3. Simple churches offer less at the church building, thus creating opportunities for missional living.
Uh, guys, we just dropped $4 million on this building. Are you saying that it interfere’s with living for Jesus? You should have seen our old building … now that got in the way! We’re not about to give up our building, with the new coffee service and preschool playground and the great new sound system!
And then they wrote —
Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us (I Peter 2:11-12).
The first part of Peter’s challenge is critical: Live a holy and pure life. But the second part of Peter’s challenge is equally important: Live a holy and pure life among those who do not know God.
I’ve never heard anyone put the emphasis on “among the pagans”! The emphasis has always been on “holy and pure.” It makes a difference. It’s easier to be holy and pure among fellow Christians. Doing it among the pagans is much, much tougher.
All too often we have discovered that church programming dominates the schedules of members to the point that there is just no time nor energy left in members lives to do the very thing they were created for–live as redemptive agents of the Kingdom of God. This results in both a de-energized body and a gathering of individuals who do not feel fulfilled in their own lives because they are not using their natural, God-given gifts to work in the fields in which the Lord has placed them.
Churches with minimal programming help their people live among the world as missionaries by not asking them to live at the church, but to live as the church.
Or consider 1 Corinthians 5 —
(1 Cor 5:9-13) I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people– 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. … 12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. …
Notice the “not at all” in verse 10. Paul says that Christians who do such things must be expelled from the church — “With such a man do not even eat” — but he seems to actually encourage us to associate with such people outside the church. The only alternative he sees is to “leave this world” — die and go to be with Jesus! He doesn’t even consider the choice of only associating with Christians!
Churches with minimal programming encourage their members to know their neighbors, coach their kids’ little league teams, attend the PTA meetings, and play in the city recreational leagues. And as Christ stepped into our culture, these church members are living incarnationally in the everyday environments life offers us. As Christ is Immanuel (God with us), these church members live God with us lives within the context of their communities.
Yes! But it’s not quite that simple. You see, while it’s great to get to go to that PTA meeting rather than a church event, you have to figure out how to be Jesus at the PTA — which is not so easy. And you have to be prepared to be treated as Jesus was treated — adored by some, hated by others.
Now notice the contrast they draw. There’s no church-league softball. There’s no private school where only Christians are welcome. Rather, we play in the community leagues, living like Jesus and expecting to be different. And we either go to public schools or invite the world into our private schools (in much more than token numbers) — so we can be Jesus to the community.
We are to be salt sprinkled on the world, changing all we touch, making it tastier to God — not blocks of salt that kill all life around us while we are comfortably pure among the pure.