Monday, January 5, 2009

The Church is not merely a "What" but a "Who."

One of the prevailing thoughts that continually permeates my heart and mind (I'd say that's what a burden is) is that of what the church is. So often, and for too long, we have bought into the idea that the church is merely a "What," an inamimate thing or entity; a building, the place we go to to worship God, aka, God's house. This concept has been culturally and socially ingrained into our minds, to the point that is difficult to separate from it. As I read through and study the the Gospels, the book of Acts and the Epistles, I see what many people see; that the church is not a place, but a people. It is not a building, but a body. It is not an organization, but a living, breathing organism. I haven't discovered anything new. Yes, I have read Purpose Driven Church at least a half dozen times, along with a host of other books about church planting, evangelism, church growth, etc. I have been to numerous church planting and missions conferences. I have heard all the arguments. But at last a Biblical framework is taking root in my heart, as well as in my mind. The Holy Spirit is compelling me to not focus too much time and energy on buildings and budgets, but on building relationships with people in the community, for the puspose of making Christ known. For the past three years my constant prayer has been that Christ would build His church in the community He has sent me to. At the same time He has been breaking me of the religious/organizational mindset that has permeated Christianity for so long. When I first started thinking like this I thought I was nuts, on the fringes, a fool. But then I met and guys like Ed Stetzer, Alan Hirsch, Frank Viola, Neil Cole and a host of others, many of whom are unknown names within the larger church planting community. What I have seen, for the most part, are many people talking about this very issue, yet very few are breaking away from that mindset; perhaps out of fear of losing denominational support, or being labled a heretic. Or, like me, too attached to what has been the norm for centuries. Who am I to break from tradition?

However, as I have been praying and fasting and spending gobs of time in the word of God and studying, meditating, soul searching, etc, etc, etc, I have come to the conclusion that I need a much more simple plan to follow; something real and authentic that consumes me and effects every part of me; heart, mind, soul and strength (and all that it implies or entails). If that is my Biblically and Spiritually induced mindset, then what is the average person in the street looking for? Well, for three years I have been trying to apply the "Church as usual", open the building and invite them in approach to church planting, while at the same time, getting outside the four walls of the church building and doing "outreach and evangelism" for the purpose guessed it...inviting people to become Christians and come to our building, become members of our church, particpate in our programs, support us with their tithes and offerings, etc.

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of playing church. I'm tired of denominational politics. I'm tired of religion. I'm tired trying to sell my idea of church to some people while others living around me are going without some of the basic staples of life. I'm tired of trying to please the minority when the majority could care less about our building and budget, our programs and our polity.

I simply want to live as Christ lived, love as He loved, and serve as He served. I believe ,with every ounce of my being, that if I can truly live like that and lead others in this same focus and direction, my community and my city will be dramtically changed by the hand of God. The first century church lived like this, and they found favor with both God and man. The unchurched/ungodly people living within their community were astounded at the love and unity that flowed through this group of Christ followers (read the book of Acts).

The church is not merely a "what" but a Who. We are the people of God. Not "me" but "We."

That's what I want...nothing less, but much more than I could ever imagine or hope for (Eph.3:20-21)