Wednesday, March 30, 2016

You Can't Go to Church

Deep within our vocabulary of our Christian culture is the concept that the Church is a place or an event. We view the institution or building as "the church." Therefore when someone asks you where you are going so early on a Sunday morning, you reply, "I am going to church!"

On the surface it can be said that we are just using a commonly known reference point in our speech to communicate where we are going. But the deeper, more biblical definition of the concept of "Church" has little to do with a place, a building, an institution, or even an event.

In 1 Peter 2:4-10, the Apostle speaks of the Church being a building, but only in a metaphorical sense. In verse five Peter says, "And you are living stones that God is building into a spiritual temple. What's more, you are his holy priests. Through the medication of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God."  This verse, as well as the entire passage, is jam-packed with truths that challenge our traditional vocabulary and thinking about what the church is and how it is to be understood.

First of all, I want to point out that I believe our concept of church is more Old-Testament than it is New-Testament in the way its understood. Peter mentions two familiar concepts to the Old-Testament worshiper, the temple and the priest.

While I will say more about this in future posts, I want to point out how we may still be thinking of the old ways of worship, rather than the new way in following Jesus Christ. In the old way of worship people went to a place to worship called the temple. They also come to a person to mediate between the worshiper and God called the priest. The way we often practice our worship today is much like the Old-Testament worshipper coming to the temple and to a priest. We just transfer the concepts to a church and a pastor.

But notice what Peter says is the new temple and who the priests are: "You are living stones that God is building into a spiritual temple." In other words, you can't go to church because you are the Church. And we also are the "priests" with Christ as our head priest.

The implications of this should profoundly change our thinking about church. Verse 9 says, "But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light."

So we see that the church is not a place we go to worship God, but a people God has chosen to worship Him. It is not tied to geographical area or a building. Wherever Christ followers are, there is the church. That makes the church very mobile and global. And believers are also called to be the ones who show the world who God is through Jesus Christ. Wherever we go we take Christ with us and share his message and ministry. The Church is a people worshipping and serving God through Jesus Christ.

We may never be able to change the vocabulary of our culture but we can begin to change our concept of what the church is and does and how we function within in it. Just remember, you can't go to church because you are the Church.

What do you think? What practical things can we do to "be" the church rather than just going to church?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Missional to the CORE

When I was first asked if I would consider starting a new church, my first response "NO." My response was based on the fact that we already had numerous churches in our area. The need that I perceived was not that we needed more churches, but the churches we had needed to be healthier. As time went on and others encouraged me to think about starting a new work, I knew that it would have to be something different. I began to write down the CORE values that had been bouncing around in my head for many years (you can see the list at the end of my blog post, "Inside, Outside, Upside-Down").

Around that time a new word starting to be thrown around in church leadership circles was "missional." While there are various ideas of the meaning of the word, there is even more variety in how the concept is implemented in churches. However, it seemed like a word that fit the CORE values that I was beginning to embrace for a new church. To try to define the concept I began to ask, "what would it look like if a local church acted like missionaries in its home area?"

The starting point was with the fact that God is on a Mission. God acts with purpose and planning to bring worshipers to himself (Ephesians 1). He came to us as the person of Jesus Christ to serve humanity. While sacrificially giving of himself, Jesus unashamedly pointed to himself as the only way to have a right relationship with God the Father. The purpose of the Church flows from this mission that God is on. We are called to be on the same mission; to go and share the love and message of Christ so that others may follow and worship God.

From this point I began to formulate our list of CORE values for a local church that thinks and acts as missionaries in our local area, and in our global ministry as well. The resulting list of our 9 CORE Values had to be Christ Centered, Outwardly Focused, Relationally Based, and Empowering the people to grow and go as God directs us.

The perspective these values provide has led us to focus more on our ministry outside of our building, rather than how many we can get inside. It has allowed us to be very ethnically and economically diverse and representative of our community. It has moved us to connect and partner with other churches, ministries, non-profit organizations, schools and businesses in our city. These CORE values are developing us into a ministry that goes out into the streets and around the world to serve others and share Christ in unique ways.

Check out our CORE Values. What do you think? What would it look like if your church approached ministry with these values in mind?