I have been honoured with the opportunity to join the roster of columnists who publish in the Spiritual Thoughts column in the Thompson Citizen. Today my first article was published; I have copied it below so you can read it right here on my blog but click on the link if you want to see it in the paper.
Here is a little background information on this article that general readers of the paper will not know. I believe that God spoke this message into my heart three years ago when we were attending a small house church in the town where we still live. Prior to attending this house church I had always gone to what we in North America traditionally think of as “church” in the twenty-first century: a four-walled building. Attending this house church challenged my beliefs and understandings of what, or more correctly “who”, the church is and gave me a chance to pause and reflect on what the church was like in the days of the apostles and even what “church” was like when Jesus walked the earth. What was Jesus calling us to? Is He calling people to build enormous buildings, run programs and music ministries? Or is He calling people to relationship, relationship with Him and with others? Now please do not misunderstand me – hold your cards and letters!! haha – I do not think it is wrong in and of itself to have a church building, programs and ministries; in fact our family is now worshipping with a small congregation that meets in a church building. However I have been challenged, and continue to be challenged, to live authentically as the church, as an active member of the body of Christ. So, instead of inviting someone to “church”, now I understand that I am the church and so I can minister life to a seeking soul wherever we might find ourselves. I no longer invite a person to church so I can hand them over to the pastor or a program or a music event but I see myself as the instrument that God has chosen at that moment to bring His love and salvation; it might be a one time event or it might become an ongoing mentoring relationship. Either way, it has changed the way I “do” church.
I hope you are blessed and challenged by this article and I would love to hear from you.
What is your understanding/experience of going to or being the church?
Let’s Close the Churches
“You can be committed to church but not committed to Christ, but you cannot be committed to Christ and not committed to (the) church.” (italics mine) ~ Joel Osteen
What would happen if all the churches in Thompson closed their doors? If one by one, each church closed up shop, the ministers dispersed, the buildings emptied and the doors were locked. Would it make a difference in our community, in our homes, in our lives? Would Thompson even notice? It reminds me of a question posed by eighties pop culture: what have you done for me lately. We can look at that question in two different ways. First, what has the church done for Thompson lately, or what have we as Christian believers done for those we live amongst, for our neighbours. And secondly, what have we as believers done for Christ. Is our faith passive? Do we go to church instead of remembering that we are the church? In our busy, demanding lives it can be so easy to sink tiredly into the pew on Sunday and wait for the worship or the preaching to revive our weary spirits. Then we trudge home, placated but relatively unchanged and begin the week again. So maybe there is a third way to ask the question; maybe we should ask God, so what have You done for me lately? Now for those who drew an inward gasp and wondered if I were struck by lightning for posing such a blasphemous question, hold up a minute. Consider this. If we are not living lives that make a difference for our faith outside the four walls of the church, are we not by default asking God that very question in the way we live? Are we not saying one thing but doing another? Saying we believe in God but living as though Nietzsche were alive and God dead. “These people honor Me with their lips but their hearts are far from Me.” (Matthew 15:8)
In some countries like China where religious freedom is restricted, people meet in unregistered house churches where if they are caught believers may be subject to varying degrees of persecution including imprisonment and torture. Yet despite these threats, despite a lack of organization, educated preachers, leadership and the slick programming that so often defines churches in North America, these house churches are growing. Why? Could it be that people are drawn to an authentic relationship with Jesus and each other? Drawn to relationships where you have to give something of yourself in order to grow. Where you are not just saved to sit but saved to serve? In the gospel of John (12:24), Jesus compares our lives to a grain of wheat saying that unless we, like the grain, fall into the ground and die, we will never produce anything, we will never truly live. This kind of dying is painful because it requires us to give ourselves, first to God who breathes His life back into us and then to others from that life He gives us. We are to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19), not go and make church buildings. And “making disciples” is just a fancy religious way of saying we need to have a relationship with Jesus and with other people so that we can introduce them to one another! That way, even if all the churches in Thompson were closed, people would know they could come and hang out with Jesus – right in your living room.