August 23, 2012

Quantify & Control

A couple of weeks ago I preached on missional community - that Acts 2 is a picture of Ephesians 4 being carried out - and that in Acts 2 you don't see anyone actually striving or working for "community". They were on mission, together. I had several interesting conversations following that sermon, many of them that morning right after our services. But one conversation resonated with me because I think it highlights one of our obstacles and barriers to seeing biblical, missional community actually take place in our lives and through our churches. This invisible wall has to do with the fact that what we're describing - this movement that's beginning to take place - is much harder to quantify and control. Let me explain a bit further.

My friend sat down with me and seemed to be a bit distressed. He began explaining to me that he thought what I was describing - missional community - was already happening in his life. That one of his neighbors (who happened to be a minister at another church) and a guy across the street (also a Christian) had started getting together. They had even been talking & strategizing ways to begin reaching out to their other neighbors. "Should we have a block party? Maybe a cookout and invite everyone." What was happening was they were on the cusp of "doing life together". But here was his dilemma: This wasn't happening with people from The Brook. It wasn't something HIS church had stamped their name on. We weren't hovering over it. He wasn't turning in numbers to us. At this point it was undefinable - he couldn't even fully explain what was happening. And he wasn't adding numbers to OUR church. Again - he couldn't quantify all of this. There was no "church" category for what was going on. Here's what I told him:

"It's not my calling to equip you grow our church. I'm called to equip you, prepare you, and lead you to grow the Kingdom! If some of those people wind up being part of the fellowship of our church, great. If they're led to go somewhere else, great. My main concern is that right where you are - right in your own home and your own neighborhood - you're living on mission for the Kingdom."

That's the quantification issue. Now let's talk about control. 

In the Western (American) church - clergy, pastors, ministers - we not only have this driving need of knowing how many people were in our services, in Sunday School, or at an event and how many raised their hand, we also need to know that we're somewhat in control of how it happens. (Sidenote: This "control" we think we have is a full-on mirage. It's elusive and seductive. And the need for the mirage winds up controlling the very ones trying to contain it. And I know that numbers represent people. Many are just trying to ensure follow-up. That's not the issue.) This is NOT what we're called to. Ephesians 4:11-16 gives us very clear instruction and guidance on what, how, and why. It tells us we're called to "equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes." Here's the thing: We are called to equip people to do the work of the Kingdom of God - for the building up and discipling of those in the church - and to reach those who are "outside" and need to know Christ. We are NOT called to control people, to manipulate people, or even to shape them into a bunch of us's. As I said in my sermon last week, "We've been telling our leaders, 'Here's our box. Let's figure out how to reshape you so you fit in our box.' And the thing is, they aren't shaped like our box. They're not supposed to be. We're supposed to equip leaders to BE who the Lord has made them and to SHINE and GROW and REACH OUT where God has planted them. 

Right this moment - somewhere in America at a church - one more program is being added to the weekly schedule to lure people TO "the church" (which is really NOT the church, it's simply where the church meets). And in doing so we will further excuse and exempt our people from the actual mission. We will give them an escape route rather than an in-road. Yes, Jesus said, "Come to me all who are weary". And then he said, "Go and make disciples..." The church just keeps saying "Come". It's time we started saying, leading, and living "GO!" Not just on a weeklong trip to Guatemala or Haiti or New Orleans, but on Tuesday to your job as a software developer or a dental hygienist. THIS is where we're called. We're called to coach ball teams and host parties and serve on our homeowner's association. Exactly how much training do you need before you don't need another class and you're ready to just do it? I'll tell you. You're ready now!

The Lord is doing some incredible and miraculous things in the lives of churches right now, where people are no longer being coaxed into conforming to the church, but are being led by the Spirit of God to dangerously follow Christ on mission. If you're a follower of Jesus Christ, isn't this what you're longing for? PRAY and ask God to ignite a fire in your heart for His glory and His mission! 

1 comment:

Jeff and Vicki said...

Amen! Totally all about this especially in our quest to find a church home. Thanks for the reminding of seeking the foundational truths/missional vs. the lures and comfortable/safe atmospheres.