I recently read an article from “Brother Maynard” at Subversive Influence in which he identifies the 9 things he is looking for in a church.
This list is interesting to me because Brother Maynard is a self-confessed member of the emerging church movement which really is just a term to refer to churches that take ministry to the postmodern culture seriously enough to change the way they do things and the way they think about things.
However, as I read the list, I couldn’t help think critically about some things. For the sake of reference, I’m summarizing his main points here:
- I long for a church that is low-key. (No hype and an awareness that worship can be intellectual as well as emotional.)
- I long for a church with deep interpersonal relationships…Faith walks need camaradarie, lives shared one with another.
- I long for the challenges which God give the grace to attain, rather than the challenges of men which one strives fruitlessly to attain.
- I long for a decentralized structure, and I long for servant leadership among peers.
- I long for a culturally relevant church…Being culturally relevant in the early 21st century means understanding -gasp!- postmodernism.
- I long for a church that can be outwardly-focused without constantly pushing evangelism on the congregation, and for a church that does not relate evangelism with church growth as an end.
- I long for a church that recognizes the value of ancient traditions.
- I long for a church that is not uncomfortable with mystery or with the sacraments.
- I long for a church that recognizes the value of story.
Click here to read the whole article.
As I read through his list, I resonated with some of what he said, but I couldn’t help feeling a little uncomfortable at the same time. It wasn’t until I got to the end of the article that I really understood what was making me feel uncomfortable.
Whose church is it?
This is a list of 9 things that Brother Maynard wants in a church, but honestly, do any of us have the right to make up such a list? After all, whose church is it anyway? As far as I know, the only one who can claim ownership over the church is the builder of it himself—Jesus, and the things he wants in a church are among the following…
- Love for him
- Love for the community of faith
- Representing him to the unbelieving world
- Faithfulnes through hardships
- Faithfulness to his teaching
- Complete reliance on him
Consider these passages…
… I will build my church…
Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
[Jesus prayed], “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Also see Revelation 2-3.
Now, I’m not going to be too critical about the article that Brother Maynard wrote because he basically is making a list of how he believes these basic things should be lived out in a church these days, and I’m not against making lists about what a church should look like. I’m doing the very same thing myself as I’m trying to determine what a biblical and healthy church will look like in the context of Lafayette, Indiana; however, whether Brother Maynard knows it or not, he (and me too if I’m not careful) is contributing to a consumeristic Christianity that says the church is all about what I want.
I believe it’s time to refocus ourselves on what the church should be from God’s eyes. Certainly, we have to consider what the church will look like from the eyes of the watching world ( “…have a good reputation with outsiders…” 1 Timothy 3:7), and we should certainly consider what the church feels like from the inside for the spiritual support, nurture, and growth of believers; but we should never let such pragmatic concerns be the starting point for our discussion about the church.
Honestly, I’m a Baptist, but I don’t even want to talk about what role the sacraments should have in the context of a church without first talking about what role God and His Word should have.
I’m all for pragmatics, but I think it’s about time for Christians to stop talking about “what I want” and to start asking two completely unselfish questions about the church:
- What does God want to be true about my character?
- What actions should I be taking to fulfill God’s call on my life?
For me, I know that God wants me to develop a deeper quality of love for him and for others, and that I need to be planting a church that is reaching lost people with the fabulous news of the God who loves them so much that he would rather die than live without them in his family.