The Mission of the Church: Wrapping Up, Part 2 (The Hollow Church)

Eucharist-Mission1I’ve told this story before, but it bears repeating.

I’m a lawyer. I represent lots of churches. And several years ago — at least a decade ago — I met with the church leadership for a congregation in another town about to embark on a $20 million construction project. It would easily be $30 million if they built it today.

In the course of our discussions, I needed to ask them about their benevolence program. And the leaders looked at each other rather sheepishly. One spoke up, saying, “We don’t have one.” They looked a bit ashamed, staring at their feet. Then one’s face brightened. “Actually, some years, when we have money left over at the end of the year, sometimes we give some that money to a charity. Does that count?”

We American evangelical Christians think the vision of the church is to go to heaven when we die. Logically, then, our entire mission is (a) getting ourselves to heaven and (b) because we love others, helping them get to heaven. And we do that by preaching the gospel– a gospel that usually ends at the baptistry or a Sinner’s Prayer or something like that.

Everything after the baptistry is obedience — and the only point of obedience is to make it to heaven when we die. Except we’re not saved by works. So we’re not real sure why obedience seems so important to the authors of the NT. And so we either obey as though we’re earning heaven when we die — or we obey just enough not to fall away. But we aren’t really all that zealous about obedience because faith saves, not works, and what matters is going to heaven when we die.

The result is a hollow church. We have programs, assemblies, ministers, and ministries all targeted to move people from damned to saved, but having saved them, aren’t entirely sure what to do with all these people. So we tell them to read their Bibles and pray and be good and, please, be sure to fill out the yellow sheets to volunteer for the nursery. And preach Sundays to saved people about how to get saved, because we only know how to get in the church — not what to do now that we’re in.

Of course, an intense focus on evangelism is easily justified from the Great Commission, and countless internally focused ministries can be justified as evangelistic. We can build gyms and hold weight-loss classes and form book clubs and evangelistic covered dish meals and bowling and softball leagues — all for the sake of evangelism and all attended entirely by Christians.

My church used to sponsor a church-league softball team. When someone questioned the wisdom of spending church monies on uniforms, our prior evangelistic success was pointed out. We had, in fact, brought one person to Jesus in 20 years of church-league softball — which put it among our most evangelistically effective church ministries, and easily justified the use of God’s money to buy new uniforms for all the Christian ball players playing in a Christian league against other Christians — to save souls for Jesus.

Something is bad wrong.

The usual response is to try to refocus the church toward better evangelistic techniques. Let’s go feed the poor. Paint some houses. Dig some wells. Becoming servants of the lost world that surrounds us will make us attractive — but we’ll call it “missional” rather than “attractive” because we read a book that says we should do that.

And yet the core assumption remains the same. Christianity is mainly about going to heaven when I die — and helping others make it to heaven when they die. And people are saved to help others make it to heaven.

Therefore, we dig wells to market the gospel — and to instrumentalize (fancy M.Div. term for “use”) people for our purposes. They won’t understand from the gospel that we love them, and so we show them with a fresh coat of paint on their house because we want them to be saved.

And yet, somehow, using people to sell them the gospel doesn’t change that many lives.

So this whole approach places an awful lot of weight on our ability to persuade the damned of their damned status — and hell is no easy sell. For that matter, heaven isn’t either. Frankly, life in the US is so good for so many that most people aren’t looking for a better place.

Therefore, when we get tired of the Plan of Salvation sermons, our preachers preach Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. In fact, many of our preachers have more college credits in counseling than in Bible, because our church members are so desperate for advice on how to cope in a world in which neurosis is a bigger problem than damnation. Ask a Christian if he has a “relationship problem,” and she’ll say “yes,” and she won’t be thinking about her relationship with Jesus. That was handled in the baptistry. Now she needs help coping with her parents, husband, and children.

Again, we’re a mess.

The wolf and the kitty cats story

Imagine that you raise a wolf from a pup in a houseful of cats. That wolf would likely imagine himself to be a cat — poor thing. He’s way too big, can’t run in the small house’s rooms, can’t climb with the other cats, doesn’t much like cat food, and feels that something is deeply wrong — and yet the only thing he knows how to be is a cat. And he’s just not very good it.

One cold, snowy winter day, his master leaves the door open. He wanders outside and hears the howling of a wolfpack over the horizon. His sense of smell, stunted from years of being around household cleaners and kitty litter, smells the wind blowing through the pines — and the scent of a fresh kill over the horizon.

The wolf’s heart leaps, and in near ecstasy — and he has no idea why — he bounds across the snow and through the woods to join his own kind — to do what he was designed to do, to be what he was meant to be.

And for the first time in his wolfish life, he finds joy.

I was seriously tempted to end the story with the wolf eating the kitty cats, but I don’t think that’s what he would do. I think he would no longer much notice the cats. His eyes would follow his nose and the instincts burned deeply into his mind — and join the pack to chase prey. Wolves don’t just kill. They hunt. So the kitty cats, being no challenge, would be safe.

So it’s a lousy parable — and I’m open to suggestions for a better one. But in my mind’s eye, wolves are as instinctively hunters as any animal God has made.  And they can’t be domesticated — not for long. And if you try, you make them miserable. Wolves gotta roam, howl, and hunt.

We’re not done with the Bible lesson. But lesson one is: God teaches us to obey for our own good (Deu 10:13; Jer 32:39) — not meaning so that we won’t go to hell but so we can be truly happy. Because we will be the happiest when we’re doing what we were meant to do and being what we were meant to be.

(Jn. 10:10 ESV)  10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Abundant life, then: that’s what Jesus has on offer, not the thin, hang-on-like-grim-death approach that you find in some churches. The ‘shepherd’ parable in John 10 … explores the intimate relation between shepherd and sheep, with the emphasis on the shepherd’s desire that the sheep be led in the right direction, fed and watered, and kept secure for ever. And the point throughout is that Jesus is contrasted with other would-be Messiahs: thieves and brigands, he calls them. There were plenty of those in Jesus’ world, leaders of marauding gangs on the one hand and ‘holy brigands’ (fundamentalist terrorists, we would call them) on the other. Jesus’ way of leadership, of founding the new movement, was totally different, and totally relevant to his day and ours. A different style, an upside-down ambition, a self-giving love that, as Peter saw, would then be imitated by his followers—the world waits to see what can happen when wandering sheep, brought home by the Shepherd’s love, then start to live by the same pattern.

N. T. Wright, Twelve Months of Sundays: Reflections on Bible Readings, Year A, (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2001), 61.

Within the metaphorical world, life … to the full suggests fat, contented, flourishing sheep, not terrorized by brigands; outside the narrative world, it means that the life Jesus’ true disciples enjoy is not to be construed as more time to fill (merely ‘everlasting’ life), but life at its scarcely imagined best, life to be lived. 

D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), 385.

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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26 Responses to The Mission of the Church: Wrapping Up, Part 2 (The Hollow Church)

  1. Johnny says:

    This post hits home. At least with me. Sounds like a prophet in the Old Testament calling God’s people back to the purpose God had for them to begin with.

  2. James says:

    Most financial records of churches I have seen show less than 3 percent of the budget spent on benevolence. A lot of the programs we fund are totally useless ( like the baseball league). A church I used to attend had a weekly cable TV program for several years. At the end of the program, a voice over announcer asked for phone calls in response. The church sectretary told the elders there had never been one phone call in response to the program, but the elders continued to spend money on the “evangelistic” program. Now that I have reached that designation of an old man, I regret the many years the church has spent plying worship perfection, and not showing Christ to the world, but am encouraged by the actions of a younger generation who are recognizing weightier matters.

  3. laymond says:

    ” So we tell them to read their Bibles and pray and be good and, please, be sure to fill out the yellow sheets to volunteer for the nursery. And preach Sundays to saved people about how to get saved, because we only know how to get in the church — not what to do now that we’re in.”

    I hope we don’t think we can fool God into opening the door. to become a member of Gos’s church, God has to open the door.

    Jas 2:14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
    Jas 2:15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
    Jas 2:16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
    Jas 2:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
    Jas 2:18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
    Jas 2:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
    Jas 2:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

    I believe James tells us what the purpose of the church is.

  4. JES says:

    But, we have lead millions down the wrong path for years. Whether through Paul’s “faith only” argument, which I don’t believe he was making, or James’ works argument, which again, I don’t believe he was making. The truth lies in both, through grace of the cross.

    Most of the time, the efforts are to participate in a Sunday ritual that is intended to support a franchise based salvation.

    God’s not going to buy it!!!

  5. Dwight says:

    I think this is very true in just about every aspect, except that many in the church don’t have the inclination to wander outside and even discouraged from doing that due to the wolves that are abroad, which just happen to be people like us who are trying to get to heaven, but are not us, so they are different.
    I would personally replace the kittens with dogs as wolves and dogs are the same species, but very different in their yearning for the “wild side” vs. being domestic, but any ways.

    I think one thing we don’t teach in the church is what I call “prime directives” of which I am working on as an article.
    These are things that Christians are supposed to do the moment they become Christians and are not dependent upon the church or the assembly and never were.

    People generally know how to love, even if it is themselves, so as a saint they are to be loving to others as Christ was loving to them and this isn’t something that can be taught in a bible lesson or in church, but it can be encouraged and prodded.
    Love, though, is fulfilled in a loving action towards others in all scenarios…church…home…work…etc.

    Giving is another prime directive. The saints are supposed to give. Unfortunately many think that once you have given to the church on Sunday, you have given and met your quota and did your responsibility.
    The example of Jesus was to give when you had the chance or the opportunity.

    This is even true of spreading the gospel, which we are supposed to do, not the church, as if the church could go out at one time and do this. It takes individual time and effort to talk to another individual.
    As we see in Acts the apostles were given the gospel and then the people carried it with them to others.

    We need to encourage and empower the people to be hunters and gatherers, not stay-at-home pets.

  6. Dwight says:

    JES, I think that is a very astute observation. Our “faith based” or “work based” or even “baptism based” ideologies have torn the scriptures apart and has torn people apart into proprietary sects, even when they basically believe and do the same things. Most don’t want to meet and see the similarities, because then they would have to give up their positions which they feel is the right and true position.

    James, I believe, even though well intentioned, most of our efforts and fliers, pamphlets, advertising, etc. in an effort to evangelize is just wasted money, but it makes us feel like we are doing something after all their is proof. The problem is that there are no results. We look in the scriptures and don’t emulate that. It is much like our invitation system…invitation and then invitation song and then nobody comes up, time after time, but we are evangelizing or at least think we are. We do the same thing with no results, over and over and over again.
    We want others to change, but we won’t.

  7. Alabama John says:

    Spend all you want on ‘programs” and the results will be very low.

    Face to face is the only way to get high results.

    Big buildings and other outreaches are easy as they only require us to be in contact with each other and not the dreaded face to face teaching with the lost.

    Sometimes I think we should have a program where we have members get a little drunk and talk to folks at a bar or beer joint. The results would be higher.

  8. John F. says:

    One definition of insanity is repeating the same experiment over and over, expecting different results. On the pendulum of beliefs, dead center would be a perfect understanding of Biblical practice and spiritual life, but the pendulum swings, and we dispute over where the perfect center is, while failing to recognize that our differences are most often over the “3% mean deviation, while almost all would recognize a 30% deviation is ultimately destructive and lacks fidelity to scriptural authority. I doubt many cry as does God over division and discord.

  9. Larry Cheek says:

    I guess we were not supposed to take lessons from the lives lived by the Apostles as they were instructed to promote Jesus. Some of the events which are being described as what the church should be doing are totally foreign from any of the actions reveled about the Apostles. None were involved in attempting to lift a beggar, a homeless person, a poor destitute family who were satisfied to be there into a higher standard of living within local society. Over the years not only churches but individuals and governments have attempted to help people in those conditions and they have found the the truth that has been reveled. No amount of help, well let me rephrase that, will change these individuals attitude of live into a new person who imitates the one who is providing help. Christ testifies to that after feeding the thousands. They began to follow him only for the benefits. The only way to be helpful in bringing these people to a place in society to not be a burden on society is to change their hearts. Christ can do that, just like Zacchaeues, there was no monetary gain in his change of mind and character, it was Jesus.
    In fact, this work of attempting to bring all of creation up to a better standard parallels with Pantheism goals far greater than any messages in God’s Words. We are straying further and further from a 24/7 worshiping God in (Spirit and Truth). A human should not be dependent upon health and wealth, or anything of a physical nature to be able to be in a proper Spirit with God. This is proven each and every day by martyrs and those in sick beds, those in prisons, slaves in many areas of the world. There is no environment in this world in which a man can be alive which is not available for the Spirit relationship to be correct with God. When we are born again our spirits are connected with God,s and the only way to disconnect that relationship is just as Jay has expressed you have to turn your back on God and Christ. Well lets think about that for a moment, when we begin to place more emphasis on the creation (this would include mankind and our brothers and sisters in Christ) than we place upon God and Christ, we are turning our backs upon the Creator, replacing The Creator with the creation. These demands that are being placed upon unity among our brethren were never the center of the teachings of the scriptures. One individual and God is a majority. You do not believe that, try telling your story to any of the Patriarchs, Prophets. Show us some evidence in scripture where there were communities where all individuals were serving God in the same frame of mind and no one ever strayed.

  10. Mark says:

    Moralistic Therapeutic Deism reduced Christianity to just believe that God is somewhere and be good. This was not a good thing but is how a lot of young people see Christianity.

  11. Monty says:

    Softball leagues for the sake of evangelism is a stretch. But a group of Christian men getting together and enjoying a sport they love and probably played since their youth for good ole fellowship I think is a good thing. Been there and done that. And we used to buy our own jerseys and the church might have paid 200 for entry into the league. The wives and girl friends usually attend and watch the men(rather converse with each other) and so it’s a way of drawing closer and it only last for about 10 weeks during the summer. I’m sure it’s not appealing to nerdy types. Maybe churches should offer computer classes to draw those types into fellowship, nothing wrong with that. Most men are lonely(for male friendship) to some degree or other.

    What about having a “Gospel Meeting” twice a year in which you pay a visiting preacher 700-1,000 counting hotel and gas expenses and the members don’t show up much less bring someone unchurched. And we do it because……..other churches are having them……or we have always done our outreach that way and at least we are doing something.

  12. JES says:

    After years of church “sampling” my family settled down in the CoC. They claimed to “speak only the bible”, but I did not find that to be true. Our “home congregation” was more interested in telling the community why they were going to hell than in teaching the Good News and finding common ground.

    As a result of this upbringing my family, four generations later, have a “simpler” view of Christanity. Over these 70 years or so, we have seen changes emerg in our tribe. Changes that would never be accepted in certain locations, even today. Many of these are good and could lead to unity if we would let that happen, but that will not happen until we ALL agree that salvation is God’s call, not ours.

    We need to refocus on how lucky we are that God and Christ provided a way for all of us to stand justified through Christ’s blood. Then, maybe, we can learn to love one another; (and ourselves).

  13. Dwight says:

    Monty, I agree we should get together more in all situations. What I find is that we often will get together for say a sporting event, movie, etc. and forget Jesus in the process, because we have designated it as a secular gathering. When Christians are gathering for any event, it is not a gathering of secular people and we should not view the event as being separate from God’s eyes and God’s influence. This has been unfortunately the mode in the coC for many years…secular is secular and religious is religious. This is because of the Regulative Principle that argues that God regulates and is over worship and not over anything else. The scriptures speak otherwise. God is over all of the Christians life in all things.

  14. Monty says:

    Dwight,

    Amen!

  15. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Monty,

    What’s the difference between what you propose and the local country club? If the goal is fellowship, 18 holes, a tennis court, and a restaurant get the job done! And I agree that we need friends and time together with them.

    But it’s not, you know, Christianity. It’s not anti-Christian but it’s not Christian if the goal is simply to have a good time with friends. The pagans do the same. Maybe better.

    Again, I’m not at all against such things. But when the church takes on the functions of a country club, civic club, or book club, it likely has lost its sense of mission and its vision.

    Think instead in terms of mission but mission while in fellowship. What would that look like? Well, not church league softball. Maybe it would look like secular softball with some Christian men joining a secular team in a secular league so they can be salt and light to the lost — while having fun together with friends.

    Or maybe it’s offering computer classes to people too poor to buy a computer, together with resume and job interview training, so your members can share their nerdy skills with people in need of some coaching and a hand up — and a chance to make new friends and to share Jesus while you’re at it.

    This is not hard to imagine. It’s just not how we do things — because we associate evangelism with futile, unpleasant work like door-knocking and time-wasting “gospel” meetings, and we associate “fellowship” with playing ball with other Christians. We just don’t see that a life lived on mission, a life lived abundantly, and the joys of Christian friends are not mutually exclusive. In fact, there is nothing more fun than working on something that you are passionate about with other passionate friends — and actually accomplishing something that will matter for the rest of history and forever thereafter.

    So I’m suggesting that maybe we aim higher than mere fellowship and find fellowship in mission.

  16. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry wrote,

    I guess we were not supposed to take lessons from the lives lived by the Apostles as they were instructed to promote Jesus. Some of the events which are being described as what the church should be doing are totally foreign from any of the actions reveled about the Apostles. None were involved in attempting to lift a beggar, a homeless person, a poor destitute family who were satisfied to be there into a higher standard of living within local society.

    Seriously?

    (Acts 3:1 ESV) Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. 4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. 11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him.

    Peter and John relieved the suffering of a lame man, and used the occasion to preach Jesus.

    Then there’s —

    (Acts 5:12-16 ESV) 12 Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

    How did the early church grow? In part by the healing ministry of the apostles.

    So I guess these beggars, blind, lame people were incapable of being helped by the power of God. They must have only joined the church for what they could get out of it. Luke seems to disagree, but what does he know?

    Oh, and then there’s —

    (Matt. 5:13-16 ESV) 13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

    That way I see it, we’re commanded rather plainly to do good works and to do so in a way that others see it and give glory to God. If we start with the cynical assumption that people will only respond to love selfishly, well, Jesus disagrees.

    Pantheism? Seriously? You’re actually accusing me to teaching the worship of Creation because I repeat God’s commands to care for his “very good” creation? If I care for my own body, does that mean I worship my body? If I care for my wife, does that make her an idol? Does caring for something belonging to God out of love for God necessarily make me worship what I care for rather than God? Obviously, anything can be done incorrectly, but to suggest that all concern for Creation is Pantheism is contrary to reason.

    God says,

    (Ps. 8:3-9 ESV) 3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? 5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, 7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. 9 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

    Our God-given dominion over the Creation is built on the majesty of God himself. Some people do confuse creation for creator, but it doesn’t have to be that way, and Psalm 8 shows us how to relate properly both to God and to his creation. So I figure we should do that.

  17. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry (Part 2),

    Think about the people commended in Acts. For example,

    (Acts 10:1-2 ESV) At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, 2 a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.

    (Acts 9:36-42 ESV) 36 Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. 37 In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” 39 So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. 40 But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.

    We also see the church growing by the simple acts of charity from one believer to another. No miracles required. And these people were richly rewarded by God for their kindness to others.

    Now were these people earning their salvation? No. They were justified by faith? Then why bother?

    Why did the apostles risk lives and health and prison to do miracles? They were saved by faith, too?

    You see — THAT’S THE POINT. We are SO hyper-focused on heaven and salvation that we can’t make ourselves think in other terms. It’s the legalistic stink that just won’t wash off. We just can’t see a point or motivation in anything not directly tied to heaven or hell.

    And yet Paul didn’t suffer shipwreck and stonings just to earn heaven. That wasn’t really his motivation. Heaven was certain part of it, but if it was just heaven, why do so much? Take so many risks? Work so hard at such a high cost?

    Well, there are several ways of looking at it. I think it’s most helpful to think relationally.

    If your mother calls you and asks you to help put a bookcase together for her, even though you’re 50 years old and she’s got no money and not going to leave you one dime for an inheritance, you happily go and help her — because you love her. Because it’s your nature. Because it’s the kind of person you are. Because you find joy in serving your mother. And NOT because you’re afraid she’ll disinherit you or even stop loving you — although the thought of disappointing her is unbearably painful. It’s not the fear of loss of inheritance or sonship that drives most of us — it’s the fear of disappointing her. And we sons take pleasure in serving our mothers. In making her proud. In seeing her desires fulfilled and wishes come true.

    So if we’d just learn to think of God that way, then we’d not be the least worried about whether caring for the Creation damns or saves or is essential or not essential. We’d ask whether it pleases God. And once we read Psalm 8 and Gen 1 and 2 — and many other passages and learn that God cares very much about the Creation he made — and we’d care very much for the Creation, too — because God cares and we want to care about what he cares about. Pleasing someone we love and we wish to be proud of us motivates us — not fear. Not damnation. Not earning salvation. Love. And wanting — more than anything — to be like our rabbi.

  18. Monty says:

    Most Christians meet for an hour or two for service each week and that’s the extent of any kind of fellowship. Bigger congregations have perhaps small group on Sunday evenings where they gather, eat, pray and maybe some discussions concerning spiritual matters. For a lot of small say 250 or less congregations they meet three times a week and they may, (may) arrive 10 minutes early and stay for 10-15 minutes after. Not much time for any meaningful fellowship. Often times 2-3 couples may go out to eat or to someone’s house for a Sunday evening meal. Any time Christians can get together and find common bonds the better and the healthier a congregation should be. Some of the same people I have played softball and golf with are the brothers I have gone with to hold services in prisons. Some of the best times of my life (most meaningful spiritually) haven’t been between the walls of a church but on the rides to and from the golf course with 3 other brothers on a weekly basis getting to know them and being comfortable enough to discuss anything and everything. That would have never happened without the time spent outside of church.

    Of course finding ways to evangelize and be salt is best concerning evangelism. But I wasn’t taking about evangelism per say. We seem to have crossed some wires. It’s been my experience that you won’t go to a prison to hold service with someone(even if a brother) whom you have spent very little time together. The closer you are to your brothers the more likely you will be to go with them when asked to do something evangelistically. There should be plenty of bonding experiences. We must remember that the apostles spent 3 years of intense training and fellowshipping before being sent out to be salt and light. Those early Acts 2 converts spent every day together initially and eating in each other’s homes. More was better. Granted they didn’t play softball together but I feel certain they shared their lives in whatever ways were appropriate for that day.

    Everything you said is true Jay, and I believe everything I have said is true in my experience. I wasn’t proposing anything. Just commenting.

  19. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay,
    The central point I had in mind still prevails. The power of the Gospel is in the Word, and when we attempt to use physical substances which are appealing to the targeted audience, we act as if we do not respect the power of the Gospel. The Gospel which was being delivered by the Apostles was in Word. Actions such as Apostles performed we cannot do today. So as we look at the message describing these events and the results they brought, what type of actions could we see in place that would produce the same results today?
    Think about (Acts 3:1 ESV) Peter and John relieved the suffering of a lame man, and used the occasion to preach Jesus. By performing a miracle that no man or men can do today. I guess we could take this lame man to a hospital where he could be treated for what ails him, but we cannot directly repair this man with words that will make his body whole, Spirit maybe, body no.
    Then look at (Acts 5:12-16 ESV) There are plenty of unbelievers who are in bondage to unclean spirits and need healing. Can you find anyone who can use the power of God today to perform actions that compare with this message?
    Then your comment, “So I guess these beggars, blind, lame people were incapable of being helped by the power of God. They must have only joined the church for what they could get out of it. Luke seems to disagree, but what does he know?”
    Whatever would prompt the comment that they (joined the church)? The text does not convey that concept. (Join the church) in concept is only found in the following passage. Of course this was Paul.
    Act 9:26-27 ESV And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. (27) But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus.

    Look at the text again, added to the Lord, is a different concept than joining the church. Joining is an action initiated by the individual, these being added to the Lord is something only the Lord can do. No individual can add themselves to the Lords Church (body).
    14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,
    Then we are fully aware that individuals then and today can submit to directives how to be added to the Church and that their acceptance by the church, in this action they have not committed themselves to Christ. As you have mentioned many times before, men today teach obedience to the church, leaving out Jesus.

    I’ll post on the Pantheism concept tomorrow.

  20. Alabama John says:

    Interesting that all the Apostles and even Jesus served time and as a result became an ex-con.
    They all went to the lost, didn’t wait for them to walk in the church front doors.
    Rubbed shoulders with and did good things, often very simple things with and for the folks most ignore as lost today, remember the woman at the well.
    Most if not all of us work or play in close proximity to the lost so it is easy to just take the opportunity to tell about Jesus and heaven describing as best you can and be known for doing so.
    The result might not be obvious immediately but you will be remembered and when calamitys happen to those you contacted, they will come to you for comfort, help and prayer.
    That is something I am sure of!!!

  21. Dwight says:

    We have a tendency to separate needs…human needs from other human needs, when they are…needs. While Jesus did come to seek and save the lost, he also attended the needs of those around him. This was the sense of the parable of the “good Samaritan” and ironically within the story there is not a mention of salvation or the gospel.
    But being a “good Samaritan” was part of the gospel.
    Love the Lord your God (first and greatest command) and love your neighbor as yourself (second command).
    Now when we use the word church we often move between the institutional and the people in types.
    We might argue the church is not to help others, but we are. What?
    Now I might agree that the assembly is to be a family and support each other and edify each other, but this doesn’t constitute the boundaries of the church.

    We often say, “if church takes on the functions of a country club, civic club, or book club, it likely has lost its sense of mission and its vision.”
    But one of the problems is to think of the local church as a club, when it is just a gathering. The club is joined in heaven, and we just reflect that here by assembling.
    The “church” as in an assembly.gathering was never saddled with the job or mission other than itself, not preaching, teaching, evangelism, etc, but we as the church-people were to evangelize, etc.

    It is ironic that there are no mentions of entertainment or gatherings in the scriptures that were just for fun or self-pleasure. If anything occurred at all it was to be directed to God. Even the eating was a socializing event that most likely had God at it center to some extent. The Gentiles as noted in Amos and notably the Greeks/Romans brought self-pleasure entertainment to the forefront and focused on it and the Jews bought in, while leaving God out. This has become our problem as well.

  22. Monty says:

    The church is a gathering of friends (or at least it should be). Friends who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Family even, brothers and sisters in Christ we are. We’re brothers and sisters by virtue of having God as our same Father but for a lot of folks that designation is the extent of any true meaningful relationship.

    Jesus told his disciples I have called you friends. “Friends” implies relationship. Mutual friendships don’t just happen because we meet at a building with Church of Christ on it and sing and pray and take juice and cracker from a tray. They have to be developed over time. Now granted in the assembling of people with like faith building those friendships should happen easier and quicker than outside the church but they still take watering and fertilizing. Some of the biggest rifts and blow ups I have witnessed have been shamefully among brethren who had never truly become friends. There is no real short-cuts for developing friendships, even if the assembly. Some of the loneliest people I have seen have been after church service waiting and hoping someone would say a kind word to them. Of the folks who come into our midst and come and go, it’s often the ones who feel left out who leave, never to return.

    But the answer isn’t necessarily smiling and shaking a hand and saying “HI” but in the invitation to join us for lunch or supper, or to play golf, be on the church softball team, or to play cards or ping pong or quilt together. To say all we should do is attend worship together and go out and knock doors together or work in a soup kitchen is naïve. That’s not how people function. At least not best.

  23. Dwight says:

    There is a great bit of irony in that we say “come to church” so you can be part of us and then we have two hours of not getting to know the other person and then afterwards we spend a short time trying to get to know them.
    And sometimes the most we find out about another is what is announced at the end of worship service or in the church bulletin.
    Being with one another doing the same thing is great if you are building a team, but not so much if you are building a relationship based on knowledge.
    Monty, I think lunch or supper is the best time to learn about another. And then I would suggest a bible study. Sometimes playing sports or going to a movie might build a comrade, but don’t allow for much communication of thoughts.
    Now having said that I would also argue that the more time, of any type, we spend with another Christian is of more advantage than the time we spend with others at work, etc.

  24. Larry Cheek says:

    What is really sad is so many times those whom we come in contact with at work, maybe even 40 hours a week may not know that you are a Christian.

  25. Monty says:

    You can learn a lot about another person playing golf with them on a regular basis especially if you travel together to and from the course. You can learn while playing if they are honest or if they will fudge their score or roll a ball over in the rough to improve their lie if not understood ahead of time it’s ok to do so. You will learn really quick if they have some anger issues. You will learn if they have a problem with foul language or not. Golf tends to challenge what’s in a man’s heart.

    As you travel to and from the course(often taking 30-60 minutes)unless you live on the course, you will have lot’s of conversation time coupled with riding in the golf cart together for 3 hours. You will find out how spiritual a person is or isn’t. You will find out things about their families, their hobbies aside from golf, their jobs, their religious leanings, their political views, among other things. The closest people in the church tend towards investing lot’s of time together. Golf is an excellent way to find out about a brother and really get to know them.

    I played golf with a couple of elders in the church(and a consistent subset of other members) every week for several years. We shared a lot of life together. They were good men and taught me a lot about how to be a better man through observation and interaction. We discussed our share of doctrine and brotherhood issues traveling back and forth to play. I would have never had that opportunity to get to know them like I did in any other context that I can think of.

    These elders conducted a weekly Bible study at a nearby state prison for all those years. They played golf every Tuesday during the day and conducted the Bible study that night at the prison. I’m sure they would have conducted the Bible study together regardless of playing golf together, but I’m also sure they enjoyed each other’s company a lot more for having done so.

  26. Dwight says:

    Monty, But it’s still…golf! Should we have to put another person through that kind of torture to find out how good they are?
    Just kidding. Good point.
    It’s all about sharing ourselves with another and them sharing themselves with you.
    I would prefer something more worthwhile perhaps, but that is me.

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