|Saw this on my way home one afternoon...|
I was in Bible study the other day and one of the questions that was asked was "What would your ideal church look like?" It was a question that was asked in trepidation for the simple fact that as humans we tend to be "legalistic" and "fleshly" about our answers.
What makes a great church? Great Life Groups + fantastic children's programs + awesome worship music + a pastor that kept things interesting. When did we start expecting so little in the tools that help build up of our faith? Those answers were things that we admitted to thinking, but didn't really believe it. Our attendance has dropped off dramatically since our service went to early evening and there have been a myriad of reasons. I can imagine that was difficult for my pastor and leadership team to watch happen, but their prayer, I believe, has always been - just stay connected to a church family, no matter what.
One woman whose son is in seminary school as we speak, said that he was being taught (and he subsequently disagreed with the teacher) that to have elements like those mentioned above are what make for a "fail proof formula" for churches to succeed! We all processed that fact for a moment, responded with the appropriate emotion - utter disbelief - and then chimed in with "Ok, yeah - whatever...that's a load of crap". Ok, well I said that - not the other ladies. :)
But the question made me do something I've been doing a LOT this last year...examining the different aspects of a belief and deciding what I believe. Here goes...what I believe makes a great church:
First and foremost I believe that the land we've been given and the building that we hope to build is indeed not FOR us. It is a place to call home, but a building is not what makes a "church home"...it's His people who are living and walking out their faith in real and tangible ways. God is allowing us to move forward bit by bit by His leading, His power, His strength and most importantly FOR HIS PURPOSE.
Secondly, we, OCF, don't need to define what makes a great church. Jesus did that for us. He created that model AND the model of lifestyle for Christ following believers, regardless of our "religion". I was given a prophetic word to start reading the book of James and stay in it till I started to see things change. I believe this word is not just for me, but for the church as well!! Love is the starting and ending place. From there we build our church based on the wisdom and knowledge of the Bible and seeking His will, period.
I loved a story in Derek Prince's book "The Fruit of the Spirit". I'm horrible about summarizing a story, but I can tell you what stuck out at me. He made the point that EXPERIENCING God for one's self is the only way that He will become real to your heart and head. And that is my prayer for our church - each and every person who comes through those doors experiences Him for themselves so that they are moved to truly start living their lives with power! I can WANT for a friend to become a believer with all my heart and soul - but my enthusiasm is all for nothing - they have to want and experience Him for themselves. And here's what I love about God...the simple prayer of wanting to know and experience Him is something that He is FAITHFUL to do...FAITHFUL! Just ask Him and He WILL!!
These are 3 of the things that I believe make a church...and I'm still searching - not just to help define what I believe, but to find ways to walk it out, ways to serve, ways to pray!
When I see and hear things more than 2 or 3 times, I'm learning to pay attention. Here's what I believe God is building us up to be as family of believers...
- We come expecting. We come expecting to experience Him in some way - not just in church, but every day of our lives!
- We are unified in our beliefs and purpose...loving others, shaing our lives and speaking God's truth - simple and sweet.
- We are moved and act and love in the power of God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Christ - we can't do it in OUR strength!!
- We seek Him in all things, BELIEVE He CAN and WILL have our backs, be with us always and go before us in ALL things.
- We live like we believe that He cares and moves in & about EVERY aspect of our lives...every detail...He misses nothing and cares about all of it!
I have to tell you that I struggled with #4 this past year...wrestled, cried and mourned the idea that "He could, but would He do "it" (whatever "it" was at the time) for me?". Something in me changed and while I can't put a date and time stamp on it I simply started to believe. He transformed the way I was thinking. I simply believed that He is for me, that yes - there is a purpose for my life and I'm the only one who can walk it out. And I don't have to walk it out in my strength or power...I walk in His. It's not all unicorns and rainbows and glitter - but without a doubt it's more truly fulfilling than anything worldly.
I can imagine this is a lot to read and process...and it may be scary for someone who doesn't know me personally to read. I assure you, it's not. I'm simply becoming the person who God created me to be. It's a marathon, not a sprint. I miss my mark, change lanes and require do-over's most days. But there is progress...and God is faithful...and I am being transformed...and for the first time in my life I am happy.
Here are some of the resources that have helped me...if you are searching, there are answers to be found!! There is one God who is faithful! Get excited about your life and get moving in your quest to learn about Him!!
Getting to know the Holy Spirit...Forgotten God
Learning about the promised gifts of the Holy Spirit for your life...The Gifts of the Spirit
Challenging your daily walk...Crazy Love
Understanding why you do what you do...Seven Longings of the Human Heart
As always, consider this a personal invitation to come visit OCF and experience God for yourself! Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend and we'll talk again soon!!