There’s an ancient principle that says you can learn more about something by first defining what it’s NOT before you try to define what it IS. Let’s take a look at a few things that Church ISN’T.
Church Isn’t About Protecting Christians From The World
Some of the church environments I experienced maintained that the church was a haven of peace and hope in a horrible, broken world. We were the sheep. They were the wolves. We had to protect our sheep by keeping the wolves out. We were “in the world but not of it,” remember? While there are many churches who consciously or sub-consciously adhere to the idea of being a place to hide from the evils of the world, I remind you the type of company Jesus kept when he walked this earth. He could have adopted the Pharisee’s method of separating himself entirely from everything “unclean.” Instead, he was known as a “friend of sinners.” Can our church say that?
Church Isn’t A Club
One of our strengths as the church is the friendships and community that come out of our local expressions of worship. People who have been hurt and rejected for years find healing in healthy relationships. However, if we’re not careful, friendships can turn into cliques and new people walking through the door will find themselves on the outside looking in. Our circle of friends is important but let’s not be so self-absorbed that we miss those Christ is calling us to serve.
Church Isn’t An Event
In Western culture especially, we have equated church with an event that happens once a week. We get ready for church, we drive to the church, we do church, we come home and then we don’t think about it again until next week. God never intended church to be an event that we only participate in for a couple hours each week. We are the church. That means that we carry it with us 24/7. It follows us wherever we go, whatever we do. Church is as much a part of the conversation we have with a co-worker on Monday as it is about the worship songs we sang the day before.
Church Isn’t A Location or Building
While most of us know this intuitively, we still need to be reminded that the church isn’t a specific building or location. Our buildings and programs create environments for church to happen but they are no more or less sacred than our living room or even the neighborhood pub.
Church Isn’t A Denomination
We each like to think that our own beliefs and doctrines are the “right way.” Which is understandable. We wouldn’t practice them if we didn’t believe them to be true. The danger comes when we begin to see our way as the only way. There are some hills to die on but then there are other battles that don’t need to be fought. Some sprinkle, some dip. Some take communion with wafers and wine, others with bread and grape juice. One day soon we’re all going to be sitting up in Heaven wondering what all the fuss was really about.
Church Isn’t About You
This one is the most important distinction in my opinion. Church isn’t about YOU. It’s about THEM. I have no patience for people who visit a church and come home complaining that the music was too loud, the message too long or the air conditioning too cold. Some people view church as a “pick-me-up,” a little boost of joy and happiness to get them through the week. Show up, sing a couple songs, shake a few hands, go home and pull out the potroast. The church was never meant to be a place to cater to Christian’s comforts. It is and always has been about “seeking and saving those who are lost.” (Luke 19:10)…
photo by Scott Fillmer
Many of the people in my group said the most impactful session at Catalyst for them was the one by Steven Furtick, lead pastor of Elevation Church. Regardless of what you may think about Steven’s leadership style or church philosophy, there’s no denying that God’s hand is on him in a powerful way.
In the very last session Andy Stanley shared some thoughts on a handful of quotes that have helped shape his ministry. One of those quotes was from Joel Barker from his book Future Edge,
“What do I believe is impossible to do in my field, but if it could be done would fundamentally change my business?”
There are paradigm shifts taking place every day as companies, organizations, and churches are having to re-adjust their definition for what is and isn’t possible. Just because we think something is impossible or highly unlikely doesn’t necessarily mean it’s impossible. It could just mean that we haven’t discovered the way to get around that obstacle.
Andy’s takeaway from that quote was this:
Pay attention to people who are breaking the rules!
I think of people like Steven Furtick when I hear quotes like that. I just recently read about the Dream Sex series that Elevation is doing. They’re not only encouraging healthy relationships from the stage on Sunday, they’re actually providing an opportunity to kick-start it by giving out $30 gift-cards to local restaurants and 3 hours of childcare!
There is a new generation of churches and church leaders that are fundamentally redefining how church is done and people are reached.
Allow Room for Changing Paradigms
We’re used to the idea of an Internet Campus like LifeChurch and Seacoast are doing but it was only within the last 5 years that those models were pioneered. What new ideas and tools will be available to us in 5 years that haven’t even been thought of yet?
Let’s take that question off the whiteboard and bring it home.
Perhaps you’ve had to adjust your ministry model to incorporate social media. Maybe you’re figuring out ways to utilize current technology tools like text messaging to make your service interactive (check out Jarbyco). Or maybe you’re letting God stretch you in the area of music or methods.
What are the paradigm shifts you’re dealing with in your ministry or organization right now?…
One of my favorite Little Golden Books as a kid was The Monster at the End of this Book. It was a great moment when we received this book as a gift and I was able to read it to my kids.
I got hours of enjoyment sitting down with Emily and pleading with her in my best Grover voice,
PLEASE DON’T TURN THE PAGE!!
She would of course. With each new page turned poor Grover would beg and plead to stop turning pages for fear of finding the monster at the end of the book.
Until we turned the last page and found that the monster at the end of the book? Yup, turns out it was lovable, furry old Grover the whole time.
Anger & Disappointment
This past week the church world was rocked with another disappointment. I don’t need to add any additional commentary to what has already been said by other bloggers I respect. I want to talk instead about how we as Christians are supposed to react to this kind of news. Because if the scandals of the last 24 months serve as an indication of future failures, we have many more of these stories yet to be uncovered.
I’ll be honest with you. My first reaction to these kind of stories is a mix of disappointment and anger. Disappointment, because yet another person I admired let me down. And anger, because I know that once again, the name of Christ will get drug through the mud because of another person who thought they could live a double-life and get away with it.
Looking For Monsters
Why do we find it so easy to point our fingers at the “monsters” we see in the church today? Sure we’re upset about it but can we so arrogantly cast blame when it could have just as easily been you or me?
Far too often I’m so busy trying to remove the splinter from my neighbor’s eye that I’m tripping over the plank in my own.
Don’t get me wrong – I am in no way excusing deceit and hypocrisy in the church. What Michael did was wrong. Nor am I condoning sweeping stories like this under the rug. However, let’s remember that we’re really not that different.
The moment that we begin to think of ourselves as immune to these kind of shortcomings it the moment we’re most in danger of falling. As Paul warned, If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin. (1 Corinthians 10:12)
Like Grover, we may find that if we keep turning the pages, WE are in fact the monster at the end of the story. We’re all capable of lust, greed, hypocrisy and deception in the worst way.
There, but for the grace of God, go I.…