So… what do you think of this sign?
I’m actually asking you the wrong question.
It reminds me of how someone recently asked me, “Does the idea of the ‘church’ even work anymore?”
That’s also not the right question.
I’m writing this post after a hard week. I can’t fully explain why, but what I can say is my church and its leaders need Jesus.
That would include me, by the way.
There are some days when the grumblings of a few disgruntled people in our congregation (especially those in various leadership roles) is all that is I am able to hear. Meanwhile, there are so many, many others in our church who are not disgruntled. That’s great, but even if that wasn’t the case we’re not to let the positive or negative vibe of the majority or minority be our gauge.
We’re to fix our eyes on Jesus on our best days and our worst days.
It’s easy to get sidetracked by the hurt and frustration we experience within the church. The irony is we have more in common with those who seemingly oppose us than we realize. Most Christians are well-meaning people who want to do good things for God and feel blessed (and not stressed) for it.
Let’s keep everyone 3-dimensional on this, shall we?
The challenge is that last piece – the desire to serve without a negative return, and yet:
- To live stress-free would be to deny your responsibility and opportunity as a human being to join God in the hard, ugly work of loving people.
- To assume that every circumstance, idea, organization or situation you take part in will always end up as you want it is to deny one of the most basic teachings of Jesus Christ: “Deny yourself. Carry your cross. Follow Me.”
For all our more nobler intentions, the people of God (including you and I) will more easily take cues from shifting things like frustration, comfort, preference and a driving opinion of the way things are “supposed” to be…than in practicing the hard, ugly work of loving each other and living out Jesus-centered principles of reconciliation that never change (and yet are so seldom practiced).
I noticed this on a recent mission trip I took part in. I went into it unconsciously expecting that the random people who formed our ministry team would all be in the same place spiritually, allowing us to effectively work together for the greater purpose of the trip. What I failed to realize until halfway into the experience was that our group needed me to be a missionary to them just as much as I needed them to be a missionary to me. Until I got to that point internally, I struggled with seeing them as real people on a real journey with God themselves.
The crazy thing is you and I know this, and yet you and I forget this.
So here’s the real question -
what does Jesus believe about the Church?
He left this earth, passing the hands-on baton of ministry to imperfect people He knew would mess things up.
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
- Think about it – what does that say about His faith in us?
- Think about it even further – what does that say about the faith He wants us to have in our potential, too?
Following Jesus doesn’t just mean doing what He does…it also means believing in what He believes in.
There will be many days when the Church at large and the local church you serve in will get it wrong. It’s heartbreaking to consider all the unsaved people who won’t get the attention they deserve because Christians will end up wasting time arguing over “hood ornaments” and “paint jobs” instead of getting in a vehicle together to go pick them up.
In those moments, it’s not an issue of what you think about the hurt that’s being caused or if the idea of ‘church’ works anymore. That’s not to say you shouldn’t practice self-examination and organization engine-maintenance. There will be times when we need to change our strategies and practices, just as any missionary needs to in a culture they’re trying to lead to Jesus.
Yes, you do have a distaste for the way things can get…be it throughout the world, in your home, at work, around your community, within your church, among your friends, and more. Recognize that.
Likewise, recognize how it reflects how you are called to be a missionary into the lives of these people and opportunities. Don’t be pessimistic about the potential for extraordinary miracles to happen through an ordinary situation.
Let that miracle begin in how you posture yourself, even now.