Friday, May 20, 2011

The Nature of Church

I've come to believe that the true nature of Church, and by Church I mean THE Church, the Body of Christ, is transformational.  We cannot engage the Body of Christ as we were meant to and stay the same.  God has taken people of all cultures and races and experiences and fused us into one body that is purposed towards one vision--the glory and expansion of the Kingdom of God. 

The problem is that most of us don't approach church this way.  We approach it looking to find a community of believers that affirms exactly who we are and gives us exactly what we think we the style of worship just right? are people generally like me?  do they have the best program for my kids?  are they hip and "cutting-edge"?  The list goes on and on with the expectations we bring to church, and the result is that we have made Church (big C) into church (small c).  And church (small c) is, by nature, a business that caters to the endless stream of Christian desires for self-affirmation and we've lost our vision in the smallness of what we've become.

One thing I've learned in the last five years working at World Impact is that the Body of Christ is made up of a lot of people I wouldn't normally attach myself too if left to my own selfish desires.  And, that American individualism and the "right to choose" has given us countless opportunities to run away from having to deal with the fact that the world doesn't revolve around us!  Church (big C) was never intended to let you be who you are, it was meant to let you be who you were intended to be...and that takes some hard work done in the context of community.

Andrew and I were just talking with a friend recently about styles of worship in church and how fixated we are as the American church on the style of a services.  We want a pastor who will soon be writing books and having YouTube clips bouncing around Facebook and we want worship that gives us goosebumps.  We want small groups that "get us" and outreach that looks really "missional" with the least amount of daily investment.  It's gotten to the point that we choose churches that make us feel good instead of churches that make us a more functional part of the Body of Christ.

If you go to a Christ-centered church and can't worship the Lord because of the style of service, that's not a style problem, that's a You problem.  If you think the nature of Church is to be conflict free and easy, then you will spend your whole life running away and never engage in the mission God has for us...and isn't that exactly what Satan is looking for?

Try picking a small group full of people you would never usually hang out with and commit to working through the conflicts that may ensue.  Pray that God teaches you to sense the Holy Spirit in more that really moving music.  Try changing yourself as you commit to a body of believers rather than expecting they change for you. 

I heard a pastor talk recently about our tendency to approach the ways of God by checking them against our own reason and logic.  We tend to choose the aspects of God that fit in with our world view and reject or ignore the others.  But the Scriptures say that God's thoughts and ways are as high above ours as the sky is above the earth.  I think we've done this with church.  We have taken God's purpose for the Church (big C) and made it into church (small c) because it feels better in the moment.  We've limited God by our selfishness and stymied the expansion of His Kingdom in our own lives and our communities.

If the nature of Church is about bringing the transformational power of Christ to our lives and our communities, that means we shouldn't try to squeeze it into our own personal world-view.  We should approach it with reverence, knowing there may be things about the Church that we don't understand or that in our limited understanding we wish were different.  That's OK.  Embrace it.  It's a process but the more I am working on this the deeper my understanding of community has become, the more I am able to see Christ in even the most unlikely places.   

I want to think big.  I want to accept the fact that God knows everything we don't and that we will have to change our thoughts and ways in order to go on mission with Him.  Let's not make church about me or about you, we're much too small a vision.  Let's make church about God and commit to seeing ourselves and the world changed by Him.  Now, that's a mission I can get excited about!


  1. Very thoughtful and thought provoking. Thank you!

    I have taken "issue" with the American (Western) Church for several years now, and have found no resolution as of yet. Seems Christians are forever maintaining that the Church is not a building, yet the first thing they ask and judge you on is "what church do you go to?"

    The fact that we, as a family, have been unable to engage in corporate worship at a church (building) for several years now (since my son's kidney transplant) we are not considered as back-slidden Christians.

    Yet I know the Lord has sustained us in our time of need, and provided us with a wonderful (online, and sometimes in person) community of believers to fellowship with, and we are content with our situation. Because relationship with the Lord IS transformational. It is NOT dependent on which brick-and-mortar business (church) we choose to tie our ribbon to, or which cutting edge Pastor we choose to pay the salary of so he can continue to be "cutting edge".

    Churches these days sometime seem to be all about being "relevant"...and finding the perfect uber-cool name that will sound great with a "dot org" after it.

    Anway, you have provoked much thought in me, and for that I thank you!

  2. I loved the Comment "Churches these days sometime seem to be all about being 'relevant'...and finding the perfect uber-cool name that will sound great with a "dot org" after it." We americans are consumers of churches. They are just another product. Bard name of generic? Edgy new or Costco size? Really we need to be more Kennedy-esc = ask not what your church and do for you , but wha tyo ucan do for the body of Christ.