Monday, March 27, 2006

I Love Jesus But Hate The Church: A Building or the Kingdom of God?

From a blog: “Thoughts of a pastor taking a sabbatical -- giving up church (not God) for lent.”

People love Jesus but hate the church for all kinds of reasons. Two weeks ago we tallked about the hurts that churches inflict; last week we spoke of the judgment that goes on on any given Sunday in church that keeps people away. Today we look at another reasoon people are leaving the church behind.

Parable of church, culture and gospel.

Three friends from university. Best buddies. Graduate and move apart but stay in close contact and celebrate life’s journey. As time passes they find they don’t talk as much, or get together. They find they get updates on each other second hand, through others.

One of the friends invites the other two for a reunion…he in turn dominates the discussion, always making himself the focus of attention. The other two friends leave saddened in the end.

The friends are 'gospel' and 'culture', the inviter being 'church'.

George Barna in his book, Revolution, finds that some are leaving churches because they’ve lost sight of what it means to be a church. They are active as revolutionaries for God, in spite of the local church, because often the local church exists for itself and appear as a building. No longer do we just follow Jesus but now we have a building to maintain, programs to run, lawns to mow, etc.

As a university student our group visited the home of one of our members. There was a little rope cordoning off the living room. It looked like a museum scene. Heaven forbid you could go in there and ‘do life’. It’d mess it up!

That’s what usually ends up with church buildings. Having people do things there messes it up. You need custodians, rules about food, policies and procedures, restrictions on keys, barriers and obstacles to discourage the use of the building in order to keep people out so that it’ll look good for ‘Sunday’.

The church is not a building. The church is the vehicle of God’s choice to create a movement to change the culture (society). Jesus favorite term for this was not ‘church’, but the kingdom of God.

At its simplest the definition of the Kingdom of God is the range of God’s effective will (us!). It brings us back to the question that frames this entire series,

"What should a real relationship with Jesus Christ invovle and how should our lives and church look as a result of that relationship?"

When you look at the Bible you see that the kingdom of God is God acting. The only thing that transforms us spiritually is the action of following Christ.

1 Timothy 1:1 the Message calls Jesus, “our living hope.” I love that. A building is not our living hope.

This ‘living hope’ has given us a task. All of you task type people are going to love this. Jesus is into tasks! Our task is the ministry of reconciliation. Jesus gives us the task of taking care of relationships. I love that, too.

2 Corinthians 5:18-20
All this newness of life is from God, who brought us back to himself through what Christ did. And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. We are Christ's ambassadors, and God is using us to speak to you. We urge you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, "Be reconciled to God!"

Paul tells us that our goal is to point people back to God. Why get hung up on a building? Or anything else for that matter.

Our existence is to take our living hope to others.

"The world is my parish." John Wesley

Sin is not primarily a matter of disobeying laws but of failing to love, failing to make one’s life a gift. Robert Barron, Evangelical Catholic theologian

That idea helps frame the ministry of reconciliation. Sin is failing to get into the only game in town that God really cares about, that being helping people reconcile to each other and to God.

This is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called a ‘religion-less Christianity’, where church liturgy, property (building), government and politics were superseded by community, compassion, fidelity and integrity in daily discipleship.

A discipleship that is less guru-focused and trusts more in the Spirit.

We must throw our whole soul into our desire for God. A. W. Tozer

Joshua Harris, Stop Dating The Church
“I’m seeing a church over on 99 Street.”
“Marry her?! Whoa! No, I’m not ready for that”
“She’s kind of clingy: Wants to be together for two hours every Sunday. Always asking me to go to small group. Wants me to do service.”
“I don’t want to ruin something beautiful!”
“I want to keep my options open.”

Would we notice if God walked through the room? If not we’ve just become a building. On the other hand, do you know where to find God?

Matthew 25:44-46
"Then they will reply, `Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?' And he will answer, `I assure you, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.' And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life."

“Think Globally, Act Locally.”

The church in the kingdom sense needs to be a place of permission giving and should promote church: world engagement/involvement. Because that’s where the people are that Jesus is trying to reconcile with!

People need space to do 'kingdom work'. Hierarchies don't allow for this and we lose spiritual formation and kingdom living.

We need church for the people by the people. Relational. Creative. Incarnational. Inclusive, not box-ticking on a form.

More appreciation of different ways of being church. More encouragement of new leaders and less criticism.

We are saved by grace, by the power of the gospel, and not by the church, even if it was through the broken vessel of the church that the gospel came to us. The church, therefore, is never ultimate. It deserves our energy and commitment not for its own sake, for the priority is on God; rather, there is a priority of the gospel over the church. The church is meant to be a kingdom beachhead.

What is the project that God is working on in Edmonton? In your neighborhood? In your life? What project will we commit our lives to at Community of Hope? How big is that?

Matthew 15:21-28
Jesus then left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter has a demon in her, and it is severely tormenting her."

But Jesus gave her no reply--not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. "Tell her to leave," they said. "She is bothering us with all her begging." Then he said to the woman, "I was sent only to help the people of Israel--God's lost sheep--not the Gentiles."

But she came and worshiped him and pleaded again, "Lord, help me!"

"It isn't right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs," he said.

"Yes, Lord," she replied, "but even dogs are permitted to eat crumbs that fall beneath their master's table."

"Woman," Jesus said to her, "your faith is great. Your request is granted." And her daughter was instantly healed.

Imagine that you are this woman. You're not Jewish. You have heard a trouble-maker called Jesus. Jewish people did not like to mix with non-Jews. Some Christians are like this today. Let’s call them ‘building Christians’.

Jesus is coming to your area.

Your daughter is sick. So much pain. You are desperately worried about her. You find acceptace and healing in Jesus.

In Hebrews we read that Jesus learned obedience. In Luke we read that Jesus grew in stature. Did Jesus ever stop learning? Do you think that Jesus could learn something at age 30? What about you? Some of you would say, no, neither I nor Jesus seem to be learning anything!

There are only two times Jesus changes his mind, John 2 being the other. Both involve women.

Herod has just killed John the Baptist. The Kingdom of King Herod kills people like John the Baptist. It criticizes you constantly.

The Kingdom of God heals and feeds people. It listens to you.

When I read these accounts I think there is no greater project that the Kingdom and we are still learning of it today. Jesus seems to be saying I'm starting something new. Won't you join me?

If I were a disciple, lying in bed that night, I'd think there's nothing better to be involved in.

What do you think of this project and would you like to commit yourself to it? Have we stopped learning or can we keep learning and following as disciples in the Kingdom?

Ask your friend/spouse to evaluate your life. Ask them to answer this question: What do I talk about most? How important does being involved in God’s work, the kingdom, come across through my life and actions?

Psalm 16:8
“I Will Set The Lord Always Before Me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

The gospel is proclaimed and enacted; when it’s proclaimed but not enacted you get hypocrisy; when it’s enacted but not proclaimed you get burnout; we need both to be the gospel.

Don’t go to church, a building. Be the church and go to others.

The church has left the building. Literally and metaphorically.

"Once you see not only the problem, but the solution, there's no escape. You see it, you can't look away from it. I want it to feel like an adventure, not a burden. I don't mean just for me, I mean for the movement. This is an extraordinary thing, an uplifting thing. This is not, 'Oh my God, all the poor starving Africans with flies around their faces.' They are very noble, royal people, full of easy laughter and very innovative. This is about us, too. It's about who are we? What are our values? Do we have any? It's exciting." Bono ­ Interview with Rolling Stone, November 2005

I am a Revolutionary in the service of God Almighty. My life is not my own; I exist as a free person but have voluntarily become a slave to God. My role on earth is to live as a Revolutionary, committed to love, holiness, and advancing God’s kingdom. My life is not about me and my natural desires; it is all about knowing, loving, and serving God with all my heart, mind, strength, and soul. Therefore, I acknowledge the following:

· I am a sinner, broken by my disobedience but restored by Jesus Christ in order to participate in good works that please God. I am not perfect; but Jesus Christ makes me righteous in God’s eyes, and the Holy Spirit leads me toward greater holiness.

· God created me for His purposes. My desire as a Revolutionary is to fulfill those ends, and those ends alone. When I get out of bed each day, I do so for one purpose: to love, obey, and serve God and His people.

· I do not need to save the world; Jesus Christ has already done that. I cannot transform the world, but I can allow God to use me to transform some part of it.

· I am not called to attend or join a church. I am called to be the Church.

· Worship is not an event I attend or a process I observe; it is the lifestyle I lead.

· I do not give away 10 percent of my resources. I surrender 100 percent.

· God has given me natural abilities and supernatural abilities, all intended to advance His kingdom. I will deploy those abilities for that purpose.

· The proof of my status as a Revolutionary is the love I show to God and people.

· There is strength in relationships; I am bound at a heart and soul level to other Revolutionaries, and I will bless believers whenever I have the chance.

· I want nothing more than to hear God say to me, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Thank you, Lord God, for loving me, for saving me, for refining me, for blessing me, and for including me in the work of your kingdom. My life is yours to use as you please. I love you.

Full text of Revolution manifesto


Blogger Baraka said...

This was a really interesting post. Reminds me of the tension that Muslims feel about their mosques.

I think all religions and followers struggle with the buildings, what they actually contain, and what they are meant to contain.

But as you pointed out, it's a symbol of so much more, of the gift our lives and actions should be.

Thanks & peace,

3:40 PM  

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