Have some of you noticed that we are not yet perfect? (No great surprise, right?) And are you ready to make the accusation that since people like me, who go through Christ in order to get things right with God, aren't perfectly virtuous, Christ must therefore be an accessory to sin? The accusation is frivolous. If I was "trying to be good," I would be rebuilding the same old barn that I tore down. I would be acting as a charlatan.
What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn't work. So I quit being a "law man" so that I could be God's man. Christ's life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not "mine," but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.
Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God's grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.
Galatians 2:17-21 The Message
I began attending a church over a year ago, a church that has helped to change my walk, my faith, and my view of God. It has changed the way in which I view things. Instead of always looking through worldly eyes, I attempt to see through spiritual eyes (God's Truth) as well.
This church is a church that believes in planting other churches. It believes in building those churches out of itself. There is no desire to become a mega church. No desire for a big budget in order to build a large building. This church is not a church about numbers. It is not a church about programs. However, it does focus on the need to raise up a body of believers that are willing to leave the comfort of their current church seats to follow a new leader and plant a new church in order to reach the lost. It is a church about community. For me, it is a totally new concept in the idea of church.
The pastor on more than one occasion has preached the sermon on the condition of our churches in America today. We have churches that are thriving and growing but we also have churches that serve as social clubs and museums. Until he spoke on this subject, I must admit that I was a little naïve as to what is taking place in the American church, especially here in the south. We seem to be the worst at it.
Last month, the state of our churches became incredibly real to me. I witnessed in one Sunday morning over seventy people accepting Christ and choosing to be baptized on the spot. I posted a status update about it on Facebook as I was in awe of God that morning. I was in awe of what He was doing in the hearts of His people. It was not until I read a comment that left on my status about “never seeing that happen before” that I stopped and really thought through that I too had never witnessed anything like that happen. I had to ask myself why.
Our pastor has spent time talking about the state of the church and the struggle of churches fighting against turning inward upon themselves. There is a habit within churches of becoming complacent with where things are within our churches and we either stop growing or our growing slows down tremendously. If you think about it, when a church is young, people are excited. They are out in the world talking about what is happening in their church and their excitement is contagious. People come and churches begin to grow. Over time though, programs are developed and activity is thriving. There is enough happening to keep the people of the church busy in the church and everything running smoothly. People then become preoccupied with all their classes, meetings and rehearsals and church becomes their social club. The activities we attend are activities planned by our church. All of our friends are people from church and we find it difficult to relate to anyone outside of our “club”. Suddenly the people of the outside world just don’t measure up to those in our “club”. Eventually we forget or maybe are just not as mindful to the world outside of our safe four walls that need Christ. A dying world is neglected because our focus turns inward. We become comfortable and happy with what our church is doing for us. The sad thing for me is that I knew something was missing in my “church experience” but I had no clue what was lacking until the world fell out from under me and my social club was not there. It was a painful fall but the awakening was amazing!
We have all been a part of this kind of “social club”. I was at one time. I was guilty of being caught up in the hustle and bustle of being at church every time the doors were open. I had a checklist of things to do. I had rehearsals and bible studies. Meetings and obligations but something was missing. I tried religion. I tried to follow a crowd. I tried to fill my life with studies, ministries and “church” friends but I ended up lacking in major ways. It is not because church is bad. Church is awesome but it is awesome when done the way in which God designed. Oftentimes we sometimes just cannot see what we have become until we are away from it.
Too often for many of us, church is a building. It is the place we go to “meet” God. We forget that church is not stained glass windows and bricks but instead the coming together of His people. Church can happen anywhere. It can happen at McDonalds or someone’s home. Church happens when we are sharing the gospel with someone who has never heard the gospel. Church happens when are spared from a horrific traffic accident and we praise God for His faithfulness for the next half hour in our car. There is so much more to church because church happens wherever God’s children are present.
Church is not about what it can do for us. Church is about what we can do for the glory of God. It is not about putting into place programs and activities to keep its members busy but instead it is where we train and raise up believers to share the gospel with those who need to hear. I love the way in which The Message Bible ends Galatians 2:21, “Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God's grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.” For too long I put the focus on what my church could do for me instead I what I can do to enlarge the Kingdom. I want to be a part of growing God’s Kingdom. I want to know that I have made a difference with my life and taken the necessary steps to demonstrate the grace of God. I want it known that Jesus did NOT die unnecessarily. What can we as a “church” do to demonstrate His love and grace to those outside of our social club?