When you and I, as followers of Jesus Christ, really begin to understand and embrace what Jesus requires of us, then the church will actually begin the process of BECOMING WHAT THE CHURCH IS SUPPOSED TO BE. Here is some of my vision for what the church CAN and MUST BECOME if it’s going to make a difference in the world …
FIRST, THE CHURCH MUST EXIST AS A HOSPITAL … for the sick, the hurting, the disenfranchised, and those with more questions than answers about God. In other words, for people just like you and me. The church must welcome people into the flock whether they appear whole or broken, and it must have discerning wisdom about identifying people’s needs, and then come alongside them accordingly. I believe that pastors can help foster this understanding of who the church must become by modeling transparency in our own life struggles, and victories.
SECOND, THE CHURCH MUST EXIST AS A WORSHIP GATHERING … where people can learn the power of praise (the ultimate experience) and worship (the ultimate relationship) to heal, convict, restore and prune. God has hard-wired every one of us in His creation for worship … whether we’re in a relationship with Him or not. Worship needs to be defined broadly, not narrowly, including singing, silence, prayer, first-person testimonies, drama, video, poetry, painting, instruments usual and unusual, and more. There are all paths we can walk to make worship part of our lives. Worship that doesn’t lead to sacrifice is false and must be avoided at all costs.
THIRD, THE CHURCH MUST EXIST AS A SCHOOL … for those who want to learn more about who God is and how the truths of God’s WORD are relevant to their lives. For this to happen, pastors need to teach the whole counsel of God. When God’s WORD is taught verse-by-verse, people are drawn into a God-directed desire to pursue and grow into the character of Jesus Christ, so that they can live into the will of God.
Jesus, Peter, John and Paul all teach in the New Testament that in the last days false teachers will come into the flock to wound, steal and destroy believers. Pastors must remain very aware of this reality. Pastors can help their churches grow in an understanding of and WHO and WHAT the church is called to BE and DO by modeling study, the spiritual disciplines, and by teaching from God’s WORD in ways that challenge, encourage, equip, prune, and lead toward Christ-like maturity.
FOURTH, THE CHURCH MUST EXIST AS A RETREAT CENTER … where people can “come away from the world” and find safety, encouragement, community, and refreshment. Community groups, Bible studies, prayer gatherings, retreats, and gathering together on Sunday mornings are all parts of who and what a church needs to being and doing if it’s going to focus on how God wants to connect the healing, equipping and vision God offers during these times to transform us more fully into the family-likeness of Jesus Christ, so that in turn, we can change the world.
FIFTH, THE CHURCH MUST EXIST AS A SENDING STATION … where people are sent out into the world to be the presence and the voice of Jesus Christ. Pastors need to model this commitment to a MISSIONAL LIFE of outreach and service by participating in short-term missions trips, not just talking about them, and by supporting local missions with their time, money, and spiritual gifts.
And finally, here are two things the church will DEFINITELY NOT BE when followers of Jesus Christ understand that being yoked with God is about surrendering to Jesus Christ as the King of the Kingdom of God, and to His moment-by-moment plans for our lives …
FIRST, THE CHURCH DOESN’T EXIST AS A COUNTRY CLUB OR A CHIT-CHAT GUILD … where only certain people with the right education, the right job, the right income, or the right past, present or future can get in. The church is not to be a place where people gather to share superficially about who they know, what their great accomplishments are, how well put-together their lives and the lives of their kids are, and where their next whirl-wind vacation will take them. Humility, honesty, and a Holy Spirit-led care for and attentiveness toward others must be guiding principles in our life together as the body of Christ, the church.
SECOND, THE CHURCH DOESN’T EXIST AS A PERFORMANCE VENUE … where only “highly polished” people with the right “qualifications” or skills can participate. God is looking for FAITHFUL people more than He is looking for people who think they’re QUALIFIED to do anything for Him.
There’s an old saying that “There’s no perfect church and that if you find one, don’t go there, because you’ll ruin it!” I like that. But I also have great hope about the church … and I believe with all my heart that God can use imperfect people to build His church.
In ACTS 17:6 the Early Church is described as being "the people who were turning the world upside down" (NEW LIVING TRANSLATION). Friends, this is the kind of Christ-community I long to be part of. Godspeed.