Do you "fit"?
Do you ever wonder if you "fit" in church? I recently read an article about a young man who faithfully served his church for many years but eventually got burnt out and disillusioned. He wondered if the corporate church was the right place for him. And he is not alone in that sentiment. As a result, there are many people who are disengaged from their local church, others who jump from church to church hoping to find something different, and still others who leave the church all together.
There are many reasons that contribute to people making those choices. It isn't helpful to point the finger and blame any single entity. Individual people sometimes make bad choices because of poor motivations. People can also be disillusioned by a church culture that doesn't always resemble much of the vision God put forward in the Scriptures.
I am suggesting that one way we can help people engage in our church communities is to begin to think differently about what it means to "be the church."
4 ways to think differently about what it means to "be the church"
1. The church is people, not events or buildings
I think that most Christians get this - at least on an intellectual level. If our most faithful members were pressed to define what "the church" is in Biblical terms, most would give an answer that had something to do with people. But unfortunately that is not how we always function or use language. We often think of church as events or programs. We "go to church" on Sunday mornings. Or we think of it as a building or location. When I am scheduling a mid-week lunch meeting, sometimes people meet me "at church."
If we freed our church family to think of themselves primarily as a community of people sent to their city as Jesus' representatives in the world, how would that change what it means to "be the church." As I type this on my patio at home on a Monday afternoon, I am no less a part of my church family than when I was sitting in my office earlier today. When my community group members are in class or at work today, they were just as much a part of our church as when they are sitting in a pew on Sunday morning. And I don't just mean that they are part of the church as one of its identified members. When they are engaging their coworkers, classmates or neighbors, they are actually doing the work of the church as much as they are when they serve as Connections Team members on Sunday morning.
The church is people. Not events or buildings. Therefore, the work of the church is being done by those very people each and every day as they engage in their different spheres of influence. It is being done each and every day, not just when they come to participate in a program or event.
2. The church goes, it doesn't just wait for people to come
The local church is the locally gathered "sent ones" of God. We are called to go, not just wait. This means that to "be the church" in our city requires us to function outside the walls or programs of our church. We engage in our neighborhoods and communities in order to build relationships, seek the good of those around us and bring the message of Jesus with us.
We do organize events, ministries and programs that are oriented around normal meeting times. These are important for the life of a local church. For example, a Sunday morning gathering is part of the normal rhythm of most churches. It is an important time for the church to gather, study God's word, sing songs of praise and engage with one another. And people who are exploring faith may join us on Sundays to learn more about Jesus.
But the mission of the church is not complete just through our gatherings. God has called us to go. That means we go as individuals, families and smaller groups. This cannot be an organized event by church staff or leadership. Each member is empowered to carry the message of Jesus into their own neighborhoods and communities. This means that every member of the church plays a pivotal role in what it means to "be the church." Have we empowered everyone to carry that responsibility? Have we called everyone to the glorious task of going each week to their own spheres as Christ's "sent ones?" I think people would have a greater sense of purpose in their lives if they saw themselves as doing the work of the church in every part of their lives.
3. Serving the church includes loving our neighbors, not just volunteering in a church organized ministry
At First Baptist Church, we have been growing a wonderful and fruitful partnership with a ministry called In Love, Word and Deed (ILWD). I am so grateful to God for the way that we have worked together to serve the homeless of downtown Minneapolis. We regularly invite our church members to participate in this ministry. We also recently organized a number of opportunities for our church to serve together during #FBCServes.
While it is important for us to provide opportunities for our church to serve our local neighborhood, and while it is necessary for us to corporately serve our neighborhood as an expression of what it means to follow Jesus, it is not the only way to serve the church.
It is necessary for every member to know that their intentional work to love their neighbors is a way that they serve the mission of the church. Our church family serves each time one of our members serves by intentionally loving their own neighbors.
Your own church might be organizing opportunities for you to corporately serve together. You should find ways to engage in those opportunities, but you should also know that loving your neighbors well is no less important.
4. The mission of the church is God's glory, not our own fame
Ultimately, it isn't about us. It isn't about any individual person. It isn't about any individual family or group. It isn't about any one single church or association of churches. It is about God. We are seeking to make worshipers of God, so that He might receive all the glory and credit and fame.
This is worth all our time and talents. We are not trying to build up any single church or person. We do however want more and more people to enter into a life-saving relationship with Jesus and then live in worship to our great God.