After the church prayed and prayed over Mike and Jamie we got to hear Mike teach, one of my favorite treats especially when I run out of blogging ideas =).
He begged the question “what is church?” We all have a lot of things pop into our heads with that word don’t we? Different ideas come to mind, some good and some very bad. We often have this idea, subconsciously if not intentionally, that church is a place. We say things like “I’m going to church” implying that church is a place, a building that I am going to go to, it’s four walls with a cross on top…
“Church is not defined or confined in four walls…” “Church is not a building built… it’s a people connected” (Mike)
In my Exodus/Deuteronomy class we’re reading Genesis. Last night Mike decided to teach the first three chapters of Genesis 12. He pointed out something I missed when I read it recently. God’s telling Abraham to Leave. “Leave your country, your people… and your fathers house…” Each specification sounds more difficult. It’s like God is making sure that He doesn’t leave the difficulty of this command sitting in the fine print He’s full on putting it in bold letters… Leave, and it won’t be easy. God continues and makes these promises which reveal His heart. He says “I will make your name great” then He goes on to say something completely stunning, radical, life changing (if the first part wasn’t life changing enough), something I missed the first time I read it. God tells Abraham “All peoples will be blessed through YOU….” All peoples, He says… that’s everybody. God’s blessing is for everyone in the entire world not just Abraham and not just for his people.
The Church can be one of the most marginalizing entities in the world can’t it? So often we make the “good news” into “bad news.” We send this message that the blessing is for us and unless you join our club you get nothing. We limit the message to being primarily about what happens when you die and in doing that we say we don’t care about you unless your “saved” meaning “going to heaven someday.” That idea is sadly distant from the heart of God revealed to Abraham and to us in Genesis 12. If the blessing is for everyone, “all peoples” then it’s not just for the Church, is it? When God says all peoples that means everybody… can He be more clear? So it’s ultimately not about what we get that makes us the Church… it’s what we give.
“It’s about the Church giving itself away” (Mike)
Why do we miss that message so often in our churches? Maybe it’s because of verse 1… it’s difficult.
Sometimes we can lose grasp of the difficulty of the whole thing. We start thinking that we’re ok; we’re comfortable where we are. We sit and we dream and it’s good to dream but that’s all we do. We come up with all these great ideas of what it means for us to be the Church but we don’t do it, we never test it in our own lives. It has to work in our own lives, in our own “backyard” before we press our dreams upon the world. Now I may be accused of pressing my dreams in this post so I will leave it to you. You answer the question… what does it mean for US to be the Church? What does the difficulty look like? Dream! Wrestle with the question and then, the challenge is… DO IT… LIVE IT… be a blessing to everyone… decide what that looks like and do it. Remember that it’s difficult. Would we expect something so beautiful to be easy?
Last night Mike quoted Rob Bell.
“The church does not exist for itself; it exists to serve the world. It is not
ultimately about the church; it’s about all the people God wants to bless
through the church. When the church loses sight of this, it loses its heart.
This is especially true today in the world we live in where so many people are
hostile to the church, many for good reason. We reclaim the church as a blessing
machine not only because that is what Jesus intended from the beginning but also
because serving people is the only way their perceptions of church are ever
going to change. This is why it is so toxic for the gospel when Christians
picket and boycott and complain about how bad the world is. This behavior
doesn’t help. It makes it worse. It isn’t the kind of voice Jesus wants his
followers to have in this world. Why blame the dark for being dark? It is far
more helpful to ask why the light isn’t as bright as it could
be.” -From Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell