What does the Church look like?
I’m not talking about architecture. What does it look like? In my last blog I pondered what it takes for people who don’t follow Christ to begin to take notice of the Church. I believe that the Old Testament gives us a “pre-christian” understanding of community. There is a realization that one’s actions benefit or hurt another.
Everyone’s intention is to live in a way that the whole community is built up.
The New Testament paints a broader picture because not only do we see ourselves as part of a community but it’s one that is made up of imperfect/diverse people with the common goal of following Christ and living in the constant grace that is woven through the fabric of their life together. Acts 2:42: All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper, and to prayer.
In 2016, communities of Christians living together do exist. I know first hand of one and, just like any group of believers, they have their places of strength and areas of struggle. The book of Acts is not requiring that all Christians must live together everyday. The point is that they share life together: a life guided by Jesus who infuses us with a desire to live in a way that may run counter cultural.
Verse 47 adds, ” 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. More and more people were added. hmmm.
Was it due to a high end audio system?
A hip pastoral staff?
Perhaps, it was watching a group of very different people(different ages, varied abilities, clashing personalities) come together to intentionally become Jesus’ Body on Earth. Not an easy task at all. Even the disciples had arguments.
Not easy, but possible.
Not easy, but transformational. In fact, despite the early persecutions and deaths, Christianity spread rapidly in the early years.
Here are just three contemporary examples of what happens when the Church IS the Church.
Ravenswood Covenant Church on Chicago’s northside began a ministry to High school mothers. They began a partnership with a local high school where the church provides resources (daycare to their children, education on various topics and mentoring) to support them. At a vulnerable time in their lives, these young women receive the help of Jesus’ hands and feet without judgement or condition. I’m sure setting this program up involved many logistics, some concerns (“what about insurance liabilities?” “we’re helping a teen who got pregnant?” ),…..But they did it because Jesus is living in them.
Christ the Servant Church in Olathe, Kansas partnered with a local prison ministry. The congregation desires to offer “unsuspecting acceptance.” to criminal offenders and their families. Each month, the Sunday worship service is led by a group of former prisoners who travel to different churches to use share their gifts with the greater church community. Afterwards, the congregation and worship team share in a meal together. A man who attends the church originally came because he supervised some of the offenders. Following his visit he told the pastor he would be “willing to attend a church that would welcome ‘men like this'” .(www.covchurch.org/news/2013/6/03). He later became a follower of Christ as did his family.
The Bridge Teen Center in Orland Park (http://thebridgeteencenter.org), Illinois offers a safe space for teens to explore their identity as well as build relationships with others. My kids love it! Programs are divided into different “buckets” which expand both heart and mind: Community Connections, Mind/Body, Expressive arts, Educational Support. Best of all: the programs are all FREE! And if that wasn’t enough, bus transportation is provided to pick students up at their school and bring them to the Bridge. Walking into this place, you feel validated in every sense: the decorations and furniture themselves shout “You are worth it!” No 70’s couch and mismatched rugs here. Chic, comforting, functional for the teens who find refuge here. Want to know what it’s like to be a teacher? meet one and ask questions. Interested in honing culinary skills? cook with a local chef in the commercial grade kitchen. Need to chill after a bad day? Nap in the padded quiet zone nooks Having problems with family? vent to a trained adult leader. Although it is not promoted as a Christian venue, the center was founded by a former youth pastor-Priscilla Steinmetz. Biblical principles form the foundation and drive its mission. She and 200 volunteers work to engage the community in every possible angle to ensure that lives can be transformed here. Change lives, impact an entire community.
47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
So…..what would happen if these examples were commonplace in the Church? What are the implications for our nation; in particular? What kind of transformation would take place? How would that impact the debates about government based programs to the vulnerable? How would the Church be redefined?
When have you witnessed “The Church Being the Church?”