Get out on the front lines!
In today’s world there’s a lot of criticism within the local church as to whether not we’re really truly making a difference. Some believe, and some statistics support, that “switchers” or people moving from church to church makes up the vast majority of local church growth. These “switchers” tend to become dissatisfied with their present place of worship. Rather than work through their challenges, some believe we’ve made it too easy for them to uproot and move to a place they feel more at home. A place they can be “inspired” by great worship bands and motivational speeches by charismatic speakers from the platform every weekend. In today’s world, larger churches (eg. megachurches, multi-site churches) tend to received the majority of this criticism. Over the past few years, I’ve talked with many on both sides of the argument and even consider many of these folks personal friends. Additionally, through the years, I’ve been in no church, home churches, small churches, large churches, and likely a few other expressions of the “local church”.
For 2000 years plus people have debated what “the church” should look like. Hopefully, we all can agree that “the church” isn’t a building or particular local congregation. “The church” is the body of God’s people. Thus, what’s often in debate is what the “assembly of God’s people” should truly look like and how God’s people should “live in community”. Given years of debate, I’m not even going to go there today and only want to offer a point to ponder.
As one who is a part of a multi-site church, I would offer to the critics, “you’re right, all churches are made up of people, people are messy, and, thus, my church is made up of messy people which stands to reason that we’re messing things up along the way”. I can’t deny that I’ve had thoughts along the way that what some might refer to a “McDonaldized” model with Sunday gathers being scripted down to the minute, hasn’t caused me to ponder along the way. One person once said, “if the Holy Spirit showed up in this place, we wouldn’t know what to do with Him. We’re so scripted we wouldn’t have time for Him.” Again, I’ve wrestled with this a bit; however, have chosen to believe the Holy Spirit shows up regularly in our services and I don’t really think we are in control of what that looks like in the times it happens.
Given all this context, my challenge today to all of God’s people regardless of which expression of the local church you chose to serve is to “get out on the front lines”. Putting this into a business context, I’ve always been one to emphasize the importance of getting out on the front lines. You can’t truly appreciate what’s going on until you’re right out front working alongside those making things happen day-to-day. I personally have found this to be true in the local church as well. It’s not until you get out on the front lines serving in some capacity that you truly get a sense of how God is using your particular local body.
As an example, Traders Point Christian Church (#TPCCDowntown) recently launched a campus in downtown Indianapolis for which Lisa and I have chosen to serve in the Kids Ministry. We see weekly stories of where God’s using this local body to impact lives of people in the community. As an example, a few weekend ago we had a mother show up with kids that have special needs. The only reason that she found our church was because she knew that we had a special-needs program. With nearly tears in her eyes, she shared how she was so grateful to have a church where she could come and be fed while someone cared for her child. If you’ve never been around a special needs situation, you may not understand how big a deal this is for this mother. However, if you choose to get out on the front lines, you’ll likely better understand.
While that’s just one story and, due to confidentiality, it’s sometimes difficult to share these stories, I can assure you there are many more. In fact, this past Thursday night #TPCCDowntown had a gathering with all the staff and volunteers. We got off script and ran way over on time for two primary reasons. First, when asked to share stories of “wins” or examples of places people are seeing the love of Christ make an impact, the testimonies were numerous. Less than two months into a launch, this local body sees over 1000 weekly attendees which many large church critics might scoff. We already have stories of men coming from other parts of the world, hearing the message of Jesus Christ, and committing their lives to Christ. Only God knows what will happen this weekend; however, we’ll likely see over 60 baptisms since the launch of this church. It’s not about the numbers, it’s about that one person which each number represents.
I use my personal church experience not to give any credit to what man is doing in my local body. Again, we’re truly a mess! I primarily share this today to challenge critics to check their hearts and “get out on the front lines” to see what truly happening. God has allowed multiple expressions of His local church over the years which I’m finding doesn’t mean one form of worship is being elevated any higher than another. As one historical church leader said, “go find where God’s at work and join Him”. This might be in your home, your place of work, your church of 5000+, or all of the above.
One final note: Are you one who has been hurt by “the church” in the past which has causes some deep wounds and, possibly, even turned you away? Hear my heart as I offer, “me too”. Everyone has a story of which I can share how myself and my own family have deep scares as a result of a local body. For this, I offer I’m truly sorry for whatever your particular circumstances may be. As offered above, I’m a mess, my church is a mess, and that mess sometime gets on people in a way it shouldn’t. Tomorrow is Easter Sunday which is an awesome time to give it another chance. If that still too tough, than tune in online at traderspoint.tv and, possibly, allow God himself another chance. You are truly loved in spite of anything in your personal past.
God Bless and Happy Easter!