My last post might have seemed a bit harsh. I may have given off the impression that I think nothing good happens in church.
I strongly believe that the most powerful life transforming ministry happens in the context of personal relationships motivated by sacrificial love. In most churches this exists. It might happen in pockets or on the margins but there are signs of this life everywhere.
Eventually I asked the question “if most people are changed more in relationship, why are we so busy with all these events and programs.” I don’t really know why. This is why I’ve become such a strong advocate of a simpler approach to church. I say simpler because I think there is a spectrum, and I don’t advocate one approach as the only “biblical” approach to church.
I’ve spent almost 7 years experimenting with simpler expressions of church. I’m still learning lots and trying new things. Here is my recipe right now.
1) Proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ
Most Christians don’t get it, or if they do get it in their mind, they have been conditioned by the legalism of their experience. There are several metaphors in scripture for how we relate to God. I like the following:
1Jn 1:5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.
1Jn 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;
1Jn 1:7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
2Pe 1:2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
2Pe 1:3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
2Pe 1:4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
Eph 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
Eph 2:5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
Eph 2:6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
Eph 2:7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
Eph 2:9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
They all describe different facets of our relationship with God. We must stop adding to the gospel because when we do we empty it of its power.
2) Love people
Sacrificial love is the lifeblood of the church. Love has to be sincere and tangible and genuine. I don’t know how it can be manufactured. This love comes from God. We love because He first loved us. Until we know the love of Christ it will that much more difficult to sacrificially love each other. Thus step 1 is so important.
3) Respect the inherent value Christ has woven in to each person
Do not try to control people, don’t manipulate them, don’t use them, don’t create fear. There will always be some level of organization but it must always serve people. Once this role is reversed and people are more assets of an organization we end up with a lot burn out and disappointment.
4) Offer generous amounts of grace and acceptance
In order for people to be able to help each other they need to feel safe. Without safety people aren’t open. If people aren’t open then it is very difficult to make a difference in their lives. People can hear difficult truths from others that they know in their heart they are truly loved for who they are.
There is a noticeable lack of methods and models in this recipe because those should change given the context and the people.