Holding on to the vision the Lord gave me, staying the course to build the kind of church the Lord told me to build here in Red Lodge has been a huge challenge. Staying the course and holding firm to that conviction and notion of a simple no nonsense church that honors Jesus and is a safe haven for all who seek to know and serve him without being about directing their service, but rather equipping and releasing them to serve as the church instead of in the church, that is a notion that is challenged at every turn.
It is challenged by other church leaders, by my own training and experience and by those who come here seeking a place of freedom yet struggle, as I do, to not succumb to the lure of being a church that is all about itself, the church. We are not about church, I am not about church, I am about the Kingdom of God and the citizens of the kingdom of God, that are the church.
To put it in perspective, and how I see it, the building is not the church, it is a chapel where a family of believers meets to be taught, encouraged and equipped for the mission of advancing the kingdom, in the places the Lord places us or sends us. And by us I mean you.
The body of believers I pastor have a specific assignment and it may differ, and does, from many other bodies of believers. So as I recently told someone who was struggling with the way we do things in our ministry— “Not every church is for everybody.” And we all have to be okay with that—and with each other.
We are all still family, we are all still citizens of the kingdom, thus we are part of the church.
As I sat down Thursday evening to work on my sermon some more, I prayed before starting as I always do. I was physically and mentally exhausted after a long day at work, I just wanted to be home resting my weary bones, but I have a sermon to write, so my prayer was short and sweet. “Lord give me wisdom and the energy to put this message together.” That was about all the eloquence I could muster so I just decided to give the Lord an opening there to speak to me and He seized the opportunity.
I heard: “The church is a home for the family of God.”
Hmmm, my first reaction was, that must just be from me because that doesn’t seem to fit where I thought this was going. But after my weary brain kicked in I realized that is the perfect analogy and fits what the Lord has had us doing here.
I first thought of the old ‘house of God’ analogy, churches are often called the house of God but that is not true at all, you are the house of God, in fact, as we know from scripture, you are the temple, one not made with hands but one made by God himself and cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.
24 “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Acts 1:24
19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 1 Cor 6:20:19
I remember when I was a little kid going to a church, I don’t remember anything about the church except for being yelled at for being noisy and running with some other kids. We were told that we had to be quite because we were in the house of God and we needed to be respectful of the big man upstairs. We were in the foyer with a very high ceiling and I remember looking up and seeing a mezzanine or something and thinking, “wow, God lives upstairs?”
I then imagined a crabby old man trying to take a nap while we all tiptoed around and talked quietly down below.
This building is not the house of God, it is a home for God’s people, a place where we come together to be fed, to eat the bread of life, the word. It is where we come together to be refreshed, to connect with family, a safe place and a sanctuary from the world, a place where we can be ourselves, where kids make noise and make messes, where we have disagreements but still love each other at the end of the day, because that’s what family does. It is a holy place, a place where we sit at the feet of the teacher and learn how to live, that teacher is Jesus.
Church is not something you do. Like a home, it is a place to be fed and refreshed. It is the place where your family gathers and is comfortable being themselves. And home is where you hang your hat, whether it’s a multimillion dollar mansion in Jackson Hole or a one room bunkhouse with a potbelly stove.
Home is not something you do, it’s a place to be. Church is not something you do, it also is a place to be. A place to be still and know that he is God. A place to remember why you work and strive. Where you can lay down your weary head, lay down your burdens, and get up refreshed and ready to face the world again.
Too often people go to a church and they look in the bulletin to see what groups or activities are awaiting them should they decide to bless a church with their presence. And when those programs are not there they say; ‘this church is not fulfilling my needs, I need more, I need fellowship, I need in depth teaching and powerful emotional moments of connecting with God and one another.’
All I can say is— then do it. Stop looking for someone else to do it for you, make it happen. You want fellowship? Invite people over to your house. You want a breakfast club? Start one, or show up when you are invited—that would be nice.
You want to do an outreach event or a community service project? Come up with an idea, ask for people to join you and do it— it’s not that complicated and you have just as much time as anyone else does. But it’s easier to just complain about the lack of stuff to do, to go home and watch football while checking your Facebook page to see how many people liked your latest rant about how messed up things are, who took a knee and who didn’t.
Be the church. . .