What Should the Church Look Like? I Have a Dream.

My recent post: “My Wrestle with the Modern Church”  has got me thinking?  Many of us are disappointed  with the church, yet what is our hope our dream our vision?  What are we working for?  If we did have a dream for a Biblical church for the next century,  what would it look like?

I have a dream:  This phrase was made famous by Martin Luther King in his ‘I have a dream speech’.  In it he  lists 8 keys as foundational to his dream.

That all men are created equal

A table of brotherhood and unity

An end to slavery and domination

That all forms of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

An end to racism

That the Glory of the Lord will be revealed; ‘That every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

That despair will turn to hope

A dream of Freedom

When we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

                Free at last! Free at last!

                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

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These keys, visons, hopes that Martin had are actually  the foundations of the Gospel. They are the teachings of Jesus who says in Luke 4.

God’s Spirit is on me;
    he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,
Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and
    recovery of sight to the blind,
To set the burdened and battered free,
    to announce, “This is God’s year to act!”

The Apostle Paul in Galatians 3 says this:

In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

The Gospel is a message of inclusion, it is a message of hope and freedom,  it reaches out to the lame and the despised.  It is a message of love to neighbour and of love of enemy.(Mark 12:31)

Jesus says in Matthew 5:

“It says in the law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that law.

I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does.

God gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”’

Lets look at the first Church, the Church in Acts.  What did they do?

They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, of life together, the common meal, and the prayers. And all the believers lived in  harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met. They worshipped every day and celebrated every day at meal times and they praised God.  They were told to build each other up, to encourage.  They were told to comfort and to bear each others burdens.  They could do this because they all lived in the same neighbourhoods, the same streets.

Devoting themsleves to ‘fellowship’ as some translations say is not instructing us to remain isolated  from the world, or that we only associate with other Christians.  It is saying this:   They devoted themselves to fellowship (κοινωνία)Since this word has the connotation of sharing common, this is likely an allusion to the communal life described in the next verses (Fitzmyer, Acts, 269).  It would read:  They devoted themselves to communal life,  at the very least this includes alms and care for the poor.

They lived in community.  The word community is broken up into two words.  Com –  which means ‘with’ and unity – which means ‘being unified’.  In 1-2 Thessalonians Paul seems to instruct the members of the church to not retire from daily life and be constantly devoted to ministry.  2 Thess 3:11-12 specifically tells people to go out and get jobs so that they are not a burden.

Jesus also told his followers to ‘Go out’ and share the good news.  He encourages us to do life with those around us and to share the good news of freedom, hope, inclusion and peace.  We are not supposed to live in a holy huddle.  That’s actually not holy its toxic.  We are supposed to share, to give hope, to live alongside our community our neighbours our workmates and school friends.  We are supposed to carry peace, love, joy, hope, goodness, gentleness, faith into every situation.  All of those attributes which are  evidence of the fruits of the spirit.

Maybe the Church should look like  Jesus!

Who:

  • Is NOT racist or bigoted (in other words does not think that He is superior or better than)
  • Loves Justice
  • Brings freedom from oppression
  • Gives sight to the blind
  • Frees all prisoners
  • Breathes forgiveness
  • Believes in equality
  • Heals all of our wounds
  • Demonstrates unity
  • Characterises all the fruits of the spirit
  • Brings hope and good news to all that He meets
  • Lays down His life for all
  • Is generous and gracious to all
  • Loves the outcast and the marginilised and seeks them out
  • Includes everyone, all are welcome
  • Carries our burdens
  • Brings LOVE into every situation
  • Is intolerant of the religious and the Pharisees (the self righteous and hypocritical)
  • Brings the Kingdom of Heaven everywhere that He goes
  • Ministers reconciliation and restoration
  • Where He goes people flourish
  • Brings peace and comfort to every situation.

IF the Church looked like this to every single person then imagine the changes that would happen in society.  As you know ‘we’ are the Church, which means that there is a lot of change that still needs to happen in all of us.  Me included.

You tell me, what do you think the Church should look like?

 

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Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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4 Comments on “What Should the Church Look Like? I Have a Dream

  1. Great post Lisa,

    And a great topic to touch on.
    Mel & I have been bumping into this quite a bit in recent times.
    Given our long history and relationship with the church, our decision to find ‘community’ outside of the walls of the institutional church has left a few faces blank, confused and no doubt has caused a few of our friends to pray for our souls. I’m OK with that, but it took us an extremely long time to get to the point where we were ready to face the enquiry as to why we made such a bold move.

    But enough about that.
    To answer your question, what should the church look like?
    Here’s how I see it:
    Have you ever seen a really really well made tapestry?
    There are some amazing ones hanging in the vatican in Rome.

    If you glance at them, they are a massive singular piece of art.
    The whole image comes together and depicts something incredible.
    They’re not small ‘hang on the door’ tapestry, they’re meters long and high that line the walls as you navigate through.

    They’re large enough that they require you to stand back at a distance to fully take in what they have to offer. But if you get up close, you can see the individual stitches of thread. When you push right in, you can see the weave and the colours overlapping, catching the light, crossing over each other and working the light as tiny individual threads.

    By the very nature of the material, it’s impossible to get two stitches to be identical. They’re hand made, imperfect, different colours, thicknesses, and textures. Up close their a mess of individual colourful characters all stacked tightly on top of each other. At a distance they are a piece of art and beauty.

    There would be nothing worse on those walls than a tapestry that was one large single colour, perfectly lined up, evenly distributed. Figured out.

    The beauty is in the chaos.

    I like the idea that none of those threads knows they are a part of that tapestry. But when you step back and look in, you see something amazing.
    They’re not trying to look like anything, they’re just trying to be thread.

    For me, it’s like that.
    So long as I am fully me, I know that somehow that’s all that it takes to be a part of a beautiful much bigger picture.

    What would the church look like?
    Well, like I said, I don’t think the thread even knows its part of a bigger tapestry. It’s just being who it’s been created to be.

    If I’m being me and true to who God has called me to be, does it even matter what the larger picture looks like? Would I even know it if I saw it?
    Or do I, like the thread, need to care more about who I am pushing up against, overlapping with and reflecting the light toward, being present in that moment, that experience and that time, so that God can find a way to use that in a way that really, only he is capable of doing. Creating a tapestry that he can stand back and admire.

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    • Wow, this is such a visually stunning description. I love it
      Particularly the conclusion “Or do I, like the thread, need to care more about who I am pushing up against, overlapping with and reflecting the light toward, being present in that moment…so that God can find a way to use that in a way that really, only he is capable of doing. Creating a tapestry that he can stand back and admire”. Thanks so much for sharing this – so beautiful. Lisa

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      • When I was in my early 20’s in ministry the senior minister that I worked for said something to me that brought this home for me more than anything I’ve experienced since.

        “Peter, I don’t care about you and what you want, I care about the church.”

        In my mind I paused….
        “The church is just a community of people right? And I’m one of them.”
        So how could he care for the community of people without caring for the people (me) in that community?

        I realise that it’s easy to misrepresent someone by taking them out of context so that’s not my intention. The quote is in line with the overall approach held by leadership at the time.

        Ultimately I concluded that if there was to be a ‘church’ then it was to be made up of individual people, and that I was one of them.

        I am “what the church could look like”.
        Which only makes me more accountable for who I chose to be.
        It’s easy to hide in plain sight when you are a part of something big.
        There’s less accountability on someone when it can be left to someone else with more gifting or deeper passion.

        But when it’s on you, you’re the church for your neighbour, you’re the church to your children, your friends, your colleagues, then, there’s deep accountability, there’s no hiding.

        That’s when you can experience true grace, because that’s when you have to admit you don’t have it all together, that we’re all in this, and we all need each other and that ‘needing each other’ is the gateway to ‘community’ and ‘community’ is at the heart of God.

        Liked by 1 person

        • But when it’s on you, you’re the church for your neighbour, you’re the church to your children, your friends, your colleagues, then, there’s deep accountability, there’s no hiding.
          That’s when you can experience true grace, because that’s when you have to admit you don’t have it all together, that we’re all in this, and we all need each other and that ‘needing each other’ is the gateway to ‘community’ and ‘community’ is at the heart of God.
          Okay when is your book coming out? Great stuff Peter, so encouraging. Thank you so much.

          Like

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