The church exists…
In two distinctly different ways. Invisible and visible. Visible in hundreds of thousands of locations all around the globe (Acts 2). Pockets of people who profess Christ as their Lord and Savior who organize themselves together. The church also exists invisible as the people of all time and place who profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (Hebrews 12/Revelation 22). And the church exists for one purpose. To be the body of Christ (Colossians 1:17). To be the visible and invisible, tangible and intangible, before, during and after, witness to the love of God seen in all it’s fulness in the life and death of Jesus, the power of God as seen in the resurrection, and the plan of God exploding all around us in the name of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, etc. Let me draw us back to the fishing guide image. The church is the guide to the Kingdom of God. We are to be the maker of disciples. The guiding lights to the way of Christ.
But are we being effective?
Help or hindrance? Guide or stumbling block? Healer or hypocrite? The answer is a resounding YES! All the above answers are possibilities when talking about the effectiveness of the church. It depends on who you ask as to which answer you may receive and which metric you use to judge. The metric of church attendance and cultural influence is a resounding “no”! The church in the west is hemorrhaging with no signs of slowing in a society that says they are very interested in spirituality and God. That is not good folks. Those outside the church are speaking loud and clear. We are more concerned with money than we are them. We are more focused on their sins than ours. Those outside the church walls consistently say they are interested in spiritual things. They simply do not see the church as being spiritual. From what I can tell, we are like the guide who refuses to launch into the grand plan of Christ. We comfortably stay on the sidelines waiting, organizing, fooling ourselves that we are really in the game. All the trappings of a life of Christ with none of the power, lacking the peace, empty instead of full of joy.
What needs to change?
There is no shortage of naysayers about the church. We are full internally and externally of those who prophecy our demise. But I’ve got news for us all. Revelation 22 assures us that the church in the end accomplishes its mission. The real question is will we as individuals and a generation participate or will it be done in spite of us.
Not an outward new structure. Not a new evangelism plan. Not a new way of doing things. Not a new sign or advertising plan. None of these have been how the church has grown historically. The church is a top-down grass-roots organization. And that is an anomaly in today’s world. And it has worked for the past 2,000 years. Christ is the head, that much is clear. And Christ works in lives of people who come together to do his work on earth. The question is not what needs to change in the church…the question then becomes what needs to change in me! For Jesus didn’t tell us to go and grow a church…he told us to go and make disciples, teaching them all that he commanded. And as each person submits to the perfect plan for life exemplified in Jesus, the results are an outward and visible focused living that changes everything. What needs to change in the church? I need to change! I need to get in the game. I need to launch out and actively become engaged.
It all begins with my relationship with Christ and others
You see the church does not need a new approach. We don’t need a new strategy. We don’t need a huge advertising budget. We need to take seriously the commands of Christ and live them day by day. My prayer is that we would be that people that others might come to know Christ as their Lord and Savior and the entirety of Christendom might have the courage to stop talking about and start living the life we have been given by Christ. How can we be the guide to others unless we are actively engaged in the process ourselves? We worry about what we know and the Bible over and over reminds us it’s how we live not what we know that counts greatest. The church at its core is one person filled with God’s Holy Spirit living a life following Jesus’ example and commands. John Wesley talked about us becoming mother’s and father’s of faith. People who procreate…people who make disciples! That is what the church needs more than anything else.