For some time now, I have been thinking some deep thoughts about the ministry we call “CHURCH!” Now, just for the record, I know that “the church” is the global body of believers in Christ. It has very little to do with where we meet…or even when we meet for that matter. But just so that we are all speaking the same language here today, let me use the word “church” to describe the event that takes place each week when believers and non-believers come together to hear the message of hope and life as the gospel of Jesus is presented. Are you with me on this? Okay.
Here’s what I have been dealing with on an intellectual and spiritual level. Are we doing church the way we should? Is God pleased by what is taking place “at church” (remember – the gathering together event each week)? And are we really serving a purpose – making a difference by what we do each week. And as if that isn’t enough, who do we do church for — is it for those inside the family of God (believers) or is it for those outside of the family of God (unbelievers)?
Pretty deep stuff huh? Well, let me tell you what I have discovered…and it is revolutionizing my way of approaching ministry. I am rediscovering that the church exists to glorify God, unite believers in the faith & serve as the primary force for reaching the world. The church is here (in my case, in Greenville – South Carolina) for the purpose of coming together to share and shape our faith, honor God, and connect lost people with the love of Christ! So how do we do all of those things? Is it really possible? I have discovered it fairly difficult to do it all, and when it is working — it still isn’t easy. Let me tell you a story…
Some time ago, a lost person began attending the church I pastor (we’ll call this person Mack – though that’s not their real name). Well, Mack finally came after numerous invites and many relational moments he had had with someone in our church family. Upon his arrival, it was clear to him that church was very different than the world he ran in week each week. And to be honest, Mack was even a bit uncomfortable by everything (people prayed aloud – at the same time, they sang songs with much enthusiasm, raised their arms in the air, were all friendly…almost overly friendly, they hugged each other – and even hugged Mack). But there was something about this “event” that intriggued Mack. He began to come regularly and even brought a friend with him (honestly, I don’t think he wanted to be alone). It was clear to Mack that most everyone he met was different than him…and it was clear to most everyone, that Mack was very different than them. But he continued to come. Mack and his friend very growing in their curiosity of this thing we called “faith in God”. They were asking a lot of questions. Deep questions. Hard questions! But they kept coming. Their lifestyles were very worldly to say the least…yet they never quit attending “church”. One week, about 7 weeks into the “church experiment”, Mack told me that he and his friend were really enjoying the church. He said, there was still a lot they didn’t understand – but they were enjoying the fact that the people accepted them and welcomed them in. Mack even went so far as to say, “We are really becoming very comfortable at your church.” Now, when I heard that statement, I have to admit – it took me back a little bit. What did that mean? Comfortable? Really? I had aways been un-officially taught that church should be the last place where anyone is comforatble. And yet, here are two people from a very “worldly” background saying they were comfortable. I was so confused..and concerned. And then it happened. On week 8 – Mack’s friend lifted his hand after a time of prayer and acknowledged that he had just given his life to Christ. WOW! I was stunned…and yet excited. I called a pastor friend and explained the whole story to him and this was his reply. He said, “Chuck, what you have done is created a place where (he) could belong before he believed!” And you know, that is exactly what has happened. But that’s not where the story ends. The next part of the story is about that friend “becoming” all that God wants him to be. He is growing. Small steps – but steps never-the-less. And that brings me to my conclusion.
Church ought to be a place where people (lost and found people) can BELONG. A safe place to connect and hear a very dangerous message about life in Christ and hope for tomorrow. It ought to be a place where people can BELIEVE. An environment that encourages life change and daring to trust in Jesus. Where the natural meets the supernatural and people put their faith in Christ. And it ought to be a place where all people BECOME. Where they new believers and the long-term believers continue to grow in their faith and spiritual walk. Where no one ever arrives, but everyone is encouraged to discover the life God has designed them to live. I am convinced that our church (TFC – Trinity Fellowship Church in Greenville, South Carolina) must be a place where people can Belong, Believe and Become!
What do you think about all that? Let’s chat!