Church is Not a Book Club

The blogosphere is full of Atheist v. Christian “battle to the rhetorical death” blogs. This is not one of them. While a healthy dialogue can be beneficial, a quick read of many of those blogs reveals neither dialogue nor health. Becoming Last is about serving and loving others, but it stems from my faith.

I am a Christian. I love my God, even though my life may not reflect that at times (for example, the homeless guy I saw yesterday…he was pacing between cars…I had change, not much…but all I kept thinking was, “I hope he doesn’t hurt anyone”. Which is kind of absurd b/c I’m in the middle of a huge traffic jam. Plus, if I’m that concerned with others’ safety why don’t I just call him over to my car, give him change, and love him until the light turns green. Instead, I did the whole awkward “I’m just looking at the light” stare). I completely judged the guy. I tried not to. I didn’t want to judge him, but yeah, I didn’t exactly show him the love of God.

I work for a church part-time and I often struggle with how to best share God’s love with the community. My heart is to demonstrate God’s love and not to win philosophical arguments. I’m a fairly smart guy, but there are millions upon millions of people smarter. I feel like I can make a good argument, but there are millions more who can better debate. Plus, many of the times we can “win” an argument and yet lose the person (lose in the sense that they could care less about what we have to say anymore).

When people hear the name of your church what pops in their mind? What is your church known for in your community?

Here are what some people say their churches are known for:

  • “Being really good people” – I relate this idea to a bug zapper. It’s like we have the impression that our “goodness” will mesmerize people into coming and “ZAP!” we’ll get them. The main issue with this is it tends to be a very passive idea of church. Let’s just meet and work on our holiness and if they come, they come.
  • “Bible-believing/teaching” – Excellent idea. We should be squarely in line with and teaching the Bible.  But, we can sway so far into this idea that we neglect ever working out anything we learn. It’s as if we become spiritually obese. We learn a lot of information, but don’t put it into practice. Sometimes we can have great churches with great people learning great things, but our communities will wonder what’s the point if we never extend the teaching into our lives. We need to be more than a book club.
  • “Awesome worship/dynamic teaching” – As with the other two, this is not bad in itself. But, if our services resemble nothing more than a U2 concert, yet we leave unchanged week after week, people will eventually get wise and just go see U2. Most of will never be that dynamic and our musicians are not all that good, but if people see a genuine, caring, serving community then they will stay.

Here is my desire. I would love for the church to be known through the community as a sacrificial, genuine, caring community of Christians. I’d like for conversations to take place such as:

“Have you ever heard of The Bridge? They took care of my aunt after her surgery.”‘
“I see the Wilsons’ got their deck fixed. Where did they get the money for that?” “The Bridge took care of it.”

The conversations could take any number of forms. The point is: Will we be known for lofty rhetoric and  altruistic platitudes or will we be known for loving people with abandon? Will we lay down our lives and forsake our rights to comfort, safety, time, and possessions? Will we believe in a Jesus who gave His life for us and yet lives lives that look nothing like His? Do we really like Jesus or does our faith motivate us to live like Jesus?

I know. Christianity is not just about serving. It’s not just a service club. We serve because we believe in the grace and mercy of God. We serve because God first served us. We serve because we believe there is more to live for than ourselves. Serving others and laying down our lives for the world is an extension of our beliefs. Certainly, our beliefs are our foundation, but I wonder how most of us can confess to believe such a radical, crazy story of God coming to Earth and yet go on living as if it’s not important enough to interrupt our lives to spread that message.

People need to hear the Gospel. People need to hear the story of God’s love. But we, the church, need to demonstrate that love on a daily basis. Church is meant to be a beacon of light to the nations. Church is meant to be a giant, flashing neon light that says, “God loves you!” We should make it impossible for someone to be in our community and never encountered the love of God.

So what do you think? How could our churches better demonstrate God’s love? How could you begin to prioritize your life to where you can intentionally start serving others on a weekly basis and be open to seeing opportunities at all times? How can you Become Last so He can Become First?

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22 Comments

Filed under Challenges, christian, Examples of Sacrifice, making a difference, Making God Known, purpose, Realizations, Uncategorized

22 responses to “Church is Not a Book Club

  1. Sorry if this is scattered or doesn’t make sense. I have a lot of stuff in my head and I’ve been wrestling with some of this stuff for awhile. It’s hard to summarize into a blog post so I feel I did it an injustice. Love to hear your comments though!

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Church = Giant, Neon Sign « Becoming Last -- Topsy.com

  3. It’s something we all struggle with, Matt — what is the church “with the skin on”? It started originally around the idea of community — praying, worshiping, fellowship and prayer — and doing it together. Then they started caring for widows and orphans — and that’s what society at large started taking notice, because people didn’t do that. These people were different because they cared. And they cared because of what they believed. And they served, and prayed, and worshipped, and studied, and deepened their faith, and that led them to doing more. And it seems that in the kind of time and culture we live in, when time is precious and free time non-existent, giving of our time is most attractive and counter-cultural thing we could do. (I’m the one rambling, now). Anyway, it’s a good post.

  4. Thanks Glynn – You’re right about people noticing. I just read a quote yesterday from a popular guy in the 2nd century named Lucian. Let’s just say he wasn’t a big fan of Christians, but he did say, “It is incredible to see the ardor with which the people of that religion help each other in their wants. They spare nothing. Their first legislator (Jesus) has put into their hearts that they are all brethren.” Pretty cool stuff. They were known for their practical love for people.

  5. It can be a wildly uneven dance as we find out way. I don’t think I’m even close to having it down, but I want to love and serve, speak when the time comes, be there when people need me… Slowly but surely, I’m allowing Him to change me at every level. Thanks for the great reminder, Matt.

  6. You’re right Jason. It is slowly and surely. I think the biggest thing I’m discovering is I’ve always been so good at saying I’m available, but rarely was that actually the case. The more I wake up and intentionally ask God to give me opportunities to love people (and to open my eyes to ones I normally miss) and set up intentional times of serving, it then becomes more natural.

  7. I love this piece ~ the points you make in the bullets are so right! I think that being intentional is a big part of being a useful vessel to God. Be blessed 🙂

  8. I’m still stuck on the ‘bug zapper’… that really hit me! 🙂

    I agree with Lorrie, you had some great points that I’m really glad you shared with all of us!

    Thanks, Matt.

  9. Thank you for your thoughts on Church. It is so many different things. From reading so many blog post today i’m starting to get the feeling we try to limit what church is when we need not do so.

    Great post.

    • We definitely limit it. I think I’m mainly discovering we don’t really create a good vision for what the church should be so people just make up what they think it is.

  10. Now I want to change the name of my church to The Bridge so people say that stuff about us:-)

    Great post!

  11. Awesome post Matt! I think you really knocked it out of the park with this post!

  12. Great post. Takes time, causes us to choose relationships over memory work, but so worth it.

    • You’re right. it does take time. It’s hard to hold the study/application at a good tension. Certainly we should apply what we memorize or learn or what’s the point right?

  13. good post.

    i am really glad we have the Holy Spirit to guide us.

  14. Hi Matt,

    I have not read the comment thread so forgive me if I bring up something that has already been addressed.

    You know that it is not nessecarily an act of kindness giving a homeless man money right? It can infact be an act of cruelty.

    I mean, I have spent almost three years on the street outreach and I do not give them money – instead I offer to buy them something to eat. Those who refuse that, often, arer drug addicts who lie to get money.

    That was just the though I had on this.

    I share youy heart on this as a whole.

    Blessings brother.

  15. Thanks for pointing that out Matthew. I would agree that money is sometimes not the best to give. My point was more that my heart wasn’t in the right place. I could have offered to bring him back Taco Bell, but that never even crossed my mind at the time b/c I was too busy judging him. That’s awesome that you’ve been loving people on the street for three years. They certainly could use people’s love. I just want to begin looking at them less as an inconvenience and more as an opportunity to love.

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