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If Elvis left the building, so can we

Elvis has left the building. Maybe it’s time for the church to do the same.

In the community where I serve as a pastor, there are roughly 164,000 residents, and 112,000 of them are not actively engaged in any church. That’s 68% of our neighbors, co-workers, fellow students, friends, and family. That’s 68% too many.

While our churches trade sheep, the disengaged go to work, school, have cook-outs, go to the lake, watch ESPN, and, for most of them, church isn’t even a blip on their radar. I’ve talked with several people who live in our neighborhood, and when I tell them I’m a pastor, they say, “Oh? At what church?” When I tell them, they ask, “And where is that?” I point down the street, and they say, “You know, I’ve driven by there for years, and I never knew that was a church.” Believe me, if there is any structure that looks like a church, it’s our structure. They didn’t know we existed because they weren't looking.

Our churches can have dynamic music, practical preaching, a great kids’ program, and still not reach those outside the walls of the church building. Yes, Christians should invite people to join them for a worship service. But do you know what the problem is? Many unchurched people don’t have any Christian friends. And that also means that many Christians don’t have any unchurched friends. We swim in different ponds.

For that to change, we have to adopt a “go-to-them” strategy rather than a “come-to-us” strategy. This is exactly what Jesus did for us. He didn’t say, “Climb the ladder, and join me in heaven.” He came down the ladder—He IS the Ladder—and He came to us. Just as He dirtied His hands by coming to us, He expects us to get our own hands dirty.  

The great missionary, C.T. Studd, once penned the words: “Some wish to live within the sound of church or chapel bell, I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.”We need to BE the church, not just GO to church. We need to stop soaking in religion at the expense of spreading the love of Jesus to the masses. God doesn’t want us to sit comfortably in the euphoria of worship while the world around us sits in poverty, injustice, and hopelessness.

A friend of mine is going on a short-term mission trip. When I asked him how I could pray for him, he said, “Pray that God will bring a change to our hearts, so that we can reach the hearts of others. Some of the people going on this trip are upset because they won’t be able to take their favorite brand of coffee or their specialty coffee cream. They’ve forgotten that we are to go and serve, not go and be served.”

How easily we can lose sight of the mission of Jesus. Church-ianity is about our agenda. Christ-ianity is about God’s agenda. As Johnnie Moore once wrote, “God’s not waiting for us at the altar. He’s waiting for us to take the altar to the streets” (Dirty God, 172).

If Elvis left the building, so can we.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

Let’s Show the World a Better Way

After the recent shooting at Noblesville West Middle School, I’ve had a number of people ask me what I think will help prevent something like this from ever happening again. This past Sunday I was approached by one man who said, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” About two hours later I was approached by another man who asked why I don’t speak out against guns.

Two men in the same church on the same Sunday sharing their perspectives which couldn’t be further apart.

Where is the church in all of this? We should not sit idly by while people suffer. Philip Yancey once wrote, “`Where is God when it hurts?’ I have often asked. The answer is another question, `Where is the church when it hurts?’” (The Jesus I Never Knew, 233). We don’t have all the answers, but we have hope. We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus to walk with those who experience the consequences of living in a fallen and broken world. 

We come alongside the wounded with comfort and peace, and we come alongside those who wound with justice and the offer of redemption. We respond to tragedy with tears and presence—the presence of our Lord Jesus in and through us. But we also work proactively to ward off calamity whenever possible. We counsel and pray. We form relationships with the belief that isolation is the enemy’s tool for catastrophe. 

By serving others, we serve Jesus. Mother Teresa once responded to a wealthy American visitor who could not comprehend her fierce devotion to the dregs of Calcutta. “First we meditate on Jesus, and then we go out and look for him in disguise” (idem.).

Contemplation and service—a much-needed combination in response to the evils of our world. We do not contemplate on the presence of Jesus so much that we never encounter him in the real world. Nor do we serve so much that we lose sight of the reason for our service.

Let’s show the world a better way where one day swords will be beat into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks (Isaiah 2:4). One day the wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, and the calf, the lion and the yearling together (Isaiah 11:6). One day the Kingdom of God will fully come bringing with it righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). But until that day comes, may we be ambassadors of this new Kingdom as we meditate on Jesus and then go out and look for him in disguise.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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