As I reflect on a lifetime of church experiences, I am reminded that none of the church buildings, faith communities or people I have connected with have ever been remotely close to perfect.
In my naïve quest to find the perfect church, I witnessed again and again displays of pride, arrogance, discord and even scandal that kept creeping back into the church communities I had been seeking to become a part of. Along the way, I encountered churches that could be characterized as exclusive, legalistic and full of gossip. One faith community was completely overwhelmed with the needs of desperately lonely people, poor families and a disproportionately high level of chronic illnesses. Another church taught only the happy gospel where truth never stood a chance against the forces of grace. Finally, there was one church with a perfect building, the latest in programming and the most prominent of leaders. That church spared nothing in its effort to produce the “absolute experience” with everything it did. However, there was little evidence of the presence of Jesus in those places, or the simple honest expression of genuine worship of Him above everything else. Sin seemed to flourish in all the ways that are contrary to what Jesus taught and demonstrated. More and more frequently, I was questioning, “where is Jesus in all this?”
Last year I was part of a team that had been tasked to develop a new mission statement for Friendship Church. We had already discovered how complex our ministry had become with events and programs. We were exhausting our staff and the faithful in our church family. We were in fact competing with ourselves by trying too hard to become all things to all people. It was time for us to get back to the basic questions of complexity or simplicity with events and programs and seek the best answers about what discipleship should look like. Scripture tells us a great deal about the first century church and the emphasis Jesus placed on relationships. And furthermore, the Gospel message of the early church was simple.
Our team settled on the mission statement of Love, Live and Serve Like Jesus. How utterly simple yet powerful was the concept that committed believers could genuinely understand the essence of Jesus’ relationships, the love He showed and the sacrificial deeds He performed. And that they could follow the practices of Jesus with daily prayer, obedience and intimate connection with the Holy Father. The picture of Christ-likeness as a lifestyle for our church family became clearer.
However, loving, living and serving like Jesus starts with me. I must shed my pride and my sin, and not just do so in church or on Sunday or at work, but in the marketplace and the neighborhood and everywhere else as well. For me to genuinely include Jesus and submit to Him in all that I do requires that I be in touch with Him daily through prayer both individually and corporately. In brokenness to Him, I must accept that, as His rescued child, I am powerless without Him and the sin I am capable of looks no different than the sin of a nonbeliever.
Ministry can and will always be messy at times. Christ-likeness as a lifestyle takes effort. It takes action and means I must love Him more than I love knowing about Him. It means exalting Him above all else and especially exalting Him instead of exalting me. And it means trusting in the absolute power of His Word, even when its truth is hard for me or others around me.
Please join me and others in this wonderful yet imperfect family of Friendship Church, as we pursue expanded relationship with Jesus and conformity to Him. Don’t miss the joy and contentment of seeing Jesus show up in remarkable ways. Because He is indeed the perfect Savior.Topics: church