Monday, November 28, 2005

Being the Church

In my mind, several small phrases have totally shifted the way I think about leadership in the body of Christ in the future. I have become aware of small groups of churches that are beginning to push the envelopes in these areas, and they are having tremendous success in expanding God's kingdom. The first phrase has been, "the church exists for the world." I have blogged about this before and will continue to write about the impact that the outward-focused movement will have on the local church. More and more mature Christians are coming to the point of frustration with getting fat on everything the church has to offer for them. We spend all of our time, energy, and money on serving ourselves, and then wonder why contemporary Christians are selfish consumers of church in much the same way that they consume other products. The bar is being raised, however, concerning the level of commitment required to impact the world for Christ, and I believe that the church will respond.

The major shift happening now, though, in my mind is in the way we use the word "church." For so long, we have talked about going to the church or attending church or meeting at the church that we have lost the ability to understand the NT idea that we are the church. The people who follow Jesus are the church. I don't think this is just a shift in verbiage - I think it is a fundamental change in the way people think about themselves and their responsibility before God. I don't go to church once or twice a week (to meet with God); I am the church (and I walk with God every moment of every day). What happens when the people of God begin to understand that wherever they gather and whatever they do, they are the church? Barna has put his finger on something in his new book Revolution, where he writes about many mature followers of Christ who are beginning to understand that they can walk with Christ and serve others and build the kingdom of God apart from the building they have called "church." This shift is built on a new understanding by many that in our "American" church culture, we have been rocked to sleep by the idea that our Christianity was secure because we had buildings on every corner. But here is the key: many buildings do not represent a healthy church (just ask post-Christian Europe). A healthy church means healthy Christians because the Christians are the church. This leads to many great questions about the establishment, and as a church planter, I get excited about hopefully asking the right questions. I'm not confident about any answers yet, but I am confident that these paradigm shifts will affect the rest of my ministry.

1 comment:

lynnette said...

if you haven't already, you might want to check out David Bosch's Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. it's a beast of a book, but it's quite good. also Darrel Guder's The Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America.