What if…? What if we actually mobilized like this and acted as the early church, organically. I hope that this reality really catches on. I hope our church leaders are successful in their endeavor to promote this Kingdom work that reflects the missio dei. I will pray until we find success through His grace and power. Will you join me?
...On the other hand...
Now that I have shared my heart on the issue, I hope you will hear my earnest plea to not take what I am about to say as a critique of what our leaders are doing through this message. I am merely trying to promote a proper understanding of what is being said.
In light of this video, and in light of what church leaders are saying concerning “how we do church” today, it can become easy to become cynical concerning what we still do on Sunday morning (worship, listening to sermons, serving in childcare-see note at end for a deeper look at this issue). If we are being told as a congregation that we have the wrong idea of church, we might miss the point and think that Sunday morning service is the issue. Sunday morning service does not sum up church, but it is a part of church, a part of what we do, gathering.
So often in the history of the church, reformers, as they are called, have come to bring a corrective to the body’s mindset, to call the church back to its rightful place and purpose. Usually these reformers are acting because of some extreme shift church leaders have allowed and perhaps even encouraged to happen that molds the church body's understanding of itself and its faith in a negative fashion. In an earnest attempt to right the wrong, these God-sent activists preach vehemently about the way the church is behaving, the result sometimes being an extreme shift in the other direction.
This need not happen in this case. In fact, I am of the opinion, right now, that it should not happen. We need not jump out of one ditch into the next. Yet, I am afraid that church member malaise, when and where it happens, might, in some cases (certainly not all, and probably not the majority of the time) stem from a lack of purpose, from a lack of understanding of who we are in light of all the ideas that are floating around. Some might feel that what they do on Sunday mornings matters little in light of the missio dei, and they might develop this understanding from a wrong attitude towards the proclamation that "how we do church" is wrong. They might assume that what is being said is that unless they are "out there" in the world, there service amounts to little. Certainly going out should be a large part of what we do. As the video above suggested, Jesus commands us to, "go," But does this mean that gathering and serving the gathering of believers is not a worthy cause. Certainly not:
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:10
What I am trying to say is this: What this emphasis on identity seems to suggest is that we do church wrong because we do not understand the identity of the Church. In fact, that is exactly what is being said, as illustrated by the video, which suggests that the Church should look more like a mobilization than a mere gathering of people on Sundays, more of a servant movement than a concert, and certainly there is cause for a shift. Clearly the Church needs to understand that "church" is not a building or a once a week gathering. The Church needs to know it is the Church. We must have identity to properly act. However, does this mean that we must drop everything we are doing on Sundays for this re-visioning? By no means… I certainly do not believe that this is what the church leaders are suggesting. It would make no sense for them to say such while still doing the normal Sunday routine. Instead, I believe what is being called for is a shift in mentality concerning our purpose.
We still need to gather. Gathering is not the antithesis of going. Going is something that needs to be the overflow of our gathering. The idea of “going” stresses the fact that we need to impact the world outside our church walls. But, I think that this stress of going as a means to reach the world can cloud, if we let it, the fact that gathering, as we do, can be impactful, even for those of the world. Our community can be a reflection of something great. Make no mistake. The world watches us, even coming inside our walls to see what we are up to. To better understand what we are doing in the here and now as we gather together, maybe we need a clear vision of where we are going:
What Wright is saying here is that we will be active in the life to come. We will not get a personal cloud with a harp. In fact, Wright points out that we will be leaders in the New Earth. We will have something to do. However, do not be confused; we will lead in the manner that Christ has already demonstrated for us in His first advent, not the way humans are accustomed. Jesus had a radical idea of leadership that certainly did not reflect the Greco-Roman model of leadership of the day. Instead of an idea of absolute, heavy-handed ruling, we will lead through our service to one another. So, what does this have to do with the role of the church in the here-and-now?
What Wright will also say in various places is that the Church is to be a reflection of this reality about the life to come. In other words, our job here on earth is not simply to ensure others will make it to a heaven, which has little to do with what is going on here and now. In fact, the New Testament is clear that heaven is not some ethereal and eternal resting point. Instead, heaven and earth will be joined together, as the Kingdom is consummated. In light of this great fact, we mustn’t forget that we are the representatives of the Kingdom. The good news that Christ shares and has appointed us to share concerns the reality of the Kingdom (Mark 1:15, Matthew 4:23). Our role is to share this reality with the world. In other words, part of what we do now, if not all that we do, is doing Kingdom...
One of the greatest proclamations of the Kingdom of God is the living example of the Kingdom, embodied by believers (Matthew 5:14-16). Through our service, one to another, we exemplify the truth of the Kingdom. When we gather in worship on Sunday morning, we are, if in the right spirit, a glimpse of the life to come. Through servant-leadership, we speak to the world, and we say, “This is how life is to be done, now and forever.”
At the local church gathering that I attend, Saint Simons Community Church, the leaders have been in the pangs of recasting a vision that holds together the truth of our calling: “Reach Up, Reach In, Reach Out.”They are doing exactly what I am musing about above: holding together the reality of gathering together (RI) to worship God (RU) so that me might be ready and refreshed to go out into the world (RO). The leadership has been tirelessly seeking after the body’s heart to capture it and proclaim to it: “We, all of us, are the church.” We are the priesthood of all believers. We must go. We must reach out. We must act. In light of this, I have been reflecting on this call to be better at reaching out, and I have come to the conclusion I hopefully fleshed out above: While reaching out means we go beyond merely reaching up and in, it does not preclude these efforts. Instead, the beginning point of reaching out is reaching up and reaching in. By our worship of God and service to others, we speak to the world in a soft, but clear voice, saying:
“The Kingdom of God is like this, that we love God and love others, and through this love, a radical new way of living is discovered. Don’t you want to be a part?”
Let us not give up on being this picture, but let us be enlivened by this picture so that we might go and make disciples, so that the picture can spread across our globe.
A Further Reflection: This blog has already overreached the comfortable reading length for a blog, so, if you are already fatigued, I apologize and suggest you take a break and come back to read the rest. The following is simply an application to the above. It is part of another piece I am working on, but I thought it would fit well with the above:
From "What Good News is This" -Essay by Rev. Tab Miller, TSM Inc:
As the Church, in everything that we do, we act out of one inspiration given by God, to proclaim and demonstrate the good news. It is often the case that we perform service projects and volunteer our time at church because of some sense of obligation, and, at these times, we need to remind ourselves of the truth of the good news, that we, through service, are not merely fulfilling an obligation to help out, but we are reflecting the reality of the Kingdom of God in a lost and broken world, that something has truly happened that has called us to action. Through our care one for another, we show the world another way, the right way, His way.
I know at times people serve in areas such as, let’s say, child care at church, and they might wonder, “What does this have to do with the good news of Jesus Christ," and even a sense of guilt might wash over them when they think, “I could be out there really proclaiming the good news right now, out in a lost and hurting world, and, yet, here I sit allowing people the luxury to sit in a service while I watch their kids. Could we not do better than this? Should we not be out in the world acting instead of shutting ourselves in this building away from the world?” I certainly cannot help but think that this sense of guilt is not proper, but it might be the sense that some gather by many evangelicals' attempt to reorient people away from the idea of the “church, as it exists today.” I think some might be moved to throw the baby out with the bath water. I think that this misunderstanding is damaging to the call of the gospel. So, where is the disconnect? Have we really understood our call if our understanding of the call becomes burdensome instead of exciting.
What we must do at these times is go back to reflecting on the good news, the good news of a kingdom where people do not race to the top to be first, a kingdom where the last shall be first, where people will rule by washing feet. Instead of feeling burdened, live with a Kingdom heart, because, in the Kingdom of God people selflessly serve one another. With this at the forefront of our mind, childcare, that seemingly lowly act of service, becomes a reflection of the heart of the Kingdom, that heart being service. The good news is a radical proclamation of a “now, but not yet” reality. The Kingdom of God resides in the heart of the Church, and we live as resident aliens in the world. When we serve one another, we testify to the world: “The Kingdom of God is like this.”
In light of this reality, it is always beneficial to remind our selves about the radical reality of the good news and why we serve...