I was thinking recently about all the challenges that churches face when it comes to growth and organization. I must confess that I really grieve inside at the tensions in place today. It is one of those situations where if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. We need all churches with all of our different nuances to serve with mutual respect and support for the sake of the gospel. However, to this date, we still seem to believe that our individual expressions of the body of Christ are superior.
- Isn’t God’s mission for the church to promote Godly justice?
- Isn’t God’s mission for the church to make disciples?
- Isn’t God’s mission for the church to reach the “unchurched”?
Sometimes I wonder if churches get so caught up in creating their own conferences, curriculum and intellectual property that they lose sight of God’s primary purpose for their existence.
I know…this all sounds so harsh. After all, who am I to speak so critically about the church. Actually, I love the church. Since I am no less of a fool and an idiot when it comes to life than anyone else, I will not claim to love the church more than anyone else. However, after over 25 years of ministry life, a person can’t help but notice a few things. Things that frankly drive me a little crazy.
- Why is it wrong to be a big church?
- Why is it wrong to be a small church?
- Why is it wrong to prioritize on discipleship?
- Why is it wrong to emphasize evangelism?
- Why is it better to have a campus large or small?
- Why is it better not to have a campus?
- Why is it better not to have less programs?
- Why is it better to have more programs?
Do we really understand that the church is God’s plan to share the love and justice of Christ with this world. Do we really understand that he doesn’t have a plan B. This is the point isn’t it? It’s all about God and if its all about God, it is all about Christ. If it is all about Christ then really everything else: ethnicity, social status even culture itself is irrelevant and meaningless.
I know, many make the case that the church can and must interact relevantly with the culture the day for the sake of clarity and understanding.
However, rather than argue a point for my own benefit let me ask some more questions:
- Will our desire for Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control, ever be irrelevant?
- Will the amazing concept that there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus ever be irrelevant?
- Have people living in darkness stopped yearning for light?
- Is it suddenly irrelevant to reach out to those living in the land of the shadow of death with the light and love of Christ?
- Has it become meaningless to let our light shine before men, that they may see our good works and praise our Father in heaven?
- Have we suddenly run out of “the least of these” to love and to draw near to Christ?
God loves his creation, God paid a great price of justice to be united with his creation. Unfortunately not all will accept God’s way. Make no mistake, the hope of our world is God’s way. God’s way is Christ and Christ’s way is the church.
We will bring about no reconciliation, unity or lasting peace without Christ. As long as the earth exists, sin will not be far behind. As long as sin exists, the work of Christ is relevant. As long as the work of Christ is relevant, the faithfulness of his church to his great commission is critical.
With this this in mind, I believe that there is freedom in Christ’s great commission to baptize and make disciples. I believe that there are many manifestations of Christ’s bride, the church, on earth. As long as they are centered on Christ and God’s word, I love them all. Really! Worship dancers in a neighborhood African American church, a group of people singing hymns to God in a nursing home chapel, a mega-church Christmas service that introduced Christ to someone who would never come to church or listen to the gospel, a Baptist Church Sunday School. She is flawed but she is beautiful. She has a complicated personality but she has sound mind. She is passionate but her heart is pure. Many have tried to divide her into pieces but she remains whole. I just love the church.
Why? Because God created her. When she is healthy she is the picture of Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self Control. Who can argue with that. She is the ambassador of Christ who has can bring together people from all creeds, colors and cultures. There is no injustice that is beyond her reach and there is no darkness that she cannot illuminate.
When will we think of her as one body?
Furthermore, let’s bring this home a little more…
- If your are a prominent church leader and God called you to serve in obscurity for the sake of unity of the church and effectiveness of her mission, could you do it?
- If you are a talented and knowledgable Bible teacher who is experienced at teaching millions and God call you to teach 6 people for the rest of your life, could you do it?
- If you are a faithful church member and you are used to popular worship music but God called you to a church in the city that sings nothing but old Gospel music, could you go?
If God called you to learn another language and worship in that language for the sake of the Gospel could you do it?
Don’t answer these questions too quickly.