reFUNCTIONation suggestion # 50 : May we actually cultivate for “on earth as it is in heaven” thru our relationships for the sake of abundant life in our community.

Breen Kingdom King quoteJesus taught us to pray for “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Take the name of your community and replace the word “earth” in that phrase.

“In ____________ as it is in heaven.”

Then may we beg God for wisdom on how to cultivate for that everyday through our relationships for the sake of seeing abundant life in our community!

What would that look like?

Reconciliation. People reunited with God and with one another.

Compassion. Needs met inside relationships beyond mere benevolence.

Truth. Honest conversations that lead to honest friendships that sharpen us toward loving one another fully like Jesus loved us.

Forgiveness. Taking the initiative to give grace to one another before “I’m sorry” is even spoken. Striving to trust one another again instead of living wounded and isolated.

The key to all of this?

“Your Kingdom come. Your will be done.”

Nobody else trying to be King but King Jesus. No one local church trying to be better than any other. Every local church putting the interests of the other local churches above their own. No one caring who gains or gets credit.

No one going for the win. Everyone going for oneness.

But not any old oneness. Not oneness for oneness sake or because we don’t want to make anyone feel bad. No.

Oneness around Jesus. Oneness for the Gospel’s sake. Oneness for the will of God and the work of God and the Spirit of God coming alive in among the “churched” and among our communities.

Lord Jesus. Your Kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.

reFUNCTIONation suggestion # 49 : May we repent of too often being from only ONE tribe, tongue, & nation.

banquet wineRevelation 7 describes the gathered followers of Jesus in heaven as from every tribe and every tongue and every nation.

After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were robed in white with palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!
(Revelation 7:9-10 HCSB)

Jesus prayed in what is called “The Lord’s Prayer” for “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
(Matthew 6:9-10 HCSB)

I would suggest that those who consider themselves “churched” in the present day do not look “on earth as it is in heaven,” at least as described in Revelation 7. We need to repent of too often being from only ONE tribe, tongue, and nation.

What’s insane is that local churches typically represent only ONE tribe, tongue, and nation, and yet local churches typically are not ONE. We tend to be one of the most divided, disunited groups in our culture, which completely ignores the very prayer our Lord and Savior prayed for us in John 17!

I’m praying not only for them But also for those who will believe in me Because of them and their witness about me. The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind— Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, So they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. The same glory you gave me, I gave them, So they’ll be as unified and together as we are— I in them and you in me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, And give the godless world evidence That you’ve sent me and loved them In the same way you’ve loved me.
(John 17:20-23 MSG)

How can this be?!?

Paul wrote to the church of Corinth that they were ministers of reconciliation.

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2 Corinthians 5:14-21 ESV)

Again, what’s insane is that those who consider themselves “churched” tend to be models of un-reconciliation rather than ministers of reconciliation. The difficult truth is that those who consider themselves “churched” today are more racist and more segregated than we would ever want to admit to being.

The Gospel of Jesus is the message of undeserved reconciliation between us and God. The church, therefore, ought to embody that Gospel by being one of the most united, singularly-focused, gospel-purposed, reconciled groups of selfish, diverse, opinionated, obstinate people on earth.

That’s how the world will know we are disciples of Jesus.

“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
(John 13:34-35 HCSB)

What would have to change for that to be the case? I would suggest at least these three reFUNCTIONs:

Get to know their customs and culture and what matters to them and what doesn’t. Get to know how integrated they want to be. Don’t expect them just to adjust to your own ways. Engage in their ways, too. Grow to be one together.

For example, I heard one teacher articulate that for the black community in America, it is like they joined a Monopoly game where all the white players had all the prime properties and were the prime owners. That is a very wise, appropriate way to describe it, in my opinion. It’s not just a white-black thing, though. This is about Christ-followers of all tribes and tongues and nations uniting around Jesus. We have to recognize the background of each other.

We do stuff and call it “unity” events. But it’s not. We hold conferences and emphasize the need for reconciliation. But it may not lead to change. Actual engagement in relationship in which our friendships grow to become families made one in the love of Christ by the power of His resurrection.

Lord Jesus, You have made us one with You and one in You. Please help us to reflect and embody what You have done to reconcile us with God and with one another. Please have mercy on us, for we don’t know what we ‘re doing. Please help us to give that same kind of grace to each other.

reFUNCTIONation suggestion # 48 : May we repent of making everything manageable.

imageMANAGE. Be in charge of, administer, or regulate.

When something is well-managed, people say things like, “That’s a well-oiled machine.” “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” “Tidy and clean and safe and running smoothly.”

Is this something we want said about “church?”

In some ways, maybe yes. For example, if a church family gathers weekly and has a kids ministry, parents appreciate a well-managed kids ministry. Another example might be when a team is sent to serve with mission partners. Those connected to the ones going to serve appreciate knowing that all logistics are well-taken care of.

Don’t take this suggestion in dualistic fashion. It’s not an either / or kind of thing, because some elements of how a church family functions need to be managed well for effectiveness and purpose sake. However, do we need to make everything manageable?

The problem with making everything manageable is that it leaves little room for the mystical.

Before you freak out about the use of the word “mystical,” think about it. Wanting who we are and how we are functioning as the “church” to be described as mystical simply suggests that as we are functioning as Christ’s church, we relate with and experience the supernatural, resurrection-power, beyond-human-effort, only-explained-by-the-movement-of-the-Holy-Spirit, ever-present living God. Don’t you want that?

Here are two vital ways that we should want mystical rather than manageable:

  • in how people are learning and living the ways of Christ
  • in how people are making disciples as they go

Do we want how people are learning and living the ways of Christ to be limited to what human leaders can manage? I don’t!!! We must not make disciples of ourselves. We want to point people to Jesus as their teacher, the same teacher that the leaders themselves have.

And do we want to limit how people are learning and living the ways of Christ to a specific space (a church building) at a specific time (once a week)? I don’t!!! People growing in Christ is hopefully a 168 hour a week experience, which necessitates a process beyond what human leaders can manage.

Most transformational conversations and experiences in the lives of Christ-followers happen between sermons and small groups, not just inside of those times and events.

Furthermore, if someone is learning and living the ways of Christ, i.e. growing as a disciple of Jesus, then they WILL be compelled to invite others along with them to learn and live the ways of Christ, i.e. make disciples of Jesus.

Do we want how people are making disciples of Jesus to be limited to what church leaders can manage? I don’t!!! If that were the case, then all disciple-making would be limited to the schedule and the teaching and the learning and the relationships of a small handful of people rather than a collective of the entire church family.

Wait. Wait. Re-read that last sentence. Isn’t that the norm for most of those who consider themselves “churched” today? No wonder we don’t see a movement of disciple-making!

“Church” MUST be more than something we invite people to! It is, according to the New Testament! And do you know why it is? Because “church” is not what we are trying to get people to. Christ is.

I understand that “church” is a way people can meet Jesus. However, the New Testament never, ever refers to “church” as a place or event. Therefore, people cannot be invited TO church. They can only be invited ALONG with the church.

This is vital. Why?

Because people best discover Whose they are in Christ by being invited along with others who have and are continuing to discover Whose they are in Christ. While we ourselves are continuing to believe our God-given identity and grow in our Christ-given security and live out our Spirit-directed purpose, we invited others along in hopes of also believing and growing and living in Christ.

That is not easily managed, because it is not manageable. When many Christ-followers are growing as disciples of Jesus and making disciples of Jesus in their daily rhythms and everyday relationships, the learning and experiencing and discovering and loving and living and transforming and sending that happens is not manageable by a small group of leaders.

It is, rather, by those leaders, encouraged and equipped for and related with and released beyond personal control.

We need to hope for the Spirit’s mystical involvement in the everyday, purposeful, intended functioning of the church! And if it happens, manageability will be next to impossible.

We may need to repent of trying to stay a step ahead of the Spirit and instead try to keep up with the Spirit. We may need to repent of trying to move something ourselves and instead live wind-blown by the Spirit together.

When the church is functioning as Jesus intended, we are not like suburban landscaping. We are not tidy and well-manicured and low-maintenance and chemically-controlled. We are messy and unfinished and interdependent and Spirit-controlled.

Lord Jesus, please do something among Your church that moves beyond our control and can only be explained by Your presence in the everyday of our lives.

reFUNCTIONation suggestion # 47 : May we repent of measuring in ways that Jesus didn’t intend us to measure.

imageMETRICS. A method of measuring something.

There are traditional “metrics” for measuring the success of “church.” But should there be? And if so, how should “church” really be measured?

To question whether there should be metrics of “church” is futile. People are always going to measure. We need to do some honest evaluation, though, on HOW we should measure, since we are going to anyway.

An important fact to remember is that church is a “who” not a “what” (see suggestions # 35 & 46). Therefore, church is an organism more than an organization. Therefore, church must be measured less like an organization would be ane more like an organism would be.

There is some crossover, yes, because organisms are organized. The human body, for instance, is organized into systems that make it function. But we don’t measure the health of the human body by whether it still has organization. We measure it by whether the organism is still alive. 

How do we typically measure the health of an organism? Specifically a person?

In 2007, BBC released results of a brief study entitled “How Do You Know You Are Healthy?” In summary:

  • Weight (or size) is not an indicator of healthy. Someone can be small with a high metabolism but never exercise and be in poorer health than someone heavier who exercises regularly.
  • Blood pressure metrics can indicate either a healthy or unhealthy circulation system. Being able to walk a mile in 15 minutes without blood pressure sky rocketing indicates healthy circulation.
  • A low resting heartbeat can indicate a healthy cardiac system. Being able to do common everyday tasks, like carrying two grocery bags from the checkout to the car, with little evidence of being active (sweat, breathlessness, rise in heartbeat, chest or muscle pain) indicates health.
  • A respitory rate of 16 to 20 breaths per minute indicates health, as does climbing the stairs in a house without getting breathless.

These are signs of life and signs of liveliness. I would suggest if this is how you measure the health of an organism, and if church is a who not a what, then these health indicators can be summarized into healthy “church” metric statements in the following ways:

  • With regard to weight, being big or small does not indicate actual health. Butts, buildings and budgets being large or small don’t necessarily mean you are healthy or unhealthy, and aren’t always healthy evaluations of whether we are functioning as Jesus intended.
  • With regard to circulation, is loving God and loving one another and loving neighbors and making disciples and caring for the poor and relating with the lonely happening freely, or does normal “church” activity clog up and get in the way of those things happening?
  • With regard to the heartbeat, are people learning the Gospel of Jesus and living the ways of the Kingdom of God and seeing “on earth as it is in heaven” in everyday rhythms, or does normal “church” activity create high stress and stifling anxiety among those who lead and participate?
  • With regard to breathing, are people witnessing the demonstration of abundant life and the evidence of the Holy Spirit in their everyday relationships, or does normal “church” activity make people feel breathless and exhausted and weary?

These may be healthier metric questions than the normal ones the “churched” typically use, because they relate to life more than looks, to purpose more than outcome.

As was suggested in the last suggestion, we cannot control outcome. To pretend that we can would imply that we control the harvest and that we determine what is reaped. This is not the case! We can be purposeful, though. If this is the case, why do we measure our outcome rather than our purpose?

Jesus defined our purpose as His followers, as His church.

  • If He purposed us to believe and help others believe, then we might ask are people discovering their identity in Christ and security in the Gospel of Jesus?
  • If He purposed us to make disciples, then we might as are disciples making disciples who make disciples who make disciples?
  • If He purposed us to care for AND send, then we might ask are people being encouraged and cared for and equipped and sent or just encouraged and cared for?
  • If He purposed us to embody love and grace, then we might ask are love and grace and forgiveness common characteristics of the people, or are disgust and criticism and grudges common characteristics of the people?
  • If He purposed us to speak Truth in Love, then we might ask are constructive input and creative solutions welcomed, or do complaints and gossip abound?
  • If He purposed us to be fruitful and multiply, then we might ask is fruit evident? What kind? And are disciples bearing disciples of Jesus or of themselves only? And are the best leaders being regulated or released?
  • If He purposed us to be the church day to day and house to house, then we might ask are all 168 hours of the week being emphasized and celebrated as the story of the church, or just two hours on Sunday?

Most importantly, however, is the question of God’s involvement. Humans can accomplish a lot without God (remember the Tower of Babel). But what are we accomplishing WITH God?

Of all that is happening, would most of it be impossible without the presence of Jesus, or would most of it be possible whether He was present or not?

Neil Cole teaches that “Church is the presence of Jesus among His people called out as a spiritual family to pursue His mission on this planet.” I agree. Assuming that is true, what among all “church” activity in which you participate requires the presence of Jesus, and what does not? That alone would be a healthy metric for “church.”

The bottom line is this _ Measure what matters only for the purpose of helping what matters happen.

If the way we measure “church” hinders Christ’s intended function for His church, then let’s repent of it and leave those metrics behind.

For further thought, here is an encouraging thought from Verge Network entitled “how to know if you’re being faithful to Jesus (it’s probably not what you think).”

reFUNCTIONation suggestion # 46 : May we repent of emphasizing “church” in such a way that “church” becomes a relic.

imageRELIC. An object surviving from an earlier time, especially one of historical or sentimental interest.

That people in any culture could even think of “church” as a relic is an indictment upon those who consider themselves “churched” as well as an indication that we the church are not functioning as Jesus intended.

I have not met a leader among those who consider themselves “churched” who would ever teach “church” as a place or event. Everyone one of them I have spoken with agrees that “church” is people, a family of Christ-followers on mission with Jesus. Everyone of them would agree that “church” is a “who,” not a “what.”

However, I know too many leaders who may think of “church” that way and from time to time may even teach “church” that way, but still emphasize “church” as a place or an event. In other words, what they emphasize of “church” does not match what they would teach of “church” nor what the New Testament teaches about “church.” Even though the New Testament never does, too many leaders emphasize “church” by speaking of “church” only as something to come TO or to go FROM or to be AT or to sit IN.

Those same leaders would never think of growing a “church” or building a “church” as a bad thing. But too often they lead and emphasize “church” as something they can grow or something they can build. “Church” thought of in this way and emphasized in this way is a gross misunderstanding of the way the New Testament refers to “church.”

“Church” emphasized as a place to build or an event to grow will become a relic.

God never intended His church to function as a place or event. And God certainly never intended His church to become a relic. Yet, “relic” is a word that European and Canadian and much of American culture might use to describe what they know of “church.”

As strange as it sounds, it is like we have forgotten that God “builds” and “grows” His church.

And Jesus responded, “Simon son of Jonah, you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it.
(Matthew 16:17-18 HCSB)

What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? They are servants through whom you believed, and each has the role the Lord has given. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
(1 Corinthians 3:5-7 HCSB)

People comment, “The church is in decline!” That is a relic statement. If God builds and grows His church, as He intended, and we join Him as He does, then His church that He builds and grows CANNOT decline nor become a relic!

If we try to build and grow the “church” as some place or event that needs to recover from decline, then we are already perpetuating decline before we ever attempt to do something about what we perceive is declining.

The crisis of the modern church is NOT “how will the church recover from and survive decline?” The crisis of the modern church is the same as the crisis of the early church – will we unite in Christ’s love to join Jesus as He seeks to make the lost found?

If the lost become found in our communities through disciple-making the way Jesus did and does it, then our local expressions of His church would not be declining or struggling to survive!

The church Jesus intended is sent as He was sent (John 20:21). The sent church doesn’t just ask how to build or grow a church. They ask how to send the church to help others discover that Jesus also wants them as His bride.

If “church” as you know it is threatening to become a “relic,” then “church” as you know it is not functioning as Jesus intended.

His church cannot and will not become a relic.

May we repent of emphasizing “church” in such a way that those who consider themselves “church” as well as those from the surrounding culture could ever, ever think of “church” as a relic.