WHY DOES THE CHURCH EXIST

From the archives of Steve Bowen’s blog NEXT WAVE:

Why does the church Exist?

The Church is God’s great idea. It is a place where people can discover a new life living a new way. The people of the early church were “the called out ones”, “disciples”, and followers of the “Way”. In the early church there was an atmosphere which included a sense of awe, togetherness, unselfishness, unity, power, community, and a strong sense of mission. The resulting fruit?… The Lord added to the church day by day those being saved…and the church found favor with all the people.

Our mission and focus is all important. It defines why we exist and why we are here. Emil Bruner in his book God’s Forgetful Pilgrims, Recalling the Church To Its Reason For Being states,’The Church exists by mission as fire exists by burning. Terry Virgo, leader of New Frontiers Ministry in the U.K. once said, ‘When we lose sight of the great commission we lose sight of our great prophetic purpose in life.’ Both statements are extremely important. When any church focuses upon any thing less than the Great Commission as it’s primary purpose for existence it will eventually loose it’s purposeful mission. That church will quickly forget why it is blessed in the first place.

Many people need to recover their sense of mission. Disillusioned Charismatics in particular, who were seeking the great dream of a painless, prosperous Christianity have realized the dream was merely a vapor without substance. In their pursuit to find fulfillment through the accumulation of things, and seeking to become successful they have become inward and blessing focused.

God wants to get the attention of the church. His purpose… that the church might seek Him and discover His passion for our dismembered world.

It is interesting to view church movements from a distance. While some seek Him for personal blessing, others seek Him for the lost. They are mission/value-driven. Some of the fastest-growing churches in the USA are in this category. They are doing all they can to reach everyone they can. They are focused upon the main thing. Everything else follows.

For example Pastor Rick Warren… with the 15,000 member Saddleback Church… author of the 1,000,000 best seller The Purpose Driven Church… He encourages leaders to recapture their purpose, by defining their mission…A church committed to the great commandment and to the great commission will grow a great church.

80% of his church growth is by first-time believers. As one man stated, “We cannot continue to be a traditional church and expect non-believers to want to be a part of it. They won’t. They don’t want our religion. They want to experience the reality of life-changing answers for life’s problems and the God of that reality.”

The questions Warren asks in his book provoke thought…What drives your church? What is it’s purpose in life? What is it’s mission? Does your church have a sense of mission? Or is it a church adrift?

Sometimes getting back to our foundations defines our business. As Christians and church leaders we need to continually ask ourselves, what business are we in? and how is business? Sometimes it is facing the hard questions. We need to discover our present reality in order to move forward.

One year during a losing season Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi gathered the team together and said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” This is getting back to basics. I think our great Coach would like to gather His team together, point to our world and say, ‘Church this is your mission.’ It really does matter where you focus your aim. It will set the course of your life.

Where are you aiming? Inward or outward? What is your purpose? Why do you exist?

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NO KIND OF CHURCH AT ALL

“In a sermon Dick Lucas once preached, he recounted an imaginary conversation between an early Christian and her neighbor in Rome.

“Ah,” the neighbor says. “I hear you are religious! Great! Religion is a good thing. Where is your temple or holy place?”

“We don’t have a temple,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our temple.”

“No temple? But where do your priests work and do their ritual?”

“We don’t have priests to mediate the presence of God,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our priest.”

“No priests? But where do you offer your sacrifices to acquire the favor of your God?”

“We don’t need a sacrifice,” replies the Christian. “Jesus is our sacrifice.”

“What kind of religion is this?” sputters the pagan neighbor.

And the answer is, it’s no kind of religion at all.”

—- Tim Keller, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, p. 48.

SOLVING UNSOLVEABLE PROBLEMS

Solving Unsolvable Problems 

Posted: 12 Dec 2010 02:30 PM PST

Some problems have staying power. And good leaders admit it when a solution to a problem will not come to fruition. Allow me to offer you two perspectives—one from the solution side and the other from the problem side. First, leaders can select the right problem to solve but craft a poor solution. Or they can attempt to solve the wrong problem.

Poor solution. Don’t be guilty of wanting to hang on to your ideals—the best solutions—that you know are right, because sometimes the right solution becomes the wrong answer for a problem. Perhaps the solution was poorly communicated. Perhaps the solution was before its time. Perhaps the leader just didn’t do a good job of selling it to the people. For whatever reason, the people being led just did accept it.

Wrong problem. Don’t be guilty of trying to solve the wrong problems. You may be right. Those needing to change may be wrong. But sometimes leaders just pick the wrong battle. Don’t be wrong for being right about the wrong problem.

As a pastor, I have been guilty of both—poor solutions to the right problems and good solutions to the wrong problems. I have fought needless battles. I have nitpicked problems. Clearly, sin problems in the church do not go unaddressed, and the Bible gives plain instructions on how to deal with sin. But some problems are not due to sin. They can be caused by poor planning, bad technology, odd traditions, and outside influences, among many others.

So what’s a leader to do in these cases of unsolvable problems? What if you cannot ignore the issue? What if you must address the problem? These cases are not easy for leaders. Below are a few guidelines to consider.

Concede. Have self-awareness that your solution is not working. Acknowledge that you need a new plan. You “best” solution may never work (and it may really be the best solution). Sometimes leaders have to concede and settle for plan B. Sometimes followers will never grasp the best solution. Remember, leaders serve the people, not their own ideals.

Consensus. Most think of consensus positively—the majority opinion wins out. But the majority does not always have the right solution, nor do they always pick the right problems to solve. When consensus gets ugly, no one gets what they want but most can live with the outcome. Consensus can turn solutions sour and cause problems to perpetuate.

Leaders can use consensus, however, by building it. Don’t start with a large bundle of ideas and allow the people to whittle down the options. Start with one or two new solutions and let the people build them up by making them their own.

Conversations. I’ve discovered something about leading the church—rumors work better if you start them. If you’re shifting plans and proposing a new approach to an old problem, get feedback from the people through the rumor mill. Have low key conversations with key people and assume they will “talk.” Then listen. Track the pulse of the body. Check the excitement (or dissatisfaction) level and continue crafting your solution.

Creativity. Conceding your ideal solution is not the same as admitting defeat. But it does require more creativity in building another solution. If the problem is unsolvable, then extra creativity is needed to find resolution. The problem may always be there. For instance, a landlocked, growing church in a downtown may not have the luxury of buying more land or building taller. Be creative in addressing the problem. If the problem is obvious, leaders can earn much respect by figuring out the next best solution.

What are some ways you approach unsolvable problems? Do you have any success stories?
This post comes from Sam Rainer’s blog CHURCH FORWARD.

RAISING UP LEADERS FOR A NEW GENERATION

Here are two of the future leaders of the church I serve, the Church of God of Landisville. Actually, at this moment they are present day leaders as they are leading our congregation in worship as part of a recent Children’s Sunday. In fact, they are sharing part of the morning message, carrying out the role I often fill on Sunday morning’s as the church’s Lead and Preaching Pastor.

They did a superb job. This serves two critical purposes for a church that seeks to be immeasurably more. First, it helps the adult part of the congregation understand that these young people have gifts, gifts that bless the Body and help us carry out our mission.  Too often adults think of children only as the church of the future. Secondly, it is a training experience and an anchor as these two kids discover and exercise their gifts from God. Thom Rainer says that such experiences of significant ministry are critical to helping a young person discover that the church is essential in their lives.  Allowing them to do so is an investment in the future, because such experiences make it more likely that they will not leave the church when they enter their late teens and young adulthood.

Raising up leaders for a new generation begins with the children.

BEING THE CHURCH

“Somewhere along the way “church” for some people became a once-a-week event, an event with no sense of community.” – Thom and Sam Rainer Essential Church

In my life I have come to understand that there is a difference between being and doing. Often we simply do many things without discerning whether or not they reflect who we truly are. In fact, some forms of doing can keep us from being who God created us to be. Activity alone is more often or not a reflection of expectations others place on us or as an excuse for not having healthy expectations of ourselves. The result can be a shallow or empty life while giving a different impression on the surface.

Churches go through the same dilemma. We speak of going to church or doing ministry. Do showing up (even faithfully) and engaging in a ministry activity constitute being the church that God created us to be?

Recently churches and leaders have been using this challenge: STOP going to church. They are not advocating forsaking of the assembling of ourselves together. They are challenging us to be more concerned with fulfilling/living out our purpose as the scriptures describe it than with showing up for services on Sunday morning.

Rainer and Rainer describe who the church is – it is a community, it is an interdependent Body out of which we do ministry. We encourage one another, discipline one another, equip one another, support one another not because they are godly activities but because it is what it means to be the community of Jesus Christ. If our activities, our schedules, our priorities keep us from being that community – we have stopped truly being the church except in name.

YOU CAN’T LOVE JESUS AND NOT LOVE THE CHURCH

One of the most intriguing images found in the Bible is that of the Church as the Bride of Christ. The Church is Christ’s partner, His helpmate. The Church is united to Christ by covenant. That covenant is rooted in Christ’s giving of Himself for the Church and then the Church giving of itself to Him in return.  Spiritually speaking, the two are one.

That oneness is described in another form in 1 Corinthians 12 when the Church is also called the Body of Christ. The Church is the continuing, living embodiment of the Person of Jesus Christ.  We are united with Him through our baptism and held to Him as inseparable because of his unconditional love.

Today, a whole lot of people feel free to despise the church.  Dan Kimball has written an excellent book called They Like Jesus, But Not the Church. Dan describes an unpleasant, even tragic reality in the 21st century. People want to have Jesus, but they want to have nothing to do with the church.

In 0ne sense, the church has earned such an attitude.  Too often the church has forgotten it was the Bride, and acted like it could be Christ’s representative without reflecting the nature and character of Christ.  But that doesn’t change a deeper reality.

God chose the church. Christ made a covenant with the Bride. He did not make that covenant because of who the Bride was but because of Who He (the Groom) is.  To chose to hate the church, to try to separate Christ from His Bride is to ask Him to divorce Himself from the Church.  This Christ clearly will n0t do.  He keeps His promises out of His unconditional love. That’s why Paul would write in Ephesians 4:25ff: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish.”

Many years ago, my father who is a pastor, said to his church, “You can come to me if you have a concern about my wife; but you need to understand I will never take sides against her. Even if I believe she is wrong and needs to make a change, I will do that because I believe it needs to be; not because you want it to be. You cannot ask me to choose you over her, she is my wife. You cannot ask me to love you by despising my wife. She is and will always be a part of me.”

I believe that’s what Christ would say to those church-despisers.  He loves His church. He loves her enough to help her to become who she is capable of being; but he  will never abandon her. Human spouses might do that – but he is God, not man, the Holy One.