Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Drinking Beer in the Church Parking Lot

Ephesians 2:19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

 There is a value in staying connected.  Researchers are saying that the number of people in the U.S. that are actively involved in church is decreasing at a very steady pace.  There are several major contributing factors to this, but one of them is that a lot of folks just do not see the need.  In fact, according to the Reveal Study, long-time church goers indicate that their church does a poor job at helping them stay connected to Christ and to make progress in their spiritual growth. 

My own thought is that the remedy to this is found here in Ephesians.  The great need is not simply for more churches if the new ones are going to be like a majority of the old ones.  The great need is for a new church that looks a lot like the ancient church.  I won't talk about what is wrong with the present day church.  You can look at the Scriptures yourself and discern that.

What I want to talk about is how to get it right.  That involves people coming together and building a community rooted in Scripture and committed to the cause of Christ.  This is a community where grace is extended, forgiveness is abundant, compassion is flowing, encouragement is never-ceasing, and growth is expected.

Let me just say a word about that last one.  It is possible that a person can attend your church, and after services on Sunday go into the parking lot, pull a Coors Light out of a cooler in their car, pop a top and drink it, and all you-know-what would break loose.  If this person was a leader in the church, there would likely be a scandal and a crisis. 

But if that same person would never do that, but instead was kind of cold and aloof, lacking in compassion, held grudges, never led anyone to Christ, and was no more gracious, forgiving, merciful or loving than they were 35 years ago when they joined the church, chances are no one would even notice.  This would probably be no great crisis in the church.  But which of the two actions - a beer in the parking lot, or a lifetime of stagnation and indifference - should be the greater scandal? For those of you who may be concerned, no, I am not advocating beer drinking at church.  For those of you who just lost interest, thanks for reading this far.

Growth should be expected.  I should expect it in myself and in the people around me because we are connected to Christ and members of the same holy temple with Jesus as our cornerstone.  Growth is not optional.  But it is - but it is life-giving, joy-inducing, and freedom-producing.  Growth frees us to live a joy-filled life that is overflowing with power and courage and beauty and strength and peace and confidence and a radiant kind of goodness that makes living any other way seem unthinkable. 

May you stay connected to a healthy community of faith and contribute to its health as you draw closer to the heart of God in Christ Jesus.  May you continue to grow into the larger and deeper and abundant kind of life God intends for you to live.  And may others see in you the great value of  growing in community.  

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