So I am not a “high thinker” – I’m a simple person with simple thoughts that sometimes by the grace of God find themselves going off the deep end of contemplation. However what I do know is that God uses the simple things to make profound statements about Himself and His work and it is my prayer that He will speak through the thoughts that I am about to share.
A few years back God began really breaking my heart for the church- not just “feeling bad” for the church, but a broken heart over the fact that our churches are not fulfilling the purpose for which (according to scripture) they were created. This non- judgmental (I was not judging our churches, I was simply looking at the fruit of their actions and existence) heart-ache began to open my heart to God’s plan for me personally and open my ears to hear the perspectives of those the church is called to reach and serve. As I heard one indictment after another that described a self-conscience, self-serving vehicle of idolization I was ashamed of how we- how I as a follower of Christ had lost sight of the single most important mission that has ever been given.
Let me pause for a moment to say that God is still working in and through our churches and I cannot personally say that any church has or has not fulfilled its purpose according to God’s plan. What I can say is that quite a few churches have seemingly gotten lost in endless discussions about methods and as John Wesley said, “When mission is lost, methods are all that remain”. At least from the perspective of many people who live “outside the church walls”, the church seems to have made methods their mission and these folk are able to see through Christian rhetoric that resounds from within a church that is consumed with its self-existence or self- propagation. One of the great issues with sharing our faith as followers of Jesus today is that there is the perception that Christians are only looking to take care of the bills of their community club through expansion and this perception presumes a lack of genuineness and the message of hope gets lost in the ensuing wave of words.
So what do we do? How can the church address these issues and presumptions of a watching world…because whether “they like or not”, they are watching because Christians are a peculiar people. It is my conviction that we need to recapture our focus on the mission at all costs and begin the same way that Jesus did- by showing ridiculous love. A couple of Sunday nights ago I shared with our church that we have to allow God to work in us and teach us; to empower us through the work of the Holy Spirit to love God with everything and that out of the overflow of such love we could love our neighbor as we love our self. My cry is that we LOVE FIRST…choose to pursue love before responding and make any response we give one of love. The hard part is that genuine love requires that we speak truth, otherwise we are pretending. Truth doesn’t have to be communicated in a harsh way, but truth is genuine and if we are going to share it, we should also be genuine.
The question has been raised been raised in regards to what one perceives as truth being established with another person who may not view the same information as truth. This is where followers of Christ (in my opinion) ought to “shine” for our truth is not our own ideas or thoughts, our truth is Jesus…the Word, The Way, the TRUTH and the Life and we cannot even attempt to have conversations about truth when the name of Jesus is absent. When someone says, “I tell you the truth” and proceeds to share his or her feelings or best thoughts, such “truth” may be suspect and is most certainly skewed according to a system of belief, but when one follows such a statement with the unchanging word of God there can be no doubt. So what if a person “twists” scripture- is that still “truth”. Of course not. The problem lies in who decides that scripture has been ‘twisted”. Is the basis of determining a “twisting of scripture” based on scripture or tradition or personal acceptance of any given passage as being reconciled with one’s lifestyle? If a system of belief in regards to scripture can be faithfully rooted in the whole of the scriptures then it may be worthy of consideration or acceptance, however if it is rooted in tradition or opinion or feasibility with any current lifestyle then it should certainly be reconsidered. God’s word exists as eternal truth outside the context of any earthly generation, even those in which it was written. In other words, scripture is not true because someone wrote it or because someone’s life represents it- it’s truth because it’s the word of God that reflects His nature, His desire and His purposes. It is God Who chose to share His truth through the obediently written words of men.
All of this comes back to the church by way of relationships. When the church is seen only a s a self-propagating organization there are obvious reason to doubt what she calls truth to be truth and what she calls love to be love. So then perhaps it is time the church (as a whole) decides to give the thoughts and perceptions of the watching world some attention regardless of whether or not we agree with their opinions. Jesus clearly did not agree with the ideas or lifestyles of the people He ate with and ministered to, but neither did He allow such things to distract Him from the mission or use them as an excuse for failing to carry out the mission. We need to be careful that we do not simply adapt our methods to please the nature of those with whom we seek to share the truth. I heard of one person who asked why the pastor of a particular church expected him to place a greater emphasis on Jesus in His life than this church did in their worship services- ouch! The simplicity of being a follower of Jesus is in becoming a practical disciple instead of a theoretical disciple; that is seeking to understand what Jesus desires of our lives and depending on the power of God to enable us to do it. The passion in being a follower of Jesus is established in remembering the darkness that we ourselves were called out of and having a genuine heart-felt desire to see others delivered for the glory of God.The church still has a great opportunity to impact the world with the unchanging message of hope and love through Jesus. My prayer is that we keep Him as the center of our mission and not get distracted by methods, the opinions of men or the need for acceptance in this world. We are not worthy of participation in this godly cause but we have been invited in because of the love and grace of God. It is time that we reflect this love, grace and truth as we reach out to those all around us. May God be glorified as He works through His people!