One hundred religious persons knit into a unity by careful organization do not constitute a church any more than eleven dead men make a football team.
The first requisite is life, always.
- A.W. Tozer
The Church has always been an interesting community. Since its inception in the New Testament with the first Church in the book of Acts, the Church has been made up of various people with a whole variety of motives. There were eras in church history when it appeared the church aligned well with the heart of Jesus, like the church we read about in Acts or the era when the Church was leading in healthcare and education. In other eras, humanity got the best of the church and motives of greed and power took center stage in decision-making. You might look to the Crusades as of one of those eras. Did you know the Church once had two popes because of this infighting?
Throughout all this back-and-forth history, the true Church has persisted still. There are always people devoted to Jesus’ real purposes for the church. Disciples have been made, lives transformed, and love poured out because of the Church. Jesus-followers have always found ways to be in ministry like Christ, sometimes supported by the Church and sometimes in spite of her. The true Church lives on in its purposes!
The real decision facing our church today is whether we want to be part of those purposes or not. It is too easy for the church to fall into a trap of simply “existing” – opening the doors, attending worship, and being only consumers, making no impact on the world outside of an event or two every year. Like the above quote from A.W. Tozer, we think that being a man makes us a football team. I have heard it worded that sitting inside a garage does not make you a car any more than sitting in church makes you a Christian.
If we are to defend ourselves against this lethargy, we must know our purpose for existing.
Earlier this year, our leadership board commissioned the formation of a vision committee. The central responsibility of this group is to lead the church in discussions of purpose, discerning what the church is called to do in God’s Kingdom in the 21st century. This group is made up of people from as many different groups as possible: different ages, genders, faith backgrounds, and leadership history in the church. Our work in that group is to answer the question we offered to every table at our final Lunch with the Bunch event: Why does the church exist?
I want to thank those of you who participated at your tables over lunch. Your thoughts on the purpose of the church will be immensely helpful for the vision committee as we continue our journey of discovery. However, I also want to encourage you all to continue these conversations at home, in your Bible study classes, and over lunch with your friends. Together, we will be moving toward discovering our purpose.
Just “existing” is not what we are called to do! God has a purpose for our church. We must discern that purpose together and then live into it with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. It is time for the church to break off the moss and become alive again! Won’t you join us?