Monday, July 25, 2005

Why is the church here?

I was listening to Erwin McManus lecture the other night about growing leaders in the postmodern generation, and he was fielding a lot of questions about the "emerging" church that he leads called Mosaic in California. The main thought that he left me with, which I am still praying through, is not a new thought to me - but it is still a profound one. And it has been reinforced by my re-introduction to the ministry of Mission Arlington this week. Erwin said that the problem with most churches today is that they have forgotten why they exist. He said most churches believe that the church exists for itself, but that the Scriptures teach that the church exists for the world. You would think after four years of seminary and six years of ministry, I would really have already understood the reason the church exists. But I really don't think that I have thought about it clearly. We always quote the Great Commission in our minds when we talk about the church's mission - to "make disciples." But what does this mean in reality? Does it mean that we exist to build into one another in the local congregation and hope that those on the outside will like what we do and become a part of our community? Or does it mean that we exist to engage those outside the four walls of our church? Does it mean we have been called by God to look outside our church for the reason we exist?

This really bothers me in a religious environment where most churches spend most of their money on themselves. Most churches spend most of their money on programs for them, ministers to teach them, buildings to house them, and technology to entertain them. If we believe we are to really be about leading the world to follow Christ, what are we doing? I was told by a leader in my faith community recently that most churches in my denomination are failing to simply convert their own - and by that he meant the kids of the church members on the role. I think we are struggling more than we are willing to admit sometimes. And I think this issue of mission is really a huge part of our problem. Why are we here? McManus said that he believed that mission was the fire that fueled the passion of the church. In other words, if we are not on the same page about why we exist, we will never fully and passionately pursue that goal. I hope that we can move beyond the place of saying that we want the world to convert to the church and begin saying that we want the world to convert to Christ. I sincerely hope that the institutional church today is not keeping people away from following our Savior. And I say that with trembling fear because I am a member and a minister in the institutional church.

I guess the question I want answered is "are we too attached to our methods and traditions that we fail to engage the next generation with the all-consuming, life-transforming story of Jesus"? Are we really more concerned with having church "our way" than about introducing our community to the Savior? Because I believe the Bible teaches us that the church exists for the world, not for itself. If not, then why has God even left us here?

1 comment:

Danny Burch said...

I don't think we are ready Keith. As I think about just our church in Ovilla and the things we have done in the past. We have we brought in so many groups to evangelize when we have the ability to do the same thing? As I sit in my office up in Lefors I look out the window and ask why this church is here. It is obvious that it isnt here to reach the community because the only people who are trying to reach the community are the pastoral staff. I really thinnk that the congregation thinks that the church is here for them. A place to go. Tradition. And I'm not just talking about the church in Lefors.