Summary: What the church is and is not
HERE’S THE CHURCH
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Pastor Brian Matherlee
They tell me the story that long ago there was a small church, in a small town, in a small county, where a small congregation had tried for years to get the biggest “sinner” in town, Sam, to come to church. Sam the sinner would have nothing to do with the church. He wouldn’t even come on Easter or Christmas. One day the small church building caught fire. Of course this was in the days before fire engines, so the town’s folk all pitched in to for a bucket brigade. From the local stream, all the way to the church, they formed a human chain. Passing along the buckets of water, they desperately tried to extinguish the flames. The pastor of the church was so engrossed in the struggle, that is was several minutes before he noticed that Sam was standing next to him, passing along the buckets. The pastor looked at Sam with sweat rolling down his brow and said “Well it look’s like we finally got you to come to church, huh Sam?” Sam handed the pastor another bucket and said “Yep, I guess your right. But pastor, this is the first time the church has been on fire!”
People are attracted to things that work the way they’re supposed to.
I spoke with Mike at Market Street Pizza this week. Mike has owned the place 5 years. The place was packed. I went there many years ago and you had no trouble getting in the place. The difference is service and quality. Mike loves what he does, checks on everybody, greets them, makes good food and has developed good relationships with employees and customers.
The church should be like that.
I been thinking about the church and it brought to mind a well known children’s rhyme. “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple….” Have you ever thought about what it this illustrates?
Something’s wrong with the imagery.
1. Church is identified as a location
a. This thinking lends itself to compartmentalizing Christianity.
i. We worship God “at church”
ii. We serve God “in the church”
iii. We come “to church” to get refueled to endure the rest of our life.
b. We begin to think that the way we “do” church is the only way and we view other “churches” as competitors.
i. The Samaritan woman Jesus spoke with raised this issue in John 4:20 when she told Jesus, “Our fathers worshipped on this mountain but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
ii. Jesus went on to explain that worship of God would not, could not, and should not be confined to a certain place except the human heart.
2. Church is focused inwardly
a. What’s the problem with this? Maybe we can best illustrate with this video. (Scenes from “The Terminal”)
b. The church that focuses inwardly suddenly becomes a destination. (Elaborate on The Terminal illustration)
c. We become an institution, not a movement.
i. The early church was identified by a name I love, “The Way”. It gives that sense of action, purpose, intentionality. The modern day congregation has lost touch with the fact that we are a movement. We have a mission.
d. What’s the difference between an institution and a movement?
i. An institution is safe, a movement is risky. Matthew 5:10-12, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
ii. An institution sends, a movement is sent So many churches call themselves mission minded. Really all they are is well to do. The inwardly focused church knows that reaching the world is an imperative but they appease their conscience by sending money and supplies to the poor and needy. I see the spirit of the priest and the Levite in this. If we only give money and never give of ourselves (like the Good Samaritan) in engaging the hurting we are passing people by.
iii. An institution measures success differently from a movement
1. The institutional way is: How much (money), How many (attendance), How often (#of meetings and programs)
2. The movement way is: First--abundant life of the congregants (joy in spite of difficulty, relationships saved and strengthened purity of life & addictions overcome, engagement in life of the needy) Secondly—the blessed and transformed lives of the community it serves. (adapted from Reggie McNeal in “Missional Renaissance” pg. 52)
If I asked you, “Do you want to be a movement or an institution?” You will say, “A movement”. Then we must understand these truths: