Anyone who has followed my blog since I started it 3 years ago will have followed my sometimes cynical but nevertheless authentic wrestling with the nature of church. I still wrestle with what that means but have found (actually, it’s been given to me) the grace to accept the imperfections of the established church. After all, I expect them to accept me, don’t I? And, I’m pretty messed up at times, too.
Nevertheless, I still think we miss the point and our ideas of what church is need some challenging. This wrestling has been particularly real for me this weekend. Here’s why:
We still don’t understand what it means to be church. The majority of us – whether we like it or not – have been conditioned to think of church in terms of a place or gathering. Church is so much more than a gathering of believers in a particular place. We [YOU] are the church.
I think we (the church) suck at outreach. Our mission is clear: make disciples. I’ll try clarify that. Discipleship is a journey with others where our desire is for them to know Jesus and grow in their faith. If we follow the model of Jesus in his dealings with the first disciples, the core of that process is relationship; unconditional, authentic friendship. We tend, however, to create churches that are homogenous, social enclaves that meet at a particular time in a particular place and “reach out” erratically to other communities we think might need our help.
These meetings are not wrong. In fact, they are necessary and Christians are urged to meet together, often. But that’s not the only thing church is.
If we really understand our mission and that we ARE the church, I think we get a better picture of what it might mean to really be the church. If we are the church and our mission is discipleship then wherever we find ourselves is church. Your place of work, therefore, is church. Your lift club to work is church. Going for drinks with your mates after work is church. So, while you might be part of a local community of believers who meet on Sundays and, possibly, for cell group on Wednesdays – you are an extension of that community wherever you are.
Be the church, where you are. All the time.
Christians love christianese. We talk of “outreach” and “evangelism”. These words become limiting because we see them as things we have to do. We create formulas for achieving the defined outcomes that these words presuppose and they become theoretical constructs, rather than authentic ways of life. We check boxes instead of living authentically. Being the church (you, personally) in community like I’ve described is simply a case of your messed up – but redeemed – life impacting the people around you. Real discipleship, outreach and, dare I say the word , evangelism, should be your life; not something you decide to do when programmed opportunities arise.
As we pray for those around us and the Holy Spirit’s power to be evident in our lives; As we love unconditionally and immerse ourselves in the communities we are in; As we live life to the full and speak John 10:10 life into these communities; we will see God working through us. Evangelism will no longer fill us with fear because, as we pursue God authentically, we will be salt and light and our lives will impact communities. God is that powerful.
Be the church. Really. Where you are. Today.