If you were to ask me, “besides God’s love and grace, what is one of the major themes in the Bible?” I’d look at you, and first, wonder why in the world you want to know this, then second, look off into the distant space in deep thought, pondering to come up with an answer, and then say “there’s a theme of sending.” (Or leaving for the sake of God… okay that’s two things… but they’re like the same… )
Abraham was sent from his father’s household in to a covenant relationship with God.
Moses was sent to Egypt to let God’s people go.
Ruth left all that is home to her to follow Naomi and later served to be in the lineage of Jesus.
Jonah was reluctantly sent.
God sent himself to be a humble servant. Then the God-sent Jesus sent his disciples into the world.
When the early church began to form, one can argue that the persecution forced them to scatter and be sent to places in the world, instead of consistently congregating in one focused area.
But the human nature, and the nature of the church sort of fights against this notion of being “sent.” We want to stay within our walls, where we know what’s going to happen. Where we know how to fight and who we’re fighting. Where we know things are manageable and controllable. Where we know things are a bit comfortable and safe.
Instead of constantly looking outward, we’re constantly looking inward. How can we improve our programs? How can we raise more money to improve our programs? How are we going to fix our dish washer? Where is the money for our coffee going to come from? Where can we get a new pastor to spruce things up around here? What’s the next Bible study that our people are going to be interested? When’s the next Bazaar that’s for the community, but really only our church people come out because what the hell’s a Bazaar? Oops, forget that last one.
And then, we wonder… wait! How come we’re getting older and there are no new people here? Where did everyone go?
Then the thinking shifts to, how can we get new people here? For the purpose of mission? Maybe. For the purpose of creating disciples? Possibly. But mostly so that our seats are filled and we can smile knowing that our church will continue on after we pass on…
Too mean? Perhaps. But there’s truth to this, ain’t there?
We can’t keep looking inward. Because when we do, we’ll forget the true mission of the church and be completely out of touch with God’s people who are in need of God’s presence. As Pastor Mike Slaughter said this past week at Change the World Conference, “The mission of the church cannot be the maintenance of the organization.”
Jesus sent his disciples out into the world. In his Great Commission, Jesus says “Go” not, “Stay and wait for people to come so that you can make them your church members.”
This post is definitely meant for me, because I’m that guy that wants to stay inside all the time. Sent? Yea, I’m sent to go to church then sent right back home and repeat.
But I’m fighting every aspect of myself that wants to stay inward. I begin to half-heartedly pray “God, what do you want me to do? And give me courage and strength to do it!” Half-heartedly, because this is one prayer I don’t want God to listen to.
The first thing I’m going to do this Wednesday is to take a faith walk in the neighborhood that surrounds the church (meaning, praying for the houses and the people of our neighborhood). Then, (and I’m already feeling my stomach turn), I’m going to knock on a few doors, and offer myself and the youth ministry to take care of basic house work needs that they may have, the only catch is that they won’t mind having 5-15 teenagers working on their lawn. For free. No faith commitment required. No come to church talk. Just, “do you need any help with your yard?” That way, it forces me to interact with people and 2) it gets our youth into the “we’re here to serve our community” mode.
It’s a small step. But every journey starts with small steps.
More and more, I am realizing that we, as a church, needs to focus outward, and how we can serve the community. Who cares if we can’t have coffee during our coffee fellowship? How about offering warm coffee to the people forced to sleep outside?
I honestly believe that one way to help a dying church is for the church to look at 1 need that their neighbors are facing and help in that area (Or force the church to die faster by placing a proverbial pillow on their… nevermind). And if the church ends up closing anyhow, at least you went out fighting and making a difference in the life of someone who may not have known Christ.
God is sending us out into the world. The church is a place where we can refresh, renew, be equipped, re-strategize, re-whatever, and then head back into the world. God doesn’t send us to the church and stays there. God is the God of tents, not a God of the temple, meaning God is mobile! God is moving! God’s not force to dwell in one place!
And remember, we are the church! Wherever we go, we are the church of God.
So, join me in praying “God, what is it that you want me to do? And give me strength and courage to do it!” Let’s see what kind of impact we will have in our community through God once we stop looking at ourselves and start seeing the things God sees in our community. And then, let’s be a God-send to those people who are in need.