Friday, September 21, 2007

Church: Lifestyles of the broken and battered

I’m going to type out my thoughts as they come to me. I’m really struggling with many of the “truths” I’ve held to be non-negotiable for the entirety of my walk with Jesus. Issues such as; what is a true, biblical church? Is tithing biblical? Are we really holding to a biblical view of what Christian community should be? I could go on and on.
First of all I want to write down some thoughts regarding church in general. I look around at the modern church and wonder if what we call “church” is working or even biblical. I really don’t think so. The idea of having one hired gun pastor who is our sole source of teaching and leadership seems messed up. We have one guy who is used as “the” mouthpiece for God sharing His heart, while the rest of the body sits back full of complacency and “soaks” it all in. Where’s the life and encouragement that comes from the body in action? Why isn’t the entire body being utilized? I don’t get it nor do I see it happening today. Shouldn’t the entire body be active and involved in the worship of our King and the edification of the saints? It seems our current approach to how we “do” church allows most of the body to atrophy and die while only a small part is being utilized.
This most certainly is evident in most evangelical institutions that exist in the United States today. I use the word “institution” because that is a far more appropriate term. God’s church, the holy church, is made up of people. It is not a building, business or a program. It is the body of Jesus Christ himself. What body could ever survive using only certain parts to maintain healthy functionality? None that I know of, yet that is the reality of the present state of the body of Christ.
In regards to my current church, I can not help but ask what is it’s purpose and what is it truly accomplishing? My church is made of approximately 20 adults of which only half at the most are active and involved. In five years time, they seem to have sustained almost no growth. Yet, that is not what bothers me the most. Like many other churches, it is the lack of community and connectedness that leaves me with a deep sense of hollowness. I can’t help but feel as if I’m missing out on something very, very vital in the life of the body and in my own Christian walk. It’s like biting into a custard filled doughnut expecting a rush of sweet cream and finding only air. As a congregation, we only cross paths, but never stop and truly engage as a family. We use terms like “brother” and “sister”, yet is that from our heart or a learned religious response? Are we really the “family of God” as the song goes? Do we really know each other intimately as family members should? Do we honestly even care to? It just seems as if we trudge along going through the motions without any real meaning or purpose. Right now, I know exactly what this Sunday will be like along with the next, and the next, and the next. Why? Could it be that we have trusted in a pattern of what we think worship should be instead of what God desires it to be? Could it be we’re so stuck in tradition and the comfort it brings that we deny ourselves the joy of truly communing with a real God who really loves us? Could it be we’ve created a machine that runs well and looks “appropriate”, but provides no real purpose, function, or true meaning in its existence? If the reaching the lost is its purpose in existing, why is that not happening? If it is making disciples, where are they? What is its purpose? If it is only to “do” something for or in the name of the Lord, is that valid? Is that what the Lord wants? Is that His desire for His church and His plan for reaching the people and changing lives?
Right now my church has music, but little to no worship. There is a gathering of people, but almost no fellowship. There is a message and a messenger, but can he alone provide all that the body needs? Can he alone encourage, edify, and strengthen as well as the entire body in action could? Is it God’s plan that week after week only a select few people minister while others are left to “absorb” what is offered? In light of 1 Corinthians chapter 12, and chapter 14:26-33, I can not accept it to be so. As chapter 12:27 says,”Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” That same chapter also states,” There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” If these verses are true, really true, then we are missing out. We are only experiencing a very small part of what God has for us as His church. We are missing out on all that a Holy Spirit empowered body has to offer. We are little more than a wounded animal dragging along on its belly looking for the time and place in which we will “arrive”. With our current approach, I can’t believe that will ever happen. It drives me insane that we are always trying to get “somewhere” or attain “something”. Yet, we have no idea what “that” really is. Could it be that God desires that He alone be our destination? Could it be that we were never meant to “arrive” because in actuality we are already here? Is our relationship with Jesus not enough? What is this “magic place” we are all running after? Where is it? When will we have enough people to feel “successful”? How many buildings do we need to build in order to feel “good” about who we are and where we are in Christ? What does the Lord say about true religion?

Matthew 25
I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.'

Is that a picture of today’s church? Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Where is this love? It doesn’t say “like” or “cross paths with” or even “tolerate”. It says our love, care and concern for each other will be our true witness of having changed lives. It is that witness that the world longs for. Again, it isn’t programs offered by the church or flashy services. It isn’t beautiful buildings or emotionally charged music. It is our love and I see very little of it (me included). Its just madness! This isn’t just about church; it’s about who we are as God’s sons and daughters.
Do I have all the answers? No. All I know is something has to change. I can’t be the only one that feels this way. I truly believe people long for more, but as a friend of mine put it “where do we find it”. I’m not totally sure, but I know it has to start with a sincere seeking of God and a true study of what His word has to say. No more traditions or words of men. No more opinions or interpretations. It’s time to get real! His heart, His word, and His way have to be enough.