700 churches to choose from? So wrong…
700 over churches to choose from?
What’s wrong with this statement?
‘to choose from’ – puts us in the centre of action and power. Yes, God has given us the greatest power and freedom: the ability to choose – but when it comes to new life in Him, Jesus made it clear that it is a mystery because beneath our choice is God’s choice of us:
‘you did not choose me, but I chose you…’ ~ John 15v16
Of course, such a statement also reinforces the prevailing worldview that we are but consumers. Pick and choose what suits your need/mood/flavor.
‘700 over churches’ – also sounds very disturbing. So many, why so many?
There is a church planting perspective over at “birthing a new church”.
But here, we want to consider our understanding of the local church as leaders and pastors.
As I grew as a Christian, I realized in reading the Bible that the word ‘church’ came from the Greek and simply meant a gathering of people; or a group called out to meet.
The question to ask is: why are they gathering, who or what calls them out to meet; and for what end?
This is where I realized the agenda is found in the Old Testament prophecies and Jesus’ preaching and teaching. The larger, more enduring idea is that of the Kingdom of God. Indeed, the entire momentum is going to lead up to this:
“ the kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever” ~ Revelation 11v15
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful. And so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe” ~ Hebrews 12v28
Hence, the larger, longer term, deeper and central commitment is to the Kingdom of God.
The local church is a local, specific expression of this Kingdom being birthed, built and made ready for the King (by the King)!
Things therefore go wrong when our primary commitment and allegiance becomes our tradition, our form of theology, our leaders! They are all instruments appointed by God for the time to serve this Kingdom.
Pastors and leaders can get anxious for manpower, loyalty and even finance. When we are not careful, we can subtly be building disciples for our church rather than for the Kingdom.
Not only that, we can end up using people rather than loving them into maturity for the Kingdom!
Did you hear the one about the artist asked to design church tee-shirts and bulletins? Not that it is wrong; but an artist grapples with many deep issues and his vocation is akin to the prophet’s and he needs spiritual cover and much grace in order to seek and follow God’s call on his life.
It is risky to let someone you have trained go back to the marketplace. It seems sad that the star dancer cannot head a dance ministry in church. It feels like such a waste that young men and women prefer to serve the poor and marginalized rather than become leaders in the youth ministry.
But if we are open to trust God to provide, if we can see beyond our limited understanding of a ‘great church’…if we can become more comfortable with living on the edge of need (and thereby depending more on God); perhaps a new vitality, power and impact will also emerge from our churches.