The church has been designed by God to be full of humility, unconditional love, and unshakable faith. When the church is working right, it is the hope of the world. When the church is healthy it is a greenhouse of growth.
When the church is on mission it is a hospital for sinners; a haven for saints; and, the house where God dwells.
The church, at its best, is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic (united, righteous, diverse, and outreach-oriented); it reflects the ancient Nicene Creed, as well as relevantly bringing truth to contemporary situations.
The problem is that neither every church nor every Christian lives up to their calling by Jesus.
Every follower of Jesus must take up their God-given responsibility to do their part in helping the church to function the way it was intended to work.
When the church is powerless and ineffective, God is not the problem.
God’s purpose is still the same: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). God still cares about permanent things – people and relationships – and not temporary things in the church like dress codes, music styles, and particular ministries. God’s promise is still the same. “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). God’s power is still the same, “For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). The world is not stronger than God, no matter how evil things are or become. God’s presence is still the same. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). So, then, if the church is not working as it ought to be, it is not the fault of Jesus.
What is more, there is not a problem with the message. The gospel is still the good news that Jesus Christ came to save sinners and grant grace to the humble. Christ’s redemptive events of cross and resurrection are still effective to bring forgiveness and new life.
God’s Word still has the power to change lives.
Even the world is really not the problem in the church because the deeper the darkness, the brighter a small candlelight will shine. As bad as things might get in the world, it still has an awful long way to go to match the Roman Empire in which the early church grew, thrived, and flourished.
An inability to realize healing, to become humble, to welcome others into the fellowship, and to really follow Jesus is not God’s fault, the fault of the message, or the world’s fault – it is us.
We are our own worst problem.
A hurting father brought his broken son to Christ’s disciples for healing (Luke 9:37-43). He put himself out there and dared to hope again. I can relate to how he must have felt. Sometimes it can look pretty bleak after going to doctor after doctor and cycling through medication after medication looking for my grandson’s epilepsy to go away. In the Gospel story, the Dad’s hope was shattered yet again as all the disciples took a crack at healing the boy. What was the problem?
The disciples were seeking to represent Jesus in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons. They were trying to heal in their own strength, and to show off about was the greatest and most spiritual disciple. The disciples could not heal the boy because healing is not a competition.
It is quite possible that we do church ministry the wrong way and for the wrong reasons.
What I mean is this: Maybe we have been selfishly doing church the way we like it and want it, or the way we believe it should be done. Church is not a competition about who gets their way. Maybe we need to be reminded that we are the only Jesus that some people will ever see. Maybe we have forgotten that eternity is hanging in the balance. It could be that there is no power because we are busy doing everything on our own, worrying about which people get the credit, and playing power politics to angle for greatness and significance.
--Do our church traditions, worship services, and ministries make sense to outsiders? If not, how will we address the situation?
--Are there changes that you believe need to occur? If so, what would it look like for you to ridiculously own leading in and through such a change?
--Is there a crucial conversation that needs to take place among a person(s) or group(s) of people?
--How will you connect with God so that ministry flows from knowing Him and not in your own thoughts and strength?
--How might I pray for you?
I’m just a fellow servant, like you, trying to figure out the will of God and live into it in my context. Let’s encourage one another in the journey so that God is glorified, Christ’s church is edified, and the world is blessed. May it be so.