Friday, May 26, 2006

Checking Your Church Connectedness

How connected to your church are you? I am not asking if you are a member, or regular in attendance or giving. But, how much are its people a part of your life and you theirs? Do you see other Christians as family or fellow attendees? Do you think of your church as a “them” or an “us, we”?

A Spiritual Utility Company is how many see church: a place that holds a service where the Pastor meets – or doesn’t meet – your needs. As the Phone, Electric and Cable companies have their role in your life, so does the church.

The Biblical descriptions of a believer’s relationship with the church are vastly different from what many (most?) experience. Many do not seem to know how deeply Jesus wants our lives to intertwine. Others are quite pleased with their comfortable, yet shallow, relationship with their spiritual family.

Few seem to see it as a blood-bought body into which we have been baptized, placed by Jesus; a body that is as interdependent as your own. Sing with me: the wrist bone’s connected to the arm bone, the leg bone… (Ephesians 4; 1 Corinthians 12, 13; Romans 12).

Here is a way to check your church connectedness. Which of these phrases sound like how you describe your church to others?

1. “I go to Pastor So-and-so’s Church.” The Pastor is the church’s main identity point. He is the Man of God that you follow, adhere to, trust, respect, stand-behind… As enviable as that may sound to us Pastors, it is a scary, vulnerable place to let people stay.

What if the Pastor leaves, shows his humanity or worse, falls into sin or serious doctrinal error? Understandably, these are hits in one’s life, but how deep a stroke would it be to you? Do you believe what you believe because a pastor seems convinced enough for both of you, or do you own your faith?

2. “I go to Such-and-such Church.” Its reputation, distinctives, denomination – or lack there of – and even its image are key. You name-drop it for spiritual credibility, clout or even to be “chic by association.” Your church identity is defined by who you are and are not: Traditional, Contemporary, Reformed, Free Will, Baptistic, Presbyterian…

There are thousands of things we own as distinctives: Pentecostal, Non Charismatic, High / Low Church, house church, Emergent, Decaf., non smoking, window seat. These can be great things. Yet, when they define us, they divide us.

We often assert that most of us agree on a few core doctrinal matters - the essentials. Still, we truck in our distinctives, put them up front, give them more weight then they deserve or can bear and start parting company.

Though we may have the Lord Jesus in common, it sure sounds like music styles,
Sunday Evening services and dress codes are a lot more important than our Crucified, buried, risen, coming again Savior. Our connectedness is not Him but our particularities, our differences.

3. “Our church offers. . .” (fill-in a list of programs). If church is primarily for you is a place to be served and catered to, then something is amiss. We have far too many pew people who claim to have known Jesus for years and are still takers, consumers. They are not ministering, using their gifts, laying down their life for others.

Satisfied customers like what their church provides. They show up for many of its offerings and even give, bring goodies and help set up / clean up. But, dare you disappoint, offend or slight them and they are suddenly no longer around, not returning calls, and arriving late and leaving early to the last few events they come.

When the novelty wears off of how well their church “serves the better burger”, and the next “First Church of the Latest and Greatest” bursts on the scenes, reporting remarkable growth (sheep shuffling), they feel the need to check out what “God is up to” there.

4. “That’s my family’s church.” You grew up in the same neighborhood as your parents, went to the same schools, and of course, attend the same church. It’s “where your family goes” since they helped start it. Like three other generations, you were dedicated, and married in that church.

This can be precious, a holy legacy of stability and commitment. There is nothing wrong with a family church, as long as your family knows it is part of a bigger Family where God is in charge, not Grandma.

5. “That is the church family I am part of… Our church…” To use an old, noble term, you are a Churchman. A committed to, serving in, making-happen, plugged-in, need-meeting, class-teaching, stranger-greeting, sick-visiting, meal-fixing, flower-buying, card-sending, family member.

You rejoice with those having babies, getting married and you weep with those facing death, divorce, unemployment or disability. You know and acknowledge birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, promotions, layoffs and major medical tests. You provide rides to the store, help cut the grass, pay the bills, fix the car, slip cash to, pass along hand me downs, watch the kids, loan the car…

Note this well: each church probably has some of each of these five types of Christians. Their disposition towards Church may or may not be produced or promoted by their church.

Take the risk – again - and be the church. Lead the way by humbly serving one an other as “inasmuchas” people. Jesus said that in as much as you did it to the least of these, you did it unto Me.

1 comment:

John Frye said...

This quite a stimulating post. I think many pastors will identify with the different expressions. Good stuff and it's good to be back.