Church: Getting In The Way

Sean and I attended a church service this past Sunday night which got me thinking about the role and function of the church.  Certainly we know that biblically, “the church” is not the building, but the people who gather together, be it in a building, a home or on the street who are joining together to worship God, encourage each other and take time to read Scripture, share a message, sing, pray, etc.  Different people have different experiences and what they consider the church and I’m not writing this to talk about which version is best, what should be included, removed etc.

One of the things that struck me during this past Sunday’s fellowship was the pastor’s lengthy and descriptive apology from the church to the world, the church, the lost, the Christians and more.  He shared his heart with the congregation about the flaws that have persisted in him, and the leaders of the particular section of the church.

And here’s what it got me thinking – we must work hard to be transparent.  People have been offended, rejected, turned off, upset, hurt and the like by this thing called “the church” and some of that has been their fault and some of that has been the fault of the people of the church.  That any of this is the fault of the church is really sad – we need to represent Jesus and point people to the Father like he did.

Our worship services can’t be about us.  They need to be about God.
Our method for teaching the Bible can’t be about us.  It needs to be about God.
Our discipleship can’t be about us.  It needs to be about God.

And where there is some of “us” still existing in how we are doing things, we need to decrease and let Christ increase by the spirit.

The pastor’s apology ended with a sobering plea.  He said something to the effect of “if you’re one of those who have been pushed away because of the church, our flaws, our sins, or whatever – please do not give up on God on account of us.”

I join in with his words – Please do not think that God is like us.  God is great and merciful and just and loving and compassionate and wise and forgiving and faithful and powerful and more and more.

We need to stop making God like us and we need to be like the God who is.  When we make God in our image, people come to know Him and then they hate a God who is critical, judgmental, over opinionated, under involved.  And then they will go on having experienced what they were told God and Christianity was like and it had little to do with God or Christ.

So lets do church this way – get out of the way.  Lets be like Jesus so that when they see us – they see the Father.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church… [Ephesians 3:20-21a]

For a great picture as to what the church should be about, click here to listen to Sean’s message “A Beautiful People”

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jeanette on October 27, 2009 at 9:50 am

    I think this is the most important realization I have ever come to in my life, and I came to it while reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “The cost of Discipleship”. It made me see the truth of the gospel, how human I was and unfortunately how inhumane the people I was surrounding myself with were. I cannot express my delight in hearing that there is someone out there speaking to people with that kind of a heart; a heart that is truly humbled into seeing who he really is and who God really is. To me there is nothing more vital for anyone who calls themselves a christian to learn, and nothing can be learned until one comes to that realization. It is the true revelation of the gospel.

    “And here’s what it got me thinking – we must work hard to be transparent. ” I have to disagree with this statement. I think (and this is soley from experience) that when someone comes to the realization that this pastor came to the work is over! There is so much freedom in having this understanding that I wish I had words to explain it, but I am not sure I do. But I do know that the freedom that comes from this humility leads naturally to transparancy, honesty and a feeling of wholeness in one’s life. If there is confusion or disagreement with this statement in other comments then I can try to further explain.

    Another thing that I must stress is that since this amazing thing has been shown to me I have never felt more isolated and alone in my life, and I am so thankful that I have my husband by my side everyday to be with me and I with him. There are very few people who are willing to begin a new life in this realm of understanding who you are as a person and who God is. Because of this I have the most amazing thing in the world, the gift of the gospel, but it comes with a price…discipleship.

    Thanks so much guys for this website and for your studies.

    Reply

    • Jeanette, thanks for your comments. My plea for personal and corporate transparency is the call to remain humble and dead to self so that Christ may be seen. Even with this realization, there is a daily assessment needed to maintain this attitude.

      If this pastor comes to this realization, healing can certainly begin and the spirit can be free to move – but if he doesn’t stay in this posture, he’s going to be back where he didn’t want to be.

      So yes, once you are humble and have an honest heart you’ll be transparent – and thats the key – but we must work to maintain this so that God can keep working.

      Does that clear things up?

      Reply

      • Posted by Jeanette on October 28, 2009 at 1:38 pm

        I agree with you that there is a need to be in this posture “before” God daily. The way in which we are in this posture “before” God is what I disagree with you on.

        What can we (<–italicized) do at all? When we realize the answer to this question, we have truly understood.

        In the answer to this question lies all the humility that can be had, all the truth and honesty in the world! When this answer is written in your heart there is nothing else of greater importance or worth. Personally, since getting a glimpse of this answer, I see there is no way for me to give it to anyone, because no gave it to me.

  2. I couldnt agree w/ this blog more. I have found recently, as I strive to truly live for Christ & serve His people…that quite often the people who limit that progress are as much the “church” as the world. So many are trapped in by this “building” instead of realizing that the Family of God is what we are part of …not a building with 4 walls. Jesus didnt allow walls to keep Him in…He went to the people & was for the people…they followed Him because of His great love, mercy, compassion, and the words that He spoke were recognized as the Truth. If we are truly to live for Jesus- how can we do this trapped in 4 walls? I think that the work done in a church, when done for the Lord can be truly amazing & inspiring. However, when they limit what they do because they dont want to join hands w/ another church group or because it is a different town etc…I think we have to ask ourselves- Is this a decision of people with limitations or is this God’s desire? I think we would all agree that if God & Jesus had limitations we would all be doomed to a horrific end & death. Praise God & our Savior Jesus that there is NO limits to their love for us… Honestly, if we could just be willing to move with the Spirit we could bust down those walls into a Love movement that could change the world. That is the desire of my heart.
    God bless,

    Reply

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