There really is a great divide between what we mean, and what Jesus means when we discuss the nature of His church. When we talk about success, we mean something very different from what Jesus has in mind. When we talk about church and ministry we often envision a whole set of things Jesus isn't really all that interested in.
In my own journey in the church and in church leadership I've discovered my definitions about the nature of the church are vitally important. Why? Because if I start with the wrong definition, I move to the wrong destination. If I think Jesus defines success in the same way I'm prone to define it - it leads to the whole set of problematic issues we've discussed in recent posts. This same reality plays itself out with our definitions of church, ministry, leadership. evangelism, spiritual formation, etc. When our definitions of these things differ from Jesus' we run into some serious dangers. For one, we might find ourselves being wildly successful at what Jesus actually doesn't value all that much. Think about that. It's possible to be insanely successful at things other church people think are very cool, but Jesus thinks is a complete waste of energy and time. On the other hand, we might find ourselves being faithful to what Jesus thinks actually matters, but because we're not meeting the nickles and noses metrics of "success" we become disheartened and leave the ministry or leave the church because we're not "effective enough" or "successful enough for Jesus." This is tragic and sobering. And yet, it very much describes the landscape of our North American church. Our wrong definitions have led us into some very unhealthy destinations.
So what do we do? If we are in any way participating in a local church body, we need to be a part of the solution in two simple ways:
- Re-examine - Do what you can to foster discussion about how your church defines the nature of its life, and participate in bringing your definitions of church, and success into congruence with Christ.
- Re-engineer - Help your church dream it up all over again. Think through how you would "do church" as guided by Christ's ideas of "doing church."
I know this entire discussion is incredibly threatening, but it's time for the American church to move toward the destination Christ intends for us. What are you thoughts and ideas?