Wednesday, February 6, 2013

BE THE CHURCH...

Keith and I have been married for 16 years.
In those 16 years, we have been members of 5 different churches.
We have had the honor and privilege of serving with some of the greatest pastors, church staffs, and volunteers in America and we love them all dearly.

Were they perfect?
Not even close!
But it didn't matter, we were part of a team that God put together to love and serve our community in order to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Every time God opened a door for us to pray about a new ministry opportunity, we never prayed about if we were suppose to go, but instead asked if we were suppose to leave.

We have never left a church because we were unhappy.
Never left because we were seeking something new.
Instead, every time we left a church family, it was because God released us.

It was always hard.
Always heartbreaking.
But always with a excitement to see what God was up to, not only for where we were going, but also for the church we were leaving.

But, I realize that I've made a mistake.
I've always assumed that decision was for those of us in ministry.
I've always assumed that church members get to choose to stay or go.

I was wrong.

I read a book recently that has challenged my thinking on this very topic.  There is a section in the middle of John Bevere's book, The Bait of Satan: Living Free from the Deadly Trap of Offense, that I keep going back to.  Below are several of the highlights that I can't seem to get out of my mind.

We do not choose where we go to church, God does!
"But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased."     {1 Corinthians 12:18}
When God does call you to leave, He says you will be led out with peace.
Not bitter.  Not angry.  Not fed up.  Not resentful.  Not offended.
But with JOY and with PEACE!
"For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace."
{Isaiah 55:12}
Your departure should not be based on the actions or behavior of others, but rather on the Spirit's leading.

If you're in the place where God wants you, the devil will try to offend you to get you out.  He wants to uproot men and women from the place where God plants them.  Why?  Because when you're out of the will of God, you will not be a blessing or help to any church.

So what if you want to leave but God says stay, or He says nothing at all?
You stay!
"Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God."     {Psalm 92:13}
Stay where God has planted you.  If we did not run so fast from spiritual resistance, our root systems would have a chance to become stronger and deeper.  We should not resist the very thing God sends to mature us.

God has you where you are for a reason.  He has a unique purpose that only you can fulfill and the church that He has set you in needs your gifts and talents.  We need you!  You are such an important part of the team!  We are better when we are each working together to do our part, no matter how big or small.

If you are struggling with a bad attitude or critical spirit, this parable might help you gain some perspective...
Back in the days when the settlers were moving to the West, a wise man stood on a hill outside a new Western town.  As the settlers came from the East, the wise man was the first person they met before coming to the settlement.  They asked eagerly what the people of the town were like. 
He answered them with a question:  "What were the people like in the town you just left?" 
Some said, "The town we came from was wicked.  The people were rude gossips who took advantage of innocent people.  It was filled with thieves and liars."
The wise man answered, "This is the same as the one you left."
They thanked the man from saving them from the trouble they had just come out of.  They then moved further west.
Then another group of settlers arrived and asked the same question: "What is this town like?"
The wise man asked again, "What was the town like where you came from?"
These responded, "It was wonderful!  We had dear friends.  Everyone looked out for the others' interest.  There was never any lack because all cared for one another.  If someone had a big project, the entire community gathered to help.  It was a hard decision to leave, but we felt compelled to make way for future generations by going west as pioneers."
The wise old man said to them exactly what he said to the other group: "This town is the same as the one you left."
These people responded with joy, "Let's settle here!"
How they viewed their past relations was their scope for their future ones.

And that got me thinking...
Is the way I view my church just a reflection of what's going on inside of me?

If my view is negative, did I bring bitterness and/or resentment with me from my last church?  Do I see everything through the lens of offense.  If so, healing must take place.  I cannot fulfill the role that God has for me until I deal my stuff.  

What kind of church do I want to be part of?

I want to be part of a church that loves God.
I want to be part of a church that is crazy about Jesus.
I want to be part of a church that treasures the Word of God.
I want to be part of a church that is serious about prayer.
I want to be part of a church that is committed spreading the Gospel.
I want to be part of a church that loves people and is quick to extend grace.
I want to be part of a church that makes visitors feel welcome and at home.
I want to be part of a church that serves our community.
I want to be part of a church that cares for the least of these.
I want to be part of a church that doesn't pretend to have it all together.

Where do I find a church like that?
I become it.

When these statements become true in my life...

I love God.
I am crazy about Jesus.
I treasure the Word of God.
I am serious about prayer.
I am committed to spreading the Gospel.
I love people and am quick to extend grace.
I make visitors feel welcome and at home.
I serve my community.
I am committed to caring for the least of these.
I don't have it all together and I don't pretend to.

...it completely changes my view of my church.

We are all part of a team that God put together to love and serve our community in order to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Find your place.  Be the church.  Join us!

3 comments :

  1. This is a phenomenal article and I appreciate your candor in writing it. Sharing the truth is what touches the hearts of others. Reading it made me complete an assessment of places I have worshipped and left especially when I ask myself why I departed. God places us into the paths of others because of a reason, season or lifetime change whether it's our own or one of theirs. Again, thank you for sharing this.

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  2. A conversation that is long overdue. Thanks for this Jackie. I hope we can meet face to face someday.

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  3. Bridgette MarriottJuly 27, 2013 at 10:16 PM

    I needed.this. Thanks.

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