Last week I suggested that the church as it is today needs to change. We need to change for the sake of the 96% who have no meaningful connection with Jesus or his followers. If we need to change the next question is what needs to change? Here are my thoughts.
We need to quit coming to church and become the church. We’ve talked abut this, especially in our series earlier this year on “What is church?” But the idea of church as a service on a Sunday morning in a Victorian building is so ingrained in us that it is incredibly difficult to change. The church is not a service or a building and does not have to involve singing, organs, choirs or sermons. Whenever and wherever Christians get together the church is present. That means that there are members of St Paul’s who NEVER attend a Sunday service but who are just as much part of our church community as those who do attend Sunday services.
Our focus must change from getting to giving. Sadly much of the church today reflects the consumer priorities of the society in which we live. Archbishop William Temple famously once wrote, “The church is the only organization that exists for the benefit of its non-members.” We are so used to consuming that we bring that attitude to church and changing our attitudes is not easy. (See my blog post about restaurant or bring & share).
We need to change from being a church that does mission things/events to become a community of missionaries. Mission events are good but they can also have other effects. So often only a few people are actually involved and the rest of the church community let them get on with it and feel good because ‘the church’ is doing something. I also think that sometimes mission events don’t actually provide the environment for building long term relationships which are the foundation for people to come to faith. Missionaries have the long term commitment to build relationships with a purpose. They are willing to learn about the culture in which they live and share the Gospel in ways people in that culture can hear. Missionaries are willing to forgo their own preferences for the sake of others, they are also willing to step outside their own comfort zones in order to introduce others to Jesus. For a missionary the Christian faith is not just about an hour on a Sunday, it is about how they live and share their faith every day in every place and situation.
The famous preacher Charles Spurgeon said “Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter!” Being a missionary is not just for some, for the elite, keen and dedicated. We are all called to be missionaries.
Finally I believe we need a new focus on discipleship. I think we have often seen this as knowledge and understanding, but true discipleship is about imitation of the person we are following not merely information about that person. Discipleship only truly happens when we are willing to make ourselves accountable to others for the character of our Christian lives. Discipleship does not happen in a service, it happens out of regular conversations with other Christians we love and trust and from whom we are willing to receive both support and challenge.
Have I hit the nail, or am I wide of the make, what do you think?