Thursday, October 31, 2013

Stinky Church

I’ve heard Christians compared to many different things by pastors and leaders, past and present, from coals in a fireplace to contagious pathogens. But I think by far, my favorite comparison I’ve heard was when I heard Francis Chan compare Christians to manure. Yes that’s right, Christians are like cow poop. Your reaction may have been similar to mine upon hearing that; mildly confused, slightly disgusted, and extremely interested to see where this was going to go. He went on to describe how beneficial manure is to bringing life to a garden when it’s spread out. It gives richness to the soil it touches that it would not have otherwise. But when you leave the manure all piled up in one spot it just stinks, and nothing grows. When we spread out in our communities we take with us the life giving power of Jesus Christ. When we do so we will see people come to life in Christ and we will see God get the glory. But when we huddle together throughout the week, and that is the extent of our “faith in action”, we wind up stinking like that pile of manure. We can go from being a life-giving agent to being an offensive odor to those around us depending on where our focus is.

For those of us who are not gifted with green thumbs let me explain this further using football. My closest friends will tell you right away that I am no NFL expert (though I’m trying to learn) but I do understand the basic elements of the game. And I understand that one of the important moments of the game is the huddle, this is where the team comes together to get organized, to correct mistakes, and the encourage one another to leave the huddle and get in the game with everything they have. When I think of Christian fellowship I often think of a football huddle. Our times together should be spent getting organized in our mission, holding each other accountable to the standard of Christ, and encouraging one another, especially through prayer and the study of God’s Word, to leave our fellowship and go out and be Jesus to our communities. Can you image how ridiculous it would be if a football team never came out of their huddle the whole game. Now, imagine how we look when we cling to our time together, when we bounce from one church event to the next, and huddling together on Sunday mornings becomes the only expression of our faith during a week. A football team would never think to win a game like that and the Church should never think the world will hear about Jesus like that.

Paul writes in Romans 10:14-15, “ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” How can we expect a lost and broken world to hear about the soul saving sacrifice of Christ when we are to busy huddling together to tell them about the only Remedy for the sin that ails them?

Christian fellowship, the Church, is a gift from God, but lets be sure we’re using that gift appropriately. If we come together during the week, stand in a circle, and pat each other on the back but don’t use our time together to support one another and equip one another for our mission to make disciples of all nations, then I think it’s safe to say, we have missed the point.

Check out what the author of Hebrews says about the gathering together of believers “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (10:23-25). He says that when we come together we should “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” and that we should “encourage one another all the more” as we anticipate the second coming of Christ.

Ultimately it falls to the individuals that make up a community to implement this kind of change in their local gatherings of believers and so instead of pointing to my finger at others I will look in the mirror of God’s Word and ask myself;

Am I showing love regularly to non-believers who I interact with on a regular basis?
Do I interact with non-believers to begin with?
How am I encouraging others to be more loving in their communities?
Do my good works give glory to God?
How am I encouraging others in their good works?
Do I view church as a social club or a training ground?
How am I encouraging others to look to Christ’s return in the midst of trial?

In Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus says, “ You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Are we letting the light of Christ shine through us into our school, our jobs, and our neighborhoods or are we keeping that light under the bowel of our church services and small groups.

Like I said before the Church and Christian fellowship are gifts from God, let’s make sure we aren’t squandering that gift on ourselves but rather let us be sure to use our time together to better prepare one another to reach a world in need with the love and truth of Jesus Christ. My prayer is that the Church in America (for that matter around the world) would stink less and promote life more.