Monday, November 25, 2013

Rethinking Church

I enjoy listening to the sermons of Francis Chan. Now, Mr. Chan may not have everything correct. I may very well have some major differences with him on important issues. That being said, I cannot fault him as a man who is only out to serve God how he wants to because that is how he feels. Having listened to several of his sermons I truly believe that he is doing everything he can to live the Christian life and follow Jesus as God intends him to.

The other night I was watching a sermon he was giving, and it killed me. It killed me because it was about something I had been thinking about a long time. It killed me because it was about how the church today looks so little like the church that Christ had put into place.

It wasn't said out of vitriol or disgust. It wasn't spoken with with an air of religious superiority. It wasn't preached with an "it's everyone but us" mentality. It was said as a plea, and a call, and a prayerful wish that the church would once again become the extreme counter-culture that it had been when it first began.

Now, we in the Bible Belt generally feel pretty good about ourselves and our churches. We in the church of Christ pride ourselves on trying to be like the 1st century church. We spend an enormous amount of effort trying to get things right and do things right and follow God how the Bible says. We aren't perfect, but we are trying.

What if I told you, though, that really becoming like the church would require a complete change of our entire world view? What if I told you that if we were really (I mean really) trying to be like the church was when it first began, that we would probably look and act very different than we do now?

Acts 2:42-47
"And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 

Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and good, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one another in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved."

This is not just a one-off verse either. Just a couple of chapters later, in Acts 4:32-34...

"Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need."

Notice what is going on here. People are selling their stuff to help people who they are worshiping and eating with daily so that they can help those who are being saved every day.

Is that what our churches look like?

Have you gone to the people who make up the church and told them "my car is your car, my house is your house, my bank account is your bank account"? What would happen if we did that?

What if we sold the church building to meet a need in the community, and met outside in a tent? If you're worried about the weather, people spend four hours in freezing sleet to cheer on a football team. Surely we can be more committed to God than that! We may not need to sell the building, but maybe we should.

Perhaps instead of building that new building costing millions, we could build something cheaper, and more efficient. I hear steel buildings are all the rage these days. My point is that there has to be a better way. A way to show on the outside our dedication to God on the inside. According to how Jesus and the early church lived, it wasn't with new, flashy buildings and opulent decor, it was with simplicity, gladness, and love that exploded out of everywhere by sharing everything we have with one another.

What if, when we heard of someone from the church in need, instead of saying "my budget is too tight this time," we sold off some stuff to make sure they had what they needed? Would that not build a relationship far stronger than giving money from the church budget?

You might lose your 401k. Or your car. Or your house.

You might eat ramen for a week instead of meat.

Would it not be worth it? Answer honestly.

Because when I honestly think about it, I will usually answer "no."

Until, at least, I wake up and realize that Jesus says in Matthew 6 that just as God takes care of the flowers of the field and birds of the air, which are worth so much less than me, He will take care of me as well.

If we can have the kind of faith that says "God will take care of me, even if I give it all to Him," we will change the world. God may not ask us to give up our house or bank account or TV or iPhone or [insert here].

Maybe instead God will say "Use it for Me. Open your house to the stranger and poor. Use your money to spread my kingdom and provide homes for the orphan. Keep your car so that others may benefit from your blessing."

Or maybe, God will say "Give it all. Keep nothing for yourself. Trust in Me to provide when you have nothing. I will."

I don't know what God will ask of you. Different people have different talents, needs, and abilities. But offer up everything to Him. Do not fear that He will somehow not provide your every need, no matter what.

I am speaking to myself as much as you.

May we truly be the church that God calls us to be.