What is our goal?
What are we, the people of God trying to accomplish in our life together as Messiah Lutheran Church?
I think that Paul in his letter to the Philippians gives us a pretty simple, big picture answer:
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,…. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:5, 9-11)
To make Christ known to the world as its Lord and Savior.
And just how are we supposed to do that? Organize a church? Form a committee? Hire someone to do it for us? How about a “Making Christ Known Campaign”? Well, frankly, we’ve tried all those ideas and they have met with minimal success.
“How did Jesus tell us to do it?” You might very well ask. Good question! Let’s see…
“Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 – The Message
And Jesus also says, “Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:29-30 – The Message
So, it seems that we make Jesus know to the world by taking on the character of Christ, then making disicples who take on the character of Jesus, who make disciples, who make disciples. And this way meets with huge successes – every place the church is growing (and not just swapping sheep), that’s what they are doing!
Is that what we do?
Well, yes, hmm, sort of, kind of, sometimes. Well, mostly, no.
Think about it. What do we usually tell people to do?
Join a church
Go to church (meaning worship)
Go to Sunday School/Confirmation (but once you hit confirmation, learning isn’t so important)
Serve in your church (we’re just happy if people sign up to usher or read a lesson… and if they sign up to actually serve outside the building, we are giddy!)
Invite people to church (if we can muster up the courage, and then we expect the “experts” to take it from there)
There’s nothing wrong with any of those things, but does doing them really make people who live their whole life seeking to be Jesus to make Jesus known?
Think about it – again. We may do really good stuff like go on work trips and hand out food and let people meet in our building or serve meals or donate leftover clothes and furniture, but do we make Christ known? The people we serve may be fed and clothed and have a dry bed and really appreciate our kindness and care, but do they know Jesus? Do they know what Jesus has done for them, what He is doing in them and what He wants to do through them for the glory of God the Father?
Is it enough?
For quite some time we have bought into the education model that says if you give them knowledge, eventually they will be a disciple. Wrong. More information does not make a disciple. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for learning about Jesus! But all my learning does not necessarily cultivate more love for Jesus and for God’s people. Sorry, but intellectuals don’t transform the world, disciples do. Paul said something about that on more than one occasion – foolishness of the gospel, wise deemed fools…
However, the converse is not any better. We may say, “Well, I don’t know much about Jesus or the Bible, but I work hard at giving a hand to others and that’s enough.” Well, it is certainly great to help and serve others, but no, it’s not enough. Again, do they know Jesus? Do they know that what you did for them is so that they may know the One who has done so much more for them?
So what does this mean for a congregation like Messiah? It means we have to get off our pews and apprentice ourselves to someone who has taken on more of the character of Christ than we have AND it means we invite others who haven’t taken on as much of the character of Jesus as we have to apprentice themselves to us. And that is all so that we may grow in reflecting Jesus, grow in our relationship with Jesus because simply put, the better we know Jesus, the easier it is to introduce him to others. In case you did notice, that’s not a program, a class, a campaign… That’s life on life. Going to work, raising a family, taking vacations. It’s how we make decisions about money, time, and career paths and letting others see it. It’s living together in community, as an extended family. You can’t get that from sitting in a pew. You can’t get that from a program.
I know how hard it is to break out of old patterns, habits. We’ve done church the old way for so long, it’s hard to imagine that it ought to be different. But mark my words, if we don’t change, we will stop being God’s Church – the body of Christ, making know Christ. People will stop coming. People will deem us irrelevant at best or judgmental and negative at worst. People will look at us and say, “If that’s all there is to this God thing, then I’ll look elsewhere.”
Oh, wait, they already are…
You don’t have to stop going to church or praying or serving or going to Sunday School, but you do have to stop believing that is enough. That that will get you to the goal. Find someone to learn, “the unforced rhythms of grace” from and go out and train others in this way of life.
For a quick, more concise and clear statement of what I just said, go to this link from Alan Hirsch:
(My thanks also to Derwin Gray, http://www.derwinlgray.com/)