I’ve decided to continue this series of excerpts from the book I published on the topic of the Church, titled, There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church—I call it “The Church Book”. The rest of the Fridays in August will feature one selected chapter from the book! If you’d like to read the rest, click the book cover to the left to purchase your copy from Amazon.com! (And, thank you!)
ast night we were leading worship at a local church and had a great time! The band were all good friends of ours, and good musicians. The songs were fun. The mood was pretty light. The room was full of people we love. It was great!
After our song set, we went out around back to sneak in and listen to the message, stopping in the lobby for dinner along the way, of course. That is always a hit-or-miss kind of thing, so we did get delayed a bit as we conversed with the various folks in the lobby over food and a leisurely stroll back to the main meeting room.
Once we finally made it, we caught up with the speaker in the middle of his message, and as always, it was great! Packed full of truth from scriptures, and good insights into those. A major theme of the portion we were able to hear was that God is so for us. The infinite God of the universe is not only for us, but he is with us. The fact that such a being would think of us at all, let alone favorably, is a life-changing truth. A truth that God has taught me over the past several years, and that I try to share with every opportunity I have.
What struck me about all of this is that in the middle of a setting that burdens my heart greatly (the polished presentation of all these things)… in the middle of that, there was deep, life-changing truth. There always is. Though I am often saddened with how much effort we put into the actual presentation of the knowledge of God, at its core, there is life-giving hope. We are offered an invitation to drink deeply of the daily life with our Creator, who no longer calls us servants, but calls us friends.
So what I realized again last night was that we just have this thing with efficiency. We figure, this stuff is so good, we want to reach as many as possible. And so, with all our might, we plan and organize, and schedule and rehearse, and build and build and build these elaborate structures (both edifices and programs) to attract as many as possible. We encourage all who attend to invite more people. We plan various outreach events to draw even more people. We tailor the events (including worship services) to be “accessible” to everyone, especially those who might just be “kicking the tires, checking under the hood” of this whole “church” thing. We work so hard to reach the masses, so as to tell as many people as possible in as little time as possible.
It’s not all geared toward the first moment of hearing and understanding the truth. The structures go deeper than that. The goal is to get people connected on a regular basis. To disseminate truth through the vehicle of large group gatherings. Giving the most people the best chance to hear what God is saying to them.
It all seems to make sense. Even as I type it, I think, “Yeah. What’s wrong with that?” But last night, I heard a line, or had a thought, or something that reminded me that Jesus did not try hard to build a structure from within which he could reach the most people. He did not primarily hold public gatherings where he could speak to the most people at once. Jesus’ plan seemed to revolve around close friendships. Make disciples he told us. I have been told that a disciple is one who learns whatever they are learning, and then in turn they “learn” that to someone else.
Where I think we have missed a nugget of greatness that God intended for us is in this sharing of Kingdom things with our closest friends. This ownership of the truth by each member of God’s kingdom. It is the life-changing truth that we have experienced and that we know. Not by passing along a sermon tape (or CD, or even MP3 as the case may be), or even by bringing someone to a large group gathering. Just by sharing life over a cup of coffee. Over a lunch meeting. At the park while your kids play. On an afternoon walk. In the comfort of your homes. Out at a bowling alley. At the local McDonald’s. Not only do we miss the joy of those situations when we pour all of our effort into the structures for the masses, I think we even limit our effectiveness? I don’t like to use that word, but perhaps it’s true? Might God be able to work more mightily through three friends who care about each other, who in turn each have three other friends, who each have three other friends, who each have three other friends… on down the line till each person has a vital connection with someone vitally connected to the Life Giver?
I wish that we would not focus on the end result so much. On the apparent successes of mass production. While good does come of it, I think we are missing the most important piece of being friends with God—sharing that friendship with his other friends. Directly. Not like watching a movie together, where we sit in the same row next to each other, as we learn about God. But directly sharing our lives, the daily learnings from God, the struggles, the successes, the hum drum and the magnificent.
That is the goal of our structures, but it seems to be missing as so much of our life and energy is poured into feeding the structure. Making it bigger and better, so as to reach more people.
Maybe we could be better spent?