It has often been said that people desire God but are unsure about the church. I once heard a preacher joke that people who drive by a church on Sunday mornings and don’t go in are simply holding their noses and saying “pew.” Obviously, the decline in church attendance tells us that the problem is much more serious.
How often have you chatted with non-attendees and heard comments like these? I can fight at home…They preach against my sins but not theirs…The world is hurting and they don’t get it.
Most of us have witnessed the power struggles, bumped into the ever present control freaks and wilted under the laborious process of getting things done through church bureaucracy. Too many frustrated believers respond by staying home or not getting involved.
On the other hand, there are many churches which are thriving. What do they know that some have forgotten?
First, they have aligned their work with a compelling biblical vision which releases the passion and sacrificial spirit in people. They envision a mountain worth climbing that both glorifies God and helps others. Do people see your church aimlessly going through the motions or locking arms toward a dream worthy of the Lord?
Second, healthy churches have developed systems which empower vision, not conflict or control. Even though people with the same sinful natures attend all churches, some have developed systems which don’t fuel these natures. Instead of gathering to vote on who gets to make the decisions and how the money is spent, what would transform in our congregations if we met to pray, dream of community outreach and ways to serve the poor. Quite frankly, many of our church systems are designed to deflate the vision. Which new ways of doing church life could provide freedom for your leaders to lead and release the congregation like a might army doing God’s work?
Third, love and grace becomes the air these churches breathe. They work at becoming a community of grace where everyone has the opportunity to be accepted, loved and empowered. This fragrance is irresistible to new people. Their grand vision and systems minimize the impact of people who are controlling, bitter and habitually critical. The wind of the Spirit creates a city set on a hill.
Fourth, these congregations have discovered the model of Jesus to serve rather than being served. Their passion for ministry cannot be contained by church walls. People maximize their sphere of influence to share the good news and help the hurting. The community knows that these churches exist because they see their footprints of passion and sacrifice everywhere. Does your community know anything about your church apart from the building?
As I write these words and sense their vitality in some wonderful congregations, I can’t help but wonder why too many resist the vision. Maybe the answer is found in answering a simple question, “Whom do we worship?”
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