I know what you’re thinking… “Here we go. Time to pack my bags. You’re about to send me on a guilt trip!”
Well, before you pull out the suitcase and start folding your clothes and gathering your toiletries, hear me out. You might be surprised.
Church. The word alone conjures a wide array of emotions and responses. Many love God, love Jesus, but church? Not necessarily so much.
For many, church has not lived up to it’s billing.
Proverbs 13:12a says, “Hope deferred [put off to later time; postponed] makes the heart sick...” Hoping and waiting for it, the church, in its' fulfillment of certain expectations has left some with ailing hearts. As such, many want nothing or as little to do with it as possible.
The problem, I submit, is the "it."
Church, in many circles, has become simply an it, just a “thing”; somewhere to go, a destination, a service, an obligation, a building, a tradition, an affiliation, a day of the week, sermons and songs, an organization, a tax deduction, a program, a task to be performed, set up and torn down.
Earnestly wanting Church to be the "it" thing… people have devoted themselves, often with genuinely great intentions and strides, to making the Church THE hippest, biggest, most innovative, relative, impressive, impacting, convenient, accessible, you name it! Great people work hard at these great things, hoping for great results. In the end, even with all the efforts, it is not uncommon for people to eventually walk away from it all.
The problem with an it is that, as the saying goes, eventually, “You can take it or leave it.”
Why? Because, change happens. The church is no different. Over time, it’s not uncommon for preferences to be tested. Things fall out of style… or become “too stylish.” Pastors begin aging… or are “too young.” Once inspiring teachings may no longer be “deep enough”... or “too thick.” Programs may not be as relevant as desired or prevalent as in previous times. Facilities can become tired and worn… or renovations and remodeling questioned as valid or necessary. The list could be endless.
I think, deep down inside, written on our souls, we know “There’s gotta be more to it”… to church. There is.
Church isn’t an "it." Church is a "who."
In Hebrews 10:23-25, we read: “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
Is it possible that the Church, as many know it, has lost it’s way?
Has it forgotten the fact that Church… is a people?
Buildings, programs and ministry strategies have their place, yes, but they cannot be more important than, replace or redefine what the church was designed to be.
True Church is community – people holding tightly to hope in God’s promises, not neglecting being together regularly, knowing they need each other for encouragement and to remain motivated to love and goodness.
When Church is no longer an "it," no longer something that is simply done, but is embodied as a "who"; the Church truly shares life together.
When the Church becomes a "who," there is an even greater opportunity to fulfill deferred hope and to heal sick hearts.
I believe less will walk away from, and more will run to, this form of church, believing it to not only be necessary but essential and worthy of life-long commitment and participation.
We read in Proverbs 13:12 that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick…” The second half of the verse is better, “...but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.”
Let’s fulfill the dream.
Let’s be the church.
Let’s follow Him… together.
-Pastor Jonathan Edwards