I’ve thought a lot about church in the last two and a half years. To be more honest I’ve thought a lot about church my whole life. The hardest thing about church is change. More than any other organization I know the church is often the most resistant to change. We are the best at making rules and regulations out of personal preferences or tradition.
It should be no secret that the church has lost the battle in North America. (75% of the Christian church is now outside of North America) The battle was for the souls of men and women outside our churches but the vast majority of churches have not seen new people in their buildings or people coming to faith in decades. Churches are closing at an alarming rate although it’s not really alarming and maybe a good thing. The two percent of churches that are growing are very attractional in nature but in reality most (not all) of their growth is from the dying or “not so cool” churches around them without the bands, media and mega toys.
Having done church that way, I know that about six or seven years ago I became very dissatisfied with church as it was where I was leading. Not so much with the smaller sites which is where my heart was but the “Sunday Morningpalooza” as I referred to it in my head was almost more than I could take. It was exceptionally well done. Professional in every way. Our hearts were in the right place I think but it wasn’t the place to put all of our efforts and energy unless we wanted to attract consumer driven people mostly from other churches. (For me consumer driven people are people that want to attend a church mostly for the Sunday morning experience and care little for doctrine, ministry opportunities, personal calling or outreach. It’s about getting in and out of a service and going on with their lives.) Please note that all were not consumers. It is just very hard to make disciples out of people that are committed to an hour a week of Jesus. Especially when that hour is staring at a stage or looking at the back of someone’s head in front of you.
Someone has to try another way. Someone has to venture out into the world and away from the church and blaze a new trail. Not for the trend seekers to follow or to write a new best-selling Christian book, but for the sake of lost people for whom the church might as well be non-existent. Thankfully I’ve come across a few of these people recently and they inspire me. From coffee shops to home gatherings they are making inroads into people’s lives. It is not measurable in the way that denominations love to measure but God’s record keeping is the most important anyway and from what I can tell He is sending people their way instead of to the doors of the church.
It makes me want to call together my friends that don’t attend church and offer them a weekly gathering that will truly allow them to connect with Christ and others. To cut through or even cut out the stuff we have come to accept as important or at least important to us keeping our ministry jobs.
So what would it look like? I don’t know for sure but maybe I can describe what I have been feeling and dreaming about.
It would be a place for broken people not perfect people
It would be a place where you could talk openly about your brokenness and struggles and find understanding, grace, accountability and healing.
It would be a place of prayer.
It would be a place where time would be spent praying for one another during our time together.
It would be a place where children would learn alongside their families and adults. This means that as kids grow they would have a lot of people in their corner.
It would be a place of confidentiality and safety.
It would be a place where we would bear the needs of our community both immediate and in the world community.
It would be a place where we take as much time as is needed to understand God’s word.
It would be a place where we would trust God to bring or lead us to the people that He wants to be there and that He would want us to connect with.
It would be a place of tears and laughter. We would weep with those that weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.
It would be a place and a people that joined themselves to God’s story and narrative on this earth.
It would be a place where the Word would be simply taught and lived out with passion, grace, mercy and love.
Practically speaking we would gather in a room and sit or stand in a way that would not include sitting in rows. We would have open times of prayer where you could talk and share your burdens and be received with grace and peace. We would open God’s word maybe through song and spoken word but I’m not sure it would look or feel anything like what I currently know. We would break bread together and we would pray together with great burden over the condition of our world. We would connect with other Christians around the world so that we could share in their suffering and we would learn from them. We would love God first, each other and the world around us.
There is so much more that could be said about each one of these and maybe someday I will find the time and scriptures to support these thoughts.
For now I will dream and pray and wait . . . I’m in no hurry and God does everything in perfect timing,