Pastors and staff members gathered in January for an outstanding event. Participants came from almost every State in the nation.
The speakers represented some of the finest preachers and teachers from several Christian denominations. One theme permeated several of the presentations. A congregation’s purpose must be clear and consistent. The purpose is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Churches strive to enable Jesus to transform individuals so they act and think like Jesus, they love their neighbors as themselves, and they strive to announce and live in God’s kingdom here on earth.
Dr. Reggie McNeil proclaimed loud and clear, “God did not send his only begotten Son to save the Church.” “God so loved the world that he sent His only begotten Son.” One of the challenges for many pastors and congregations is to make clear that their mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ, not to preserve the church, to survive, or make members.
Another message that congregations must confront is keeping their focus on the mission field instead of upon the members of the church. Pastors and laity witnessed to their congregations contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to spread the good news of Jesus Christ in both word and deed. Not only were they giving the dollars, they were personally and directly involved in the mission outreach. The ministries varied from the digging of wells for clean water to giving people free haircuts.
Perhaps the most difficult personal insight was the necessity to rethink my language, and perhaps my understanding of the church. I often say, “I am going to church,” when I mean I am going to a worship service at a church facility. The church is always the people, who we are, and what we are doing. When disciples serve food, we are the Church. Far too often we speak of the ministries of the Church that allows and encourages us to remain detached, uninvolved and think of these as something they do instead of something we do. When we see Church as us, the ministries are transformed into something that we are doing.
My thoughts began to consider the various letters and phone calls I receive. Seldom do I receive letters where the writer speaks of what we are doing wrong, what we are failing to accomplish, or needs that we are failing to meet. It is normally what “they” are doing wrong or “they” are failing to accomplish. It is as if the writer is not part of the church. Does this language indicate that most people see themselves as members of an institution where they can come and go as they please? Paul speaks of the church as a body. The hand cannot decide whether it will remain part of the body. We have either been grafted into the body or we remain outside the body. I realized that I had to change my language and make sure I faithfully communicated the true nature of the church.
May we all grow in our insights and the challenges we face as disciples of Jesus Christ while being the body of Christ.
Grace & Peace,