Hi everyone. Rob here.
Last week I started a discussion on the future of church, particularly in the Western World. The church is the body of Christ whose purpose is to reflect the head; Jesus Christ. I asked the question: “What gets in the way?” I proposed that churches need to move away from being large and fixed and become small and nimble. In particular, I proposed that churches need to move away from being property owners and that ministry needs to be put back into the hands of every believer.
Today let’s look at what the Apostle Paul says about the church in Ephesians 4:11-16.
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Maturity, unity, the fullness of Christ, built up in love, steadfast. I wonder if these are the words and thoughts that you think of when you look at and experience church? When Paul thinks about church growth, he’s not thinking about numbers. Maturity into Christlikeness is the goal and maturity comes from a life of dying and rising with Christ. We all need churches that help us die to sin and come alive to God. We need churches that help us come to the end of ourselves so that there’s nothing left but Christ. Church is not meant to be comfortable. It is meant to be love in action.
In that sense church is meant to be more like a 12 step recovery group than a crowd for a concert. 12 steppers go to meetings because their life depends on it. Is that why we go to church? After all, Christ is our life. As we come together do we come with a sense that without Christ we are done for? Do we come longing for him, hungry and thirsty for him, profoundly aware of our need for him? 12 steppers go to a meeting to hear the message of recovery from people in various stages of recovery. Some are well, some are struggling and some have just realised their need for the message. Often it is messy, but the message remains the same. It is a spiritual programme; die to yourself and give yourself over to a Higher Power. The meeting is designed to deliver the message. The participants are invited to share. They are both the receivers and the givers of the message. Meetings are led but that too is shared around. Churches have a lot to learn from those who have truly hit bottom.
Now, I’m not saying that church has to resemble a 12 step meeting. What I am saying is that their emphasis on the message of recovery at the expense of all else is the lesson. They don’t own buildings. Meetings aren’t run by professionals. There are no slick marketing campaigns. The message is carried by those who needed it for themselves. They don’t advertise their meeting; they promote the message. Jesus Christ is our message. Being moved from death to life is our message. Eternal hope, forgiveness, restoration, freedom, joy, peace, the love of a Father, the life of the Spirit, Christ in us and grace beyond measure is our message. Let’s pass it on and may the way we meet together be consistent with the message we carry.
Grace and peace everyone.