How healthy and active is your church?
Before you rattle of a list of activities you and your local church might be engaged in let me frame the question by saying I am not interested in a calendar of events. I have no interest in a list of activities that looks more and more the same year after year. If the outreach and missions functions of your church can be depended upon to tell the seasons or time of year then I’m speaking about you, because of you, and directly at you.
If your calendar year is easily defined by the Christmas children’s pageant, the Memorial Day cook out outreach carnival, the summer vacation VBS and the Valentine’s couple night but precious little else in between to integrate you into your community then you may be busy, but your certainly not productive.
Here in Maine where I live we easily have winter weather at least 5 months of the year, often more. With that winter ice and snow comes the very real risk of your vehicle getting stuck on a patch of ice, slush or snow. Try as you might to press the gas, even to the floorboards, your car wheels just spin and spin around getting you nowhere. You have movement of your tires but no progress.
And that is the disease that grips the church today, we have confused movement with progress.
“10 The Son of Man came to find lost people and save them.” Luke 19:10 (Easy-To-Read Version)
Jesus came to find lost people and save them, some translations use the word “seek”, meaning Jesus was actively looking for people to minister too. He didn’t park himself inside a church building and expect the lost to come to him, instead he went out and traveled to them and met and ministered to them wherever they were, both physically and spiritually.
There is a lesson for today’s church in that behavior.
We have built and perpetuate a model that assumes that simply because we have a church location with our name on the door that people will come to not only attend our church but come to discover a relationship with Christ. How naïve of us.
If the two teenage Mormon missionaries in my small town are better known and have visited with more of my communities residents than all of the evangelical churches in my town combined, that should be an embarrassing wake up call that our model of outreach and our way of programming our churches is not working. Our Mormon neighbors are actively seeking out people to minister too, and we sit in our various sanctuaries wondering out loud when revival will come. Anyone else catch the irony of this?
14-16 “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 (The Message)
The intent of the local church from the very beginning was to be a beacon, a public story to be told and joined. Not a secret society where we define who joins and who is shut out by our total failure to engage those around us. If our programming and our entire church outreach philosophy is not designed around constantly reaching out to those in our communities who are unchurched or equally as important those hurt by the church in the past, then why are we even daring to call ourselves a church? Notice I said constantly reaching out, instead of being able to count our outreach efforts on one or two hands we should have so many going at once that we lose count or better yet don’t even try to count.
Far too many churches today are shallower than the kiddie end of the municipal pool. Our internal programing is so boring and stale that our own church members have a hard time participating, let alone anyone from outside our church. We lack depth in our church programs but wonder why we also lack the breath of growing memberships and diversity. The two are tied together. Churches will not grow in numbers until they literally grow their members faith. Paul’s letter to the Corinth church in 1 Corinthians 3 talks of moving from “milk” to “meat” in relation to spiritual growth. If Paul were to write a letter to the modern evangelical church today I’m afraid he would define us as being on a milk replacer instead of even on regular milk let alone the meat of the word. As members of our churches grow in faith they naturally want to share it with others, yet when the church does not foster growth and does not encourage outreach sharing that new enthusiasm quickly dies out. Instead of bright shining candles in our churches we have cold blown out wicks that need to be reignited and unleashed into the world around us.
We need to respark the revolution to rebirth and redirect our churches. We are called to be “Christ’s ambassadors” (2 Corinthians 5:20), or as the New Life translations reads “missionaries”, in this world.
Isn’t time we started acting like it?