Summary: We come to church not as consumers of religion, but as a community of faith that is open to God, to one another, and to outsiders
The Open Church
9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
We are the consumer society. We have bumper stickers that say “born to shop” and shopping malls have become our cultural centers. The government has even got into the act: we are no longer called citizens, we are now consumers. We are no longer patients in a hospital, we are now “health care consumers.” This attitude has long crept into the church: we have become consumers of religion, and we even speak of “church shopping.” We come to church to have our spiritual needs met, and if they are not met here, then we will try the next church, consume their religious goods and see if they satisfy. You might think that we have gotten into the act here at Runnymede by handing out a “Needs Assessment Questionnaire” like a company might give out a marketing questionnaire to make sure they were reaching their market well.
But the reality is, the church is not a “God store” dispensing spiritual nourishment for the masses. If you have come hoping that this church will meet your spiritual needs, you are mistaken. The church cannot meet your spiritual needs. We are not a religious institution. What we are is a community of faith who come together to meet God – and he and only he can meet our spiritual needs.
The church is not a religious institution, it is not a service provider, it is not a retail outlet: it is a community of faith. The word for church in the Bible is “ecclesia” from which we get the word “ecclesiastical.” It comes from to other Greek words “ek” for out, and “kleisis” for a calling. When the Blible calls us the ecclesia, it is calling us “The called-out community. That is why verse 9 says “he has called us out of darkness into his wonderful light. The “Ecclesia” is not an organization or an institution, it literally means a gathering of the people – a gathering of God’s people! Church is not a place – it is a people.
Peter 2:10 says – we are a community that has been especially created by God – once we were not a people, now we are a people.
Church should be a community that is marked by openness.
A Community Open to God
We are not a community that gathers around a priest who goes and meet with God and the comes back to tell us what it was like. While it is important that our leaders – Myself, the other pastors and leaders – stay close to God and open to him, our openness to God doesn’t allow the others in the community to sit back on their laurels.
As a church it is our attempt to be “theocratic” or led by God. And because we believe that all Christians have the ability and responsibility to hear from God, we are Congregationally led. When we as a church vote on things it is not because we want to be democratic, it is not because we want to know what you want for the church, it is because we want to know what God wants for the church. It would be great if we could be able to say with every decision It seemed good to us and the Holy Spirit….
We have not always been good at this. Part of the reason is that we need to find vehicles by which we as a congregation can seek God’s will for the church and then communicate what we have heard to each other. We want to get better. That is why we’ve created this survey as a start – as a way to listen to the community of faith. But it is only a start, and if you feel led to certain ways that we can include the whole community in seeking God’s direction for the church. Please speak to me.
In order to be open to God as a community, we need to be open to him individually. We need to ask ourselves these questions: Am I open to God at work within me, to make Himself known to me, to go on making Himself known more and more to me? Do I look for Him, listen to Him, long to be with Him? Have I come to recognize the uniquely distinctive way He speaks to me and makes known to me His heart, His mind, His will? Am I open to His love, His light, His truth, His word? Have I come to know Him well enough to appreciate that I have hardly begun to know Him at all? Does this awareness create a desire, a determination to press on to know Him better?