A Simpler View of the Church

We live in a world of moving parts. What used to be or at least appeared to be stable and predictable is changing. What was changing is now entirely unfamiliar. Shoot, even gas prices are in such flux that even though we are a car culture we can’t even take driving for granted anymore.

CommunityNow, drop the church into this vortex of change and you start running into destabilizing questions of identity, effectiveness, methodology, etc.

I am committed to the church and in fact have given my life to see her achieve the potential I believe God intended. But to be honest, in this world of complexity we need to re-discover the simple essence of what it means to be the church. I have given it a lot of thought and I’d like to offer a suggestion-a new attempt at definition, if you will.

My best understanding these days of the church as God intended is this: a community on mission.

When we start thinking about all the moving parts associated with the church, we get lost in traditions, methods, organizational structures, buildings, worship styles, denominational distinctives, etc. But when we cut things down to their basic essence, I find that the notion of a “community on mission” nails it.

The church as a community on mission confronts the notion that we can follow Christ or know God fully in isolation, that happens best in the safety, encouragement, wisdom, and diversity of a community. It also confronts the tendency of a well-trained consumerist culture to approach community as a place designed to serve us. A community finds its fullness in the very process of giving itself away. And since, God is a missional God, we find him when we join him in the work he is about.

There is great work being done on what it means to live in community as the people of God and there is equally significant work being done on what it means to live on mission as a normative expression of life. I am convinced these days that the church is an integration of both. As a community we are a place where people share life and discover more of the author of life. On mission we align our lives with His work in this world. We can never be a community apart from mission, nor can we be a missional enterprise apart from community.

One thought on “A Simpler View of the Church”

  1. There is no doubt that the church has actually become distracted by the things you mention, i.e. denominational distinctives, etc. I agree, from the outside looking in, we have to look and act like a community to the rest of the world, but from the inside looking out, we also need to be community minded as well. The latter is the most important and the rest will take care of itself.

    There is no doubt the joy is in the giving, and those churches that don’t discover or realize that from the start are doomed before they start. They are missing the whole point of the gospel message and the final mandate from Christ himself. To share life within the Body is wonderful and the community of believers is a great haven in which to experience that.

    However, this coin has two sides… to really experience the heart of God for the those who have not yet received His forgiving grace, is the greatest joy and fulfillment any community of believers can experience. It is those new followers who become the catalyst for carrying on the “mission” in a fresh and exciting way. Their gratitude for experiencing God’s grace in their lives, firsthand, is something that can never be duplicated and this then makes the community complete….a community of mature believers, plus those growing and discovering all what knowing God is all about and plus those new believers who provide a fresh and exciting childlike joy for the whole community. If we as a church ever loses sight of the mission, I believe it is a direct reflection of how that heart beats in the lives of its members and leaders.The opposite is true as well, and I hope we, as community, continue to experience God’s joy in seeing His people carry out that mission. Otherwise, what is the point?

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