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.

Advertisements

reFUNCTIONation suggestion # 45 : May we repent of caring more about church budget than church purpose.

imagePeople get up in arms about money. And in a sense, they should. It’s important! Jesus got up in arms regarding how money was being spent by the religious of His day. But it may not be the same as how those who consider themselves “churched” get up in arms about how the church spends money today.

How is it not the same? Because Jesus turned over tables due to the greed of those involved in the religious practices at the Temple. Today, those who consider themselves “churched” don’t get up in arms about greed. Instead, unlike Jesus, they tend to get up in arms about too much generosity and not enough stored up.

Jesus praised generosity, even in its extreme form (see the story of the woman who poured out the expensive perfume on the feet of Jesus). Those who consider themselves “churched” tend to ridicule generosity from the local church, so much so that they will often quit giving their “own money” if their “own money” is not expended the way they think it should be. Don’t regard the fact that no money is our “own money,” since we are merely managers of it. In essence, their concern becomes more focused on the church budget being what they think it should be rather than on the purposeful function of the church and the way that budget relates to the church’s purposeful function.

There are two very serious issues ignored when this is the case.

First, when those who consider themselves “churched” care more about the church budget than they do about the church’s purpose, they are ignoring where their security rests. Our security does not rest in sufficient finances but in the sufficiency of Christ. To rest in long-term financial security ignores the teachings of Jesus.

In Luke 12, Jesus told this story:

Then He told them a parable: “A rich man’s land was very productive. He thought to himself, ‘What should I do, since I don’t have anywhere to store my crops? I will do this,’ he said. ‘I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones and store all my grain and my goods there. Then I’ll say to myself, “You have many goods stored up for many years. Take it easy; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.” ’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared — whose will they be? ’ “That’s how it is with the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
(Luke 12:16-21 HCSB)

The rich man rested in the fact that he had goods stored up for many years rather than recognizing the very purpose for which God entrusted him with abundance.

Our security does not rest in what is given but in the One who gives. And if He gives, He can keep giving.

I recognize that we can be poor stewards and that we can act unwisely with what has been given. Spending too much on ourselves, for instance, or on unnecessary things that don’t relate to the intended function Jesus has for His church. That is when we are unwise with what He has given. But to give generously of what He has given knowing He who gives can certainly give more, and even promises to give more in Malachi, that would be faithful as well as wise. And that leads to the second issue ignored.

Second, when those who consider themselves “churched” care more about the church budget than they do about the church’s purpose, they are ignoring the purpose for which Christ secures us.

We have been secured in Christ to help others discover their security in Christ. This includes personal presence in disciple-making as well as supporting those who are sent to go close and personal elsewhere to make disciples.

God blessed Abraham to bless the nations. God blessed the Jews to be a blessing to the nations. God blessed the early church to be a blessing to the nations. God blesses so that we can be a blessing to others.

He gives so we can give. He blesses so we can bless. He does not give so that we can store up and rest securely in what we have stored.

What the “churched” often fail to realize is that more attention given to the church budget over the church’s purpose to make disciples places a higher value on the financial security of the “churched” than on the eternal security of someone lost and lonely.

God have mercy on us.

Ask yourself this question: Have I given as much or more energy and attention to making a fuss over the church budget as I have to actually making disciples of Jesus (functioning as the church like Jesus intended)?

Do I care more about how the money is spent than I do how the church is sent?

If the answer is yes, then consider confession and repentance. Otherwise, the same fate that Sodom and Gomorrah experienced may await.

Now this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, plenty of food, and comfortable security, but didn’t support the poor and needy.
(Ezekiel 16:49 HCSB)

reFUNCTIONation suggestion # 31 : Quit trying to start a movement. Join the movement Jesus started.

imageIt is a common statement from pastors and network leaders who are driven by a specific vision. It is typical rhetoric for those who consider themselves “churched” who have committed to a certain group or denomination. At conferences, I see it on the promotional items at sponsor booths and in free magazines handed out.

“WE ARE WANTING TO START A MOVEMENT.”

“LET US HELP YOU START A MOVEMENT.”

My question – do church leaders have any business trying to start a movement?

What about the movement Jesus started?

How about we give up the start-a-movement thought and simply join the one Jesus initiated, into which we have been graciously invited to follow along with Him. His movement has potential you know (obviously), having been sustained now for a long, long time with exponential multiplication both of followers and leaders.

What drives us to want to “start a movement?”

Is it a need for CONQUEST? Conquest fueled by a genuine desire to see darkness fail and light prevail? Conquest driven to be the biggest and best and have the most people? The problem is that a need for conquest belittles the One who is Conqueror.

Is it a need for CONGRATULATIONS? Congrats because you accomplished your mission and saw your vision come into view? Congrats because you became the most popular and the most respected? The problem is that a need for congratulations steals glory from the One who humbled Himself then was exalted.

Is it a need for CONTROL? Control because only you know all that needs to be done? Control because no one else would do it right? Control because no one else can teach it like you or create it like you or move it forward like you? The problem is that a need for control limits you to the kind of fire only you can manage rather than what the One who is actually in control can ignite.

Wouldn’t you want to join in with the One who is King? Wouldn’t you want to identify with the One who gives us the same congratulations given to Him? Wouldn’t you want to be a part of something that is beyond your control?

Then what about CHRIST? What about His vision instead of our own? What about His values instead of our own? What about His mission instead of our own?

You might ask, “Are you saying there is something wrong with having a vision and values and a mission?” My suggestion is no, as long as those three are surrendered to be the same as Christ’s, at least as best as you understand them now and as well as you are committed to keep learning them as you relate with Him.

We get ourselves in trouble leading toward vision and values and mission other than His. Where we need to pray for wisdom is how to set strategy and assessment that allows us to translate His Gospel and the ways of His Kingdom into our specific context. His vision and values and mission must never leave our sights, and if they remain in view He will help give us the strategy and assessment contextually necessary to join in on what He is already doing among us and around us.

His vision and values and mission transcend all cultures and all contexts. The strategy and assessment measures He gives to us, like His own when in Galilee and Jerusalem, will be specific to the people and place where we are sent with Him to make disciples.

Don’t start a movement. Join His.

Lord Jesus, reFUNCTION us to invite people into and equip people for Your movement rather than our own.

reFUNCTIONation suggestion # 20 : The church as Jesus intended is like a post office.

imageThe church as Jesus intended is like a post office. Letters are gathered. Letters are sent.

The church is not a “what.” We are a “who.” More specifically, we are a people who believed God’s Word through the Letter of His Son, and we are a people who are compelled to deliver the Word that was sent as Christ-written letters of His love.

It is clear that you are Christ’s letter, produced by us, not written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God — not on stone tablets but on tablets that are hearts of flesh.
(2 Corinthians 3:3 HCSB)

Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
(John 20:21 HCSB)

It really is this simple. The church is much less complex than we have typically made it to be. The church is a people who believe they are loved by the Father, who love one another like the Son has loved us, and who encourage and equip one another to live with the Spirit on mission to make disciples in everyday relationships.

Is that “church” the way you are being the church? Or is there a lot more of “going to church” than being the church?

The church does gather. I am not devaluing or dismissing that. But why? The church gathers to send. We need each other, caring for each other, encouraging each other, praying for each other, to go together in our daily lives bringing the light of the Gospel into the loneliness and emptiness of broken lives.

The church is sent. And may I suggest three essentials of a sent church?

  1. Equipping followers of Jesus to become disciples who make disciples in everyday relationships
  2. Encouraging and caring for one another like family as we live sent like missionary servants in daily rhythms
  3. Sending disciples of Jesus who make disciples of Jesus locally and globally to make disciples of Jesus who make disciples of Jesus in their context

In metaphorical form, think of an arrow. A “triangle” represents our relationship with the Father / Son / Spirit into which we invite a few unbelievers along with us to learn and believe and live the Gospel. A “square” represents the “home” of church family, which are those other believers living the “triangle” life (as described) coming together to encourage each other and care for each other while we keep living the “triangle” life. Put the two together, a square and a triangle, and you have an ARROW. The triangle and the square existing together are what make it possible to send disciples who make disciples. The church as an arrow.

Simply put, the church as SENT.

I wrote the following poem a couple of years back to poetically describe this arrow thought. As you read it, pray for the Lord to reFUNCTION us to be His sent people.

Triangle. Square. Arrow.
by Jason C Dukes

Father and Son and Spirit in unity and love together.
Love can’t be held in a box.
Love is compelled to give love.

Time. Space. Earth.
Garden. Man. Woman. God.
Love sends beloved to enjoy what’s been made.

Man. Woman. Choice.
Serpent. Tree of life. Tree of more. Humanity decides.
Love mercifully sends away selfishness to die.

Covenant. Geography. People.
Multiply. Bless. Tree of more again. Divide.
Love graciously sends then restores.

Legalism. Licentiousness. Emmanuel.
Rome. Jews. Authority. Disturbance.
Love selflessly buries selfishness then rises.

Live for self. Live for God. Live WITH GOD.
Believing. Confessing. Depending. Restored.
Love, as Sent One, now sends beloved.

Listen. Learn. Love.
One Christ. One mission. One church. One another.
Love given together to neighbors and nations.

Groom. Bride. Wedding.
No more evil. No more tears. No more death. Hope no more.
Love welcomes beloved as intended, fully restored.