Some issues seem to die hard. Today, I received in the mail a letter from another church. Included in the letter was a booklet titled Innovations in the Church which contained a series of sermons addressing what one church believes to be the fundamental challenges facing the 21st century church. Here are the various sub-titles for the topics addressed: Instrumental Music in Worship; Bible Classes & Women Teachers; Following the Pattern; What is the Cup of the Lord?; Why Only One Cup?; Literal Until Proven a Figure; Is a Plurality of Communion Cups Scriptural?; Some Misconceptions. You may understand where such issues come from because of some familiarity with Churches who have been enslaved by such issues. Yet most people would read that list and shake their head while silently saying “huh?”
Another piece of mail came to me as well. This one was a bulletin like flier with several articles. One of the articles was titled Identifying the Church of the Lord. In this article, the author sets out by mining the New Testament to try and identify what he believes is the distinguishing marks of the church of Jesus Christ. Personally, I believe Jesus summed up pretty clearly how the world would identify his church (disciples) when he said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (Jn 13.35, TNIV).
I titled this blog post Missing the Point of Being Church for a reason. I believe both pieces of mail demonstrate how badly we can miss the point of being church. There are other examples that I am sure you are aware of. However, let me remind us where our world is: As we began our day, a young married man started his day wondering if the fight he had with his wife last night would be the final straw that ends their marriage; a single mother went to work today expecting to be laid off and having no idea where she will find new employment that provides for her and her child/children; a middle-aged parent is planning to attend a funeral for one of their children who died long before they ever had a chance to live life; a war veteran woke up today after spending the night on a city side-walk wondering where his life went so terribly wrong; a young college girl woke up this morning in bed next to a boy she does not even remember the name of because deep within her, she just is looking for the affirming love she never received from the father who left her and her mother when she was a baby; a family has immigrated from a foreign land thousands of miles away and is praying that they will one day find the truth and purpose of why they are here; another…
If we were to sit next to Jesus and ask him what the purpose of being church is, I wonder what he would say. We do know this: when people came looking for Jesus to keep him in their neighborhood, this was Jesus’ reply, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent” (Lk 4.43, TNIV). There are so many issues we deal with in being church but I am not sure how most of those issues have anything to do with being conduits of good news. May we learn from Jesus what being church – the people of God – is all about!