Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.
O.K. I admit that I sometimes struggle with staying positive. I’ve been looking over some of my recent posts and I’m realizing I’ve been pretty hard on the American church. I confess that, when I look across its landscape, my eyes are foremost drawn toward broken relationships and other things that are not right. I suspect that is part of the peacemaker’s “gift package”.
So today we will celebrate some ways we are often getting it right. Today we will recognize that there are some communities of believers in the Western church who really are experiencing the awe of God daily and, from a peacemaker’s point of view, are teaching and practicing Biblical interpersonal relationships both inside and outside the walls of the church. Today we take our focus off what is wrong and put it squarely on what is right, what is deserving of a pat on the back and an “attaboy” (or an “attachurch” in this case). Here are some churches for whom I stand and applaud:
The People-focused church. While the debate rages on about being inward-focused versus being outward-focused (evangelism versus discipleship, attractional versus missional, etc.–whatever labels you want to put on the argument) there are local communities of believers who have decided to be people-focused…whether those people are found inside the church or outside. That was Jesus, wasn’t it? He was focused on the people inside his circle of disciples and He was focused on those outside it as well. He didn’t choose one or the other. He chose both. He was utterly passionate about people. There are churches I know who are like that–it is their culture. Their leaders have taught them to see through different eyes. They walk through their communities (AND through their own church hallways) and they see both the brokenness AND the potential, both the fears AND the dreams of the people around them. They have developed a culture where getting excited about people, ALL PEOPLE, is the norm. Here is a huge fist-bump to those churches.
The relationship-focused church. Unity in the church has always been (and always will be) about relationships. They comprise the very fabric of the church. I have seen and have been with churches who teach regularly what the Bible says about our relationships with one another. Their leaders have worked hard to learn relationship skills themselves, to model them for their congregation, and to press them into the lives of their people. Concepts such as confession and forgiveness are not just lofty platitudes to them–they are an everyday way of communicating with one another. These churches will probably never call me back, because they don’t need a peacemaker from outside their church–their church is filled with them. Join me in a round of applause for them.
The praying church. There is only one process for learning to see the world through God’s eyes: prayer. There are churches I know who have made prayer, both individual and gathered, the highest priority. They have taken seriously Jesus’ exhortation that His church should be a “house of prayer.” In my assessment, churches like this have not struggled nearly as much with the common arguments of the church today (worship styles, doctrinal conflicts, leadership issues), because they are corporately tuned-in to the Head of the church. They have learned to listen to God through their prayer life together. Their leaders are people of profound prayer and they have led accordingly. To those churches, I yell a hearty “Amen!”
The “Doers of the Word” Church. God’s Word (the Scripture) has all the answers we need for how to be church in this lost and broken world. But we must read it, study it and allow it to speak from its own agenda into our lives. There are churches today who know this and who study ALL of the Bible (even those passages which make us uncomfortable), interpreting it without bias or agenda of their own. What’s more, once they understand what it says, they actually make changes in their lives to bring them in line with it. These churches’ leaders teach a very simple approach to Bible Study: God’s Word says it, I believe it, and I will work to live my life accordingly. They don’t just value the Bible, they value the honest interpretation of the Bible AND its ability to change us if we will let it. Big high-five to those churches!
These churches exist. I could name names, but then I would surely leave some out and, in doing so, would hurt some feelings. So I won’t name names. But you know who you are. And God knows who you are. Way to go!
And if you are a church leader who is wondering if your church is one of these, but you are not quite sure, what would it take to get you there? What can you do TODAY with your leadership to begin pushing your church in these directions?
© Blake Coffee
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