Letís just say Iíve been around for a while.
Long enough to remember church as something I never thought about, except on Sundays. Back ďin the day,Ē churches were actually filled on Sunday (whether we wanted to be there or not), stores were closed, and you couldnít buy alcohol on ďthe Lordís Day.Ē †We may have gone to church then, but we certainly werenít church.
My congregation was complacent, and pretty much left church work to the church professionals. Oh sure, we tossed a few extra dollars in the collection after listening to the visiting missionary talk about how desperate they were for help. We were good people, after all.
We were in church, but we werenít church.
Being church was the life the Apostles and their followers lived, and it became known as ďthe Way.Ē† These disciples took in unwanted, deformed, weak babies who had been left out in the elements to die. They started schools so all people (women included) could learn about Jesus. They sold their goods and pooled resources for the greater good, lest anyone be in need. It was a wild, insane gamble on a totally different lifestyle, and they were happier than anyone else!
That was being church.
I love the hymn that sings about the church ďrising from the ashesĒ and ďfalling on its knees.Ē† We Christians have become so complacent over 2000 years that lack of interest is closing churches, and our culture is aimlessly floating nowhere, like a boat severed from its moorings.
Itís time for the church to rise from the ashes and fall on its knees in repentance for losing the spark, the holy flame of the Spirit of Christ.
Thatís what excites me about Vision 2020. Itís about our little corner of the universal Christian church rising to be church. Not to be a church, for thatís what we are already, but to be, to live as church. †Itís not just about fixing and adding to our church building. (Iíve been through enough building campaigns that added nothing to my spiritual life or the redemption of anyone, thank you very much.)
When I am church, I share your problems, your tears. I want to help you. There is so much empathy, love, and talent here among the people of Hope Church that Iím convinced we can change our world for the better. A church is not a social service agency; it is the hands and feet of Christ.
Thatís what being church is! Itís not a place, or a denomination, or even just a Sunday destination. Church is living, breathing people, doing Godís work in His Kingdom now. And itís everyone doing something ó not just the trained, professional clergy, or the person next to you in the pew.
Yes, we need to add to and fix up our church building (mission headquarters). But the soul of Vision 2020 is going out, through new ministries and outreach, into our community, rolling up our sleeves, and getting on with Christís Great Commission in whatever way works.
That great evangelist Paul said he would be ďall things to all peopleĒ to bring people to Christ. †He could be a fellow worker (tentmaker), a Pharisaical Jew and count the number of angels on the head of a pin with the best of them, or a gentile who could give Socrates a run for his money. Whatever, wherever (jail or a sinking ship), there was Paul.
And there will be people of Hope! We can be all things to all people too. Weíll have enough ministries, room to do it, and enough people prepared to gather, give, grow, and go because we stand on the Gospel and our way is ďthe Way.Ē
We will make the first century church rise from the ashes. I can hear St Paul now: ďThatís what Iím talkiní about!Ē