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The Church is not Disney World 07/17/2014

While Pastor Rick is on study leave for the next three weeks, we will republish a few of his most popular blog posts as well as introduce two guest blog writers. This blog was originally published on 11/4/13.

If you're a church goer, how do you view your church?  Is your church like Disney World or a mission outpost?                       

Disney World is great, isn't it?  You enter a magical kingdom of a whole new world of fantasy and fun.  You escape the demands and pressures of the real world (unless you go in August with little kids).  Disney World is the mecca of consumerism where you are inundated with food, shows, rides and entertainment.  You don't go to Disney World to contribute.  You go to consume…a lot.  You don't go to Disney World to make a difference, but to be impressed and "wowed."  

This is how many Christians approach church: to consume more than contribute and to be impressed more than challenged.  Some Christians view the church like a Disney cruise ship more than a battle ship.  On a Disney cruise ship, the guests pay money for services, and the hired staff takes care of them.  On a battle ship, those on board are commissioned, assigned specific tasks, equipped and well trained, and when they enter into battle, everyone has a role, and they know what to do.  We've lost the sense of the call to battle.  We were made for wonder and grand adventure, but we have settled for lounge-chair Christianity.

The church isn't Disney World.  Disney is great for a vacation, but that's not where you live life, raise your children, or find your greatest sense of fulfillment.  Chocolate cake is nice as an occasional dessert, but if that's all you eat, you start to feel nauseous and malnourished.  If our Christian experience is just about consuming the productions that come from a stage, we will become spiritually weak and malnourished.  

It's time to awaken our spirits to a revolution of the high demand of discipleship.  The church is a mission outpost where we are training for spiritual battle between ideas and world views, and where eternity hangs in the balance.  Jesus calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him (Mark 8:35).  This is a high calling which requires the power and presence of the Holy Spirit (cf. Ephesians 3:16).  The Apostle Paul wrote, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:10-17).  

So, the next time you enter a church building, see it as a mission outpost, and notice how that changes your attitude and perspective of why you're there.


The Church as the Body of Christ 07/14/2014

In Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s book, How People Grow, the authors point out that “to be truly biblical, as well as truly effective, the growth process must include the Body of Christ.” For someone who has been a part of the church since I was in my mother’s womb, that statement seems rather obvious, but I’m discovering that for many people in the internet and social-media age, this is not always the case.

Too often, we take our cues from our culture rather than from the Scripture. We are taught to be independent, so we approach our faith with independence. We are taught privatization, so we approach our faith privately. We are taught that hard work leads to success, so we approach our faith with a “works mentality.” And we are taught to be consumers, so we approach our faith as consumers.

No wonder so many people question if they need the church. We can do our shopping online. We watch movies online. We chat with friends online. So why can’t we grow our faith online?

Yes, there are some wonderful online resources for spiritual growth, but these should never be a substitute for what the Bible calls “fellowship.” My Granddad used to say that koinonia—fellowship—is like three fires built next to each other. As the smoke rises from each fire, you can’t tell which smoke came from which fire. They are integrated. And so should be our fellowship. We are first and foremost integrated in our relationship with Jesus Christ. We are completely dependent upon Him. Secondly, we are integrated in relationship with one another. We also depend upon each other, and if we fail to be so, we will be spiritually malformed.

God created us this way—to be in relationship with Him and one another. Jesus thought so highly of this value of relationship that He said the entire Law could be summarized with these two commands: Love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40).

But let’s be honest. Even if we agree with that theologically, how much do we live that out practically? Many Christians see the church as an organization providing services to meet their needs. We “go to” church as though we are going to the movies, and if we don’t like what was said or sung, we’ll find another church to “go to.” We also pay professionals to provide these services to meet our needs or wants. And if those professionals don’t meet our expectations or demands, we’ll find other professionals who will.

If we take our cues from the American culture, this modus operandi is completely rational and acceptable. But if we take our cues from the Bible, then we discover how theologically and practically this approach misses the mark. Do you know what the biblical definition of sin is? “Missing the mark.” Enough said.

Here are some biblical cues concerning what it means to be a church:

  • We are a community of people who are called into the fellowship (koinonia) of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Corinthians 1:9).

  • Thus, we are united by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we should have no divisions among us (1 Corinthians 1:10).

  • We are individually members of the body of Christ, and although we are many, we are one body (1 Corinthians 12:12).

  • We suffer and rejoice with one another (1 Corinthians 12:26).

  • Everything we say and do is based on the biblical foundation of love (1 Corinthians 13).

  • We give and serve faithfully as one people united for the mission of making disciples of all nations (2 Corinthians 9:7; Romans 12:4-8; Matthew 28:18-20).

Thom Rainer, president of Lifeway, recently conducted a survey of inwardly focused churches that have not experienced growth but have experienced a great amount of infighting and division. In the survey, they found ten dominant behavior patterns of members in those churches. See if you recognize any: Worship wars, prolonged minutia meetings, facility focus, program driven, inwardly focused budget, inordinate demands for pastoral care, attitudes of entitlement, greater concern about change than the gospel, anger and hostility, and evangelistic apathy.

How different this list is from the biblical exhortation of what it means to be the Body of Christ. I invite you to read the following description from the Apostle Paul, and ask yourself this question: Do the following words describe me? “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:9-18).


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