upside down culture where the first are last and the last are first, and many other things. However, most churches only focus inward. Those that do have some outward focus only think about bring them (i.e. “the lost”) into their buildings and systems rather than the people going out and being on mission with Jesus everyday. The few that actually come are celebrated within our churches as trophies to be shown in statistics or something.

    Let us dream for a moment together…

    Just think if an average pastor at an average church caught a trully missional vision for his church. He could stand in the pulpit and cast a vision of every person in the church either starting a Bible study in the home of a friend outside of the church or helping someone do this (not everyone is cut out for leading or starting such a group, but everyone could at least help). Maybe the people go out in teams of 2 or 3. Instead of these groups being committed to bringing “lost” people into that church, the focus could be on starting multiple churches that network together. That is certainly not necessary, but would be easy to replicate and multiply.

    Anyway, let us stay in the dream world for a moment longer and entertain the thought that this actually worked in a church of about 300. Let’s say for the sake of easy numbers, that 100 new community based Bible studies were started. Let us go futher and say that about 6 new previously un-churched people showed up at each group (I think that would be a conservative number). That would be an increase of around 600 people. You could go even further in this dream and imagine that at least 20 or 30 more of the original church members would get excited after seeing what happened and went ahead and start about 20 new groups in addition. Then, the new people who started coming to the groups began catching the vision for doing the same, and boom!!

    Okay, wake up…

    Now, I know that was quite fanciful, but just imagine if churches became primarily sending organizations rather than gathering institutions. The church is here to do both, but if we weigh out the Gospels and the following epistles, I think we see that the main mission of the church is to be sent ones rather than sitting ones.

    This is what I have been vaguely trying to communicate. I hope this makes some sense.

    Later…Thanx!

  3. Here’s a question: “Don’t Christians comprise the Church?” And here’s another question: “If so, wouldn’t the church actually have a dual purpose – to stay and to go, nurish up and reach out?”

  4. Absolutely!! Hence the reason I said, “…just imagine if churches became PRIMARILY sending organizations rather than gathering institutions.” Implying, of course, that there must be a gathering of some kind, whether large or small, in a building or in a home, with a budget or without a budget of any kind. Jesus gathered. In fact, He was quite good at it; however, He spent the bulk of His time and energy with those who actually got it and would ultimately be sent by Him to disciple the nations.

    So, while we must gather, nurture, build, and be all cuddly, we should understand that the primary reason for the gathering in the first place is to send out, not to just sit around and feel good about making it to church on Sunday mornings, like that is some kind of great sacrifice and service to God.

    I could go on, but I’ll stop here.

    Thanx for the great conversation here guys. I hope we can get a dialogue to continue about these issues.

  5. Exactly where I was trying to go Jeffrey! Good stuff.

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