Thursday, September 17, 2009

What are we really trying to do? (Part 2)

The church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. --C.S. Lewis

How many times have you heard someone say that their church needs a song leader, or an organist, guitar player, secretary, janitor, web designer, sound man, business manager, nursery worker, youth leader, accountant, security guard, pianist, or a director for the family life center? Note how quickly the church mobilizes itself to act when it has been determined that there is a need in the organization. Resume collection, search committee meetings, interviews, tryouts and the like begin to fill the schedule of the church organization as it seeks to meet one of these needs.

All of this work gives the illusion of progress and growth, but it is really all about building and maintaining an organization. Is this what the church is really called to do? Of course not. The church is called to bring the fellowship of Jesus to the lost. Somehow, though, it has entered into the subconscious of many that the church must maintain its stability and structure as an organization. Once that has been established, a terrible prerequisite is placed on evangelism and outreach. It must only be done in a way that preserves the organization.

Part of the problem comes from confusing the church with the organization called, for example “First Avenue Church.” The church are those who are united together in one body by being united to Jesus and who belong to one another (Romans 12:5). First Avenue Church is an organization, run like a business, that represents the church in legal matters, owns property, and often has rules and a constitution.

These two work together, but they are not the same thing. If the non-profit organization called First Avenue Church bankrupts, loses its land, and dissolves as a legal entity, its members don’t cease to be a church. In the same way, if over the course of time the membership of First Avenue Church is no longer made up of people who are united to Christ, it may continue to be called a church, but is is most certainly not a church.

If the church were to follow the teachings and examples of Jesus and his apostles, it would be announcing the gospel to the lost and bringing salvation to sinners without regard to the cost to the organization. After all, Jesus did say “Whoever clings to his life will lose it, but whoever gives up his life for my sake will find true life.” Is that any less true for churches?

What are we really trying to do? That is the question that must be asked over and over again. Are we serving the needs of the organization that represents the church, or are we following the commands of Jesus with abandon? Is it okay to have a well-run, pretty and financially stable church organization, even if it means only a few will come to Christ through it? Would it be okay to bankrupt your organization, lose its property and dissolve its legal status if it meant that a great many would find King Jesus? It’s not always either-or, but only one of these should even be an option.

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