Don't Be Done With Church, Be The Church




As I sit here, snowed in on once again on a Sunday morning, I ponder the many Facebook status updates of friends, little passing comments heard in conversations over the years, and the general zeitgeist of people in America. It seems like a lot of people are following Jesus and are done with church. It's kind of a growing trend. It's almost hip to follow Jesus yet not go to church.

If you're considering that route, I hope to encourage you to not turn your back on the church. If you have already chosen that route, I hope you would reconsider.

Being "done with church" won't bring Jesus to our world. The reason is because Jesus chose for the church to be the vessel through which His work would be done in this world after He ascended into heaven. To make this theological concept brief, Jesus came to establish the church. Up until Jesus, the kingdom of God was the nation of Israel. Through Jesus, the kingdom transitioned from being people who were identified by an ethnicity and border to being a people of all ethnicities, nationalities, and locales.

There is something to be said about community. Community isn't easy, though. I understand that. It takes work. Oftentimes, we just think that work isn't worth the effort, that the frustrations caused by the idiots around us just isn't worth enduring for the value that community brings.

In community, we grow. We are stretched and fed by the thoughts and actions of others. True, sometimes we are offered drivel that we just want to reject. But if we refuse to be arrogant and honestly look back at our lives, our personal growth came through the challenges of others. Removing ourselves from community removes ourselves from a great potential of growth. We stagnate outside of community.

In community, we serve. A healthy church provides a variety of service opportunities inside and springing out from the church. True, you can choose to not be part of a church and use the ministries of the church. They will gladly let you serve through them, using them as a buffet where you can just pick and choose the service opportunities that you like. However, we are called to something greater than that. We are called to create opportunities to serve. We are continually challenged to serve in community.

In community, we have to work with others and work through our disagreements. This is actually a positive thing. As we work together, we grow together. As we grow together, we become one. As George S. Patton said, "If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking." Of course, there will be disagreements and headaches. But we need to change our perspective and view them as a good thing. Together, we meld into something better, through our disagreements, than we would be if we were left alone.

In community, there is permanence. It provides a place for people to connect with other like-minded people. It provides a lasting group of people in a locale that will be there long after we are gone, whether that is from our moving or our death. The time invested in creating and being a group of people is a lasting investment.

In community, movements happen. Movements don't happen from individuals. When we look at history, we like to imagine the great leader doing great things. But if you look closely at any great leader, you will see a group of people making the vision that they share with the leader happen. The leader that we recognize just becomes the face of the movement. The true movement is all of the people who are working toward the same goal that the leader is working toward. Movements don't happen when we choose to be done assembling in community with others. Gathering together is necessary for movements to change this world.

I'll be honest. There have been many times that I have wanted to be done with church too. People are often a frustration. I have a low tolerance threshold for things that I consider stupid. Drama is ridiculous. I don't like people making big deals out of little things. The mission of the church sometimes gets muddled. The passion gets polluted. And Jesus gets lost. Or, more likely, just ignored because Jesus doesn't get lost. He's in the finding business.

Instead of being "done with church", I would love for you to be involved in creating a better local church. Assemble likeminded people together and start a church. You don't even have to call it "church" if that is a taboo word. Instead, call it a gathering or whatever you want. Church at its essence is just a group of people in relationship with one another while being in relationship with God through the grace of Jesus. The world desperately needs followers of Jesus gathering together to make an impact on their communities, regions, and around the globe.

If you want to grow, serve, and be part of a movement that will be greater after you are gone, then you must church. It's easy to attack and leave the church you don't like; it's much harder to listen to God and be involved in creating something beautiful. Don't choose the easy route. Don't be done with church. Be the church. The world needs it. You need it.  

One last note. If you don't think the community of believers that you are part of helps you grow, serve, and create a movement that will last after you are going, try to nudge that one in that direction. Make sure that you are being guided by God and not your own personal opinions. Ask yourself what you can do to make the change you want happen. Avoid asking what others need to do to make it happen. And if you feel that the cause is hopeless in your current community of believers, find a community of believers that will work with you to make that happen. Don't give up on church. Create or find that church. And be the church your heart feels the world needs.

Martin Luther King Jr. asking Is the Church the Hope of the World?



Is the Church the Hope of the World?
by Martin Luther King Jr.

It is a common saying in religious circles that the church is the hope of the world. This question inevitably leads the objective mind to a bit of doubt. He immediately asks, "How can the church be the hope of the world when it is the most reactionary institution in society?" In other words, the church is suppose to be the most radical opposer of the status quo in society, yet, in many instances, it is the greatest preserver of the status quo. So it was easy for slavery to receive a religious sanction. The church is one of the chief exponents of racial bigotry. Monopoly capitalism has always received the sanction of the church.

Since this is the case, we must admit that the church is far from Christ. What has happened is this: The church, while flowing through the stream of history has picked up the evils of little tributaries, and these tributaries have been so powerful that they have been able to overwhelm the main stream. In other words, the church has picked up a lot of historical vices. This is the tragedy of the church, for it has confused the vices of the church with the virtues of Christ. The church has been nothing but the slave of society. Whenever the mores call for evil practices, society runs to the church to get its sanction.

Therefore, I conclude that the church, in its present state, is not the hope of the world. I believe that nothing has so persistently and effectively blocked the way of salvation as the church. On the other hand, the church can be the hope of the world, but only when it returns to Christ. If we take Christ to the world, we will turn it upside down, but the tragedy is that we too often take Christianity. It is our job as minister to bring the church back to the center of the human race. But we can only bring the church back to the center of the human race when we bring Christ back to the center of the church.

Source: http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/primarydocuments/Vol6/14Sept1948-15Feb1950IstheChurchtheHopeoftheWorld.pdf , February 27, 2015, AHDS CSKC Sermon file, folder 36, “Sermon Notes”.

We Cannot Afford Not To Give

What are things that we cannot afford to not do? That are more costly if we don’t do them.

Eating. I read a study of an obese guy who went 382 days without eating and lost 275 pounds. By the end of his fast, he weighed 180 pounds. I don't recommend that approach for losing weight. Just saying you can live a while without eating. It depends on how much you have stored.

Drinking.  They say you can make it three to five days without water. But it won't be fun.

Sleep. The longest recorded period without sleep is 18 days, 21 hours, and 40minutes. Although you will regularly find news stories of video game addicts dying after two to three days of continuous play and no sleep.

The ones that will kill us quickly are easy to point out. Ones that take longer to manifest are easier to ignore. Like eating right and exercising.They don't have immediate physical signs like a grumbling stomach, a parched mouth, or droopy eyelids. In them, death arrives slowly.

For houses, it’s keeping your roof and foundation in good shape. When those thing start going bad, it’s easy to notice. But mold growing behind a wall may not even be discovered.

Spiritual killers -- similar to the impact of mold, exercise, and eating right -- are often easier to ignore.We don't die immediately from them.

One way we can evaluate our spiritual life is how are we handling our time and our money. Are we giving them to God? You might feel like you can’t afford to give. I hope to convince you that you can’t afford to not give.

Jesus taught,
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)
Where are we laying our treasures? It might seem overly harsh, but someone is not committed to Jesus until they start giving. Now we might like Jesus. We may even appreciate Him and want the salvation He came to offer. But we aren’t sold on the idea of wanting to bring about His dreams into our reality until we start giving. It’s a good, tangible measurement.

“Where your treasure is, there your heart is.” I want my treasure to be Jesus’ treasure. His ministry to our community will not happen unless the people that gather together in local churches financially support it.

We’re quick to support many things we don’t need. Movies, televisions, sporting events, pets, canoes, junk food, beer, exercise equipment, pizza – the list can go on and on. We are quick to give our money to a plethora of things. But when it comes to actually supporting the ministry of Jesus, we want to make reasons on why we can’t do that.

But I want to convince you that you cannot afford not to give.

I firmly believe that if you sacrifice to give to God financially, he will bless you. And in my experience that blessing has been financially. But it doesn’t necessarily always come in a financial blessing.

Lindsay and I spent years living off of $20,000. During that time we committed to giving, not on our income, but on the income we wanted to have. And God has continued to bless us. Lindsay and I never went without food. We have always had a place to stay. We have always had a vehicle. We have always had luxuries beyond those bare necessities.

One thing that we have to be careful of when discussing giving is that we do not teeter too close to the idea that God always blesses us financially when we give to Him. I do believe God typically blesses his people financially. And my personal experience has been financial blessing in relation to my financial giving to the church. But I want to clarify the distinction between what I am teaching and the false teaching that you will be blessed financially if you give of your finances.

We give to God and His work, not because we expect to be blessed. That should not be our motivation. It’s like telling our wives that we think their beautiful and that we love them for ulterior motives – if you know what I mean. If our wives, who can’t see our heart – although sometimes I think they can - can see through this trick. God, who can see our heart, can definitely see through a manipulative approach to giving.

God does typically bless those financially who give to his work financially. Now, this could just be a coincidence in that the people who are willing to surrender 10, 15, 20, or 25% of their income to their church are already surrendering the other areas of their lives to His will as well, and in living out His will we already live lives that attract His blessing. But I find that for many people, money is one of the more difficult things to surrender to God.

We are blessed by God in so many different ways. We wake up and breathe. We received salvation that we do not deserve. We are giving hope in hopeless situations. But the biggest blessing that God offers for us to receive is to become part of his redeeming work to this world. The work of His local church and its ministry in their respective communities happens because of our combined generosity.

So we give because it is good for us to give. And we give because we want to give. And we give because this is one of the ways that God has chosen to work through us.