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church, faith, God, Jesus Christ

what about the (C)hurch? [part 2]

WOW!  First of all, THANKS so much to all of you who commented on post #1 (if you haven’t read it, go there now AND read all the great comments: click here)!  Everyone of you said something noteworthy and provacative.  I’m inspired by you all, and hope you’ll stick with me in this conversation!  Let me tell you what struck me MOST as I read through your comments:  I hear a lot of HOPE!!!!!!  That is awesome.  That makes me feel really good about this discussion.  Without hope, our hearts grow faint and weary — and we become powerless to change.  I also LOVE the yearning I see in the younger ones for a “breakthrough” — faith for “more than this”.  That is crucial.  We should never feel that we’ve arrived, not until the Kingdom of Heaven has fully come on Earth.  Until then, we should be pressing in for more of It to break in.  I’m excited.  🙂   

Let me tell you a little bit about where I’m coming from, and what has prompted me in this whole discussion.  There are a lot of books out there seeking to define and re-define “church”.  Obviously, we’re not the only ones who care.  That’s a good thing!  Some of these books look really interesting, others I have no time for.  Honestly, though, (for the moment at least) I don’t want to read another book, or hear someone else’s great strategy for how to “do it right”, or what worked for them….. I mean, people have had great ieas on how to do “church growth” for the last thirty or more years, but by and large, we haven’t been growing!  Do I somehow think that I’ve got the answers?  No.  But, I do know Someone who does, and my heart tells me that He is very interested and willing to bring us to the place of right understanding, together

“Together” means, let’s not be too quick to shout out our quick solution/opinion.  There’s a growth that happens for us all as we give and take, agree and disaggree, letting the “iron sharpen iron”.  Wisdom is found in a multitude of counselors, and victory is sure to come as well, in the voice of many (see Proverbs for those nuggets).   I understand that I really HAVE opened a can of worms with this discussion — that means it could go anywhere from here, and it could get messy.  Thare are MANY things begging to be addressed, I know!  Before I started this series, I made a list of about 20 topics related to this as an “outline”.  But, if we get too broad in our discussion, it becomes overwhelming, and causes people to shut down.  Let’s stay together bit by bit and try to stay focused in the journey, ok?      

So, it seems that we all agree, things with “church” could be better.  I said “it doesn’t seem to be “working”.  What makes me think that “it’s not working” is this:  When I look at the “church” (for reference- most of my comments will be generalizations and don’t apply to everyone or every church, but from my perspective, are generally true of the church in our soceity/culture), what troubles me are these things.  Or, it would be more constructive for me to frame it this way:  The following are (in my opinion) some of the true markers of the Church, functioning rightly…. and my take on where we are at:

1.  Passionate Zeal.  Though I believe we are sincere in our love for God, we are quite comfortable.  Life is pretty easy for most of us, so there’s no real motivation to press us into God (i.e. “consider it pure joy when you face trials… for you know that the testing of your faith… devlops perserverance… so that you may be mature and complete,lacking nothing.  James 1:2-4) If our life were made more uncomfortable (i.e. suddenly under great persecution, experiencing large-scale economic distress, or simply truly convicted of our apathy…), we would be stirred up and motivated towards real change.  Our God is an all-consuming fire, shouldn’t we be branded with that same zeal? 

2.  Spiritual Power.  Though we definitely are touching lives, we don’t seem to be changing people’s lives on a large scale — where communities are transformed, and people are shocked by the metamorphasis of the worst of sinners becoming saints.  There are not those being added to our number daily, or even weekly.. perhaps montly,h and hopefully yearly…. but not daily, from what I’ve seen.  Also, to see the power of God manifest in (physical, emotional, spiritual) healing is an idea that is celebrated, but not normal in reality for most people or groups.  Also, to see the pre-believer struck to the heart with conviction that brings them to their knees in repentance is also rare (but was quite common in the Great Awakenings of our nation years ago).  Now, we can’t necessarily “make” any of these things happen (and you may not think that we should even expect them).  However, I do believe most would agree that we lack power. 

3.  Influence.  Though there are some loud voices in the political arena (the “religious right”), who from time to time break through in areas of righteous standards (and, I thank God for that!) — for the most part, society at large doesn’t care about the Church.  People aren’t beating down our door when they are in trouble, looking for answers.  They don’t care what we think or what we do.  They don’t feel the power of our influence in our communities.  When crime statistics go down; when teen pregnancies cease; when domestic violence is replaced with healed, healthy families, etc. etc. — then, it can be said of us that we are truly a force in the earth.  Isn’t the church supposed to be the instrument through which God’s Kingdom is being manifest on Earth?  Surely there is more of His Kingdom to be expressed than we currently see.  To me this is the true relevance.  I don’t mind (actually I like) cool services, video clips, hip surroundings.  But, I believe, church that is Relevant (i.e. it reallys means something to people’s lives), is when people’s lives are being dramatically changed by the ministry of Jesus Christ among them.     

I will allow that the three items I’ve chosen here are hard to quantify, and even harder to achieve with a simple mission/vision or strategic plan.  There are also probably 100 more items that could be listed as evidence of the church that “works”.  I’m just letting you know my heart.

So, here’s the question for you

What do you believe are the (top three) “markers” of the true church; evidence that it is living and operating as it should?  I think some of you may have already expressed some of that in previous comments, please feel free to repeat them in this post.  Try to keep your response to the point and constructive. 

And, please if you disagree with anything I’ve written, let me know your opinion!

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About Jessie

Lover of God. Husband. Dad. Director of the Furnace at Michigan State University.

Discussion

9 thoughts on “what about the (C)hurch? [part 2]

  1. Individual Revelation, Corporate Breakthrough, and Miraculous Outreach.

    Those terms could be defined quite differently by 10 different people if you asked them, but what I am trying to say is that the most important thing in a “true” church, or a living church as I might call it, is the presence of God acting on us individually, in our fellowship, and in our immediate surroundings/wherever we reach our hands. Most of these ideas would be for the western church (the building that gets together). I think they also work for the house church and the “when we get together it’s church,” church, it would just take a little augmenting.

    Individual revelation is the ability for each believer in a particular body/church/area, to receive revelation from the Lord. That is, each individual to be touched by the Spirit of God, to have his/her own breakthrough while they are crying out to God, or just thinking upon Him by themselves somewhere. And it happens on a regular basis. What I mean is: A church with people that spend significant time with the Lord and are obedient! So there aren’t 50 or 1000 people coming together to be filled because during the week they lost sight of God, but they are already filled and overflowing, and coming together to move forward and change an atmosphere. I am not expecting everyone every week to come together and be in a perfect place totally full of God, but right now if you go to a church, their might be one or two people like that, when it should be by far the majority.

    Corporate breakthrough is the presence of God on the corporate gathering, which could be as intense as God coming in and blowing up on a meeting because the people that come together are preparing themselves for a habitation of the Lord. They have been revived in their heart, and they are truly crying out for Him individually and corporately, and He can’t help but respond. This can be measured through many manifestations of his presence (peace, extravagant giving, healings, gold dust, precious stones, clouds, and people getting laid out, there are a lot of cool things that could happen) or God giving the church the dreams of his heart for that area, and showing them his strategy in doing them.

    As a side note, I think the corporate gathering is also a time for faith to build and individuals to be pushed beyond wherever they could reach in their own personal lives with God so that they can gain more momentum. This time should push people and encourage people.

    Miraculous outreach: Whatever happens inside the church is beginning to happen outside the church. If you are having the breakthrough individually, and it is happening corporately, let the river flow from the temple and take over the area that you are in. I don’t think you wait for a particular breakthrough to start this, but whatever you are seeing, take it out and start taking territory. If in your first meeting together the peace of God was on your meeting, then take the peace of God to places and see what He does. So that when the healing power of God starts to manifest in your church, you can take it to the streets and people are set free. Whatever you keep in the church WILL DIE.

    All these things should overflow on to one another, whatever happens corporately should affect us individually and outreach, etc…

    Posted by Andrew Bailey | February 26, 2008, 12:38 pm
  2. Love-
    Real deep love that the world sees but doesn’t understand. Not easy love. Love for God and love for man

    Power-
    Healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead, poison drinking, tongue speaking

    Holiness-
    As we behold Him we become like Him

    Posted by Matt | February 26, 2008, 7:19 pm
  3. @ Matt & Andrew – really good stuff!! I’m exploding with anticipation to follow up this post already!!…

    @ everyone else – I know you’re out there, reading this! My blog stats continue to soar. C’mon and put your thoughts down!! We want to HEAR from YOU! EVERYone’s input is valuable to me.

    Finally, I just wanted to let you all know – there have been some incredibly insightful comments posted on the first in this series, after part 2 was published – I know some of you are really involving yourself in this discussion, so go back and read the new comments on part 1, I think you’ll appreciate what people are still saying to chime in on this topic… go here: https://jessiestill.wordpress.com/2008/02/21/where-is-the-church-going-in-the-21st-century/
    … ans scroll to the bottom.

    Looking forward to more chiming in on THIS post, too…. comment away 😉

    Posted by Jessie | February 27, 2008, 9:54 am
  4. 1. The Preaching of the Cross/Christ crucified.
    1 Cor. 1:18,23,24 Paul says this is the power of God. That’s dunamis power. We were called to preach the gospel unto all creatures and signs shall follow. There are tons of evangelistic strategies out there but they are nothing if there is no power of God. Its funny because the harvest is plentiful and laborers are few, says the Lord but once the harvest is harvested it immediately becomes the laborers. Likewise, those who follow the signs of the believers become born again and immediately become those whom the signs follow. Interesting how the gospel can have so much power on us if we only believe.

    2. Love (These are in no order just so you know I don’t put love second to preaching.)
    The first and greatest commandment. The First in the list of the Fruit of the Spirit. I believe there is a reason that this is the first listed and also the first and greatest commandment. To tell what kind of seed the tree is growing from you need to look at its fruit. But since God’s seed is in us, (God is Love) then thats what comes out. This is also a fruit of the sons of God. Love denotes that we are also lead by the spirit of God. I don’t mean phileo love, Like brotherly love, I mean Agape unconditional love of course. In this is of course everything we need to be like Christ. Anyone who says its not needs only to make this the lens that they look at EVERYTHING through and they will find that its true. We find the heart of God if we let His love lead us and guide us; after all He is love. We get His heart and out of it flows integrity, character, honor, intimacy, forgiveness, and all the other fruit of the Spirit. This is my personal conviction but I believe there is a reason why Love is the first in the list of Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. I think everything comes from that Love, how about you? That seed is planted when we are born again.

    3. Spiritual Growth
    Growth means that the people are eating enough meat. You won’t grow very well if you drink milk all the time. When people are eating meat, it means they are hungry. they are hungry because they are responding to what they hear. Its the only time where the more you eat the hungrier you get. If there is no hunger in the church, what are we doing there taking up space in the pews and wasting everybody’s time and wasting the gifts of the ministry teams. It is God who gives both the desire and the ability to carry out His good pleasure. Philippians 2:13. We can’t be hungry without God giving it to us. I love that song “Let Me In” by Brock Human. God is saying “Open up your heart, let ME in.” The religious spirit needs to die in us. For some people that will feel like they themselves are dying because so much of their walk with God is religious but once that happens, there is room for Him. I know all about this, I’ve been killed by God many times this way. Its really fun once you start praying for it. Its called refinement. For the joy set before us, lets endure that refinement.

    Posted by Ryan Wilson | February 28, 2008, 3:55 pm
  5. Great stuff. The Church is at its best when it remains counter cultural, and maintains clear distinctions between itself and the dominant culture. That is very difficult at the moment because money and materialism occupies such a strong hold on western christians. Unraveling the love of money and the things that money can buy is a very challenging process.

    Second, the tyranny of the urgent, or the misuse of time is a huge problem for western christians and has resulted in a church very much bereft of sacrifice. Yet how is it possible to follow Christ with out sacrifice?

    I think that every generation is called upon to re-envision certain lost or neglected things. Right now I see many, many young people restoring a heart of prayer to the body. This is foundational. I think that there is clear indication that right now God is calling many, many young people to a sacrificial lifestyle. People like Lou Engle, and Mike Bickle, David Bryant and many others are setting a call before the American church and many who are answering that call are young. This is a source of great hope.

    This will lead to a time of reformation for the American church. Once the fire is lit in the hearts it won’t be long before the mind is enflamed and we will see many welcome and radical changes to the church. I pray I get to live long enough to see it unfold!

    Posted by The Black Dwarf | February 29, 2008, 4:02 pm
  6. Hmmm
    1…Love the Lord with everything ya know the rest!

    2…Love Your Neighbor and all that includes!

    3…Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness….included in this is a Lifestyle of Prayer and Fasting!

    LEADERSHIP IS KEY ON LEADING THE WAY…MUST BE MODELED THERE FIRST!

    i am trying to be short and concise.

    Posted by Bruce | February 29, 2008, 11:53 pm
  7. Hey Everyone! – Great Comments! Thanks for all of your time, it is an honor to be part of something like this.
    Obviously loving God is the number one priority, but if we are talking about “spiritual measuring sticks” I would have to say…

    1.) Changed Lives
    2.) Love
    3.) Unswirving purpose and Mission – focused OUTside the church walls.

    Thanks again for all the comments.

    Posted by Scott | March 3, 2008, 10:22 pm
  8. Set Apart: not only in action, but in lifestyle. We must earnestly be seeking God and be led by the Holy Spirit to impact anyone. I mean for real set apart, the kind of set apart that someone can tell you are different after talking with you or even observing you, before a single word exits you mouth they know something is different.

    Culture of Prayer: Authentic hunger for righteousness and a crying out to God continually for such. Release of revelation and wisdom soon follows.

    SEEKERS!!! We must be passionate and committed to the Word of God. We have to allow Him to work through us. We have to lay all else down to serve him. wholeheartedness.

    Posted by alpvagabond | March 4, 2008, 4:32 pm
  9. Before I get to my 3 things, one comment on something Black Dwarf said: “The Church is at its best when it remains counter cultural.”

    I’m not sure whether to agree with you or not. It depends what you mean by this. If you mean that the church should not adopt the materialistic, consumerist nature of American culture, then YES! I totally agree. If you mean we have to resist current culture in every way, however, I disagree. Rock music is cultural – should we sit around with organs and sing only hymns? No. Technological interfacing is cultural – should we resign ourselves to transparency projectors (as opposed to powerpoint) and rotary phones? No. Many of Jesus teachings were counter cultural, BUT he often used familiar ways of communicating them. It’s interesting to notice how often Jesus prescribed to traditional rabbinical tactics when He taught. My guess is that you mean the first thing though.

    Now for my list:

    1. Sincerity: And on many levels. Sincerity with God . . . Are we actively and openly pursuing the REAL Jesus? Are we honestly seeking His will for us (personally and communally)? Sincerity with others . . . Can we be REAL with one another? Do we know each other at the core level, at the deepest and darkest parts of our beings? Sincerity in Scripture . . . Is our teaching sincere and challenging or watered-down to be appealing? Etc. (Interesting to me is the fact that this is essentially the theme of the ARC’s Discipleship Training School this year.)

    2. Love: Again on many levels. Do we love God? Do we love each other? Do we love those outside the church? If we do, are we responding with appropriate action to manifest that love?

    3. Growth: More and more I am reminded that the Christian walk is a process. We don’t accept Christ then wake up the next morning a changed person . . . well, we do hopefully . . . but not on the large scale. Everyone, great and small in the kingdom of heaven, has work to do. We can all grow. No one has arrived. The clearest sign, I think, of a “good” church is growth. Even more than love because we are not perfect in love . . . we can grow in love too. Regardless of the state of a church, the sign of whether they are on the right track is “are they getting better?” . Even the church farthest from God is on the right track if they are moving toward God. I guess I’d sum it up with the Centered Set analogy. We live a centered set doctrine. Christ is the center and the only valid questions to ask regarding our relationship to him are “Which direction are you facing?” and “Are you moving?” The question “How close are you?” doesn’t matter. If you are facing God and you are moving, you’re doing all you can.

    Posted by Andrew | March 13, 2008, 11:13 am

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