“The church has only one ultimate aim: to reconcile the world through an understanding of the life and death of the Galilean carpenter. To gain this end, it makes disciples, builds buildings, teaches children, conducts ministries. But if it loses sight of that ultimate aim, it suffers defeat …. The object of today’s church is to reach the individual who needs Christ’s message of hope. And anything that stands between the church and that object—goals, plans, calendar dates, expenditures or resources—should be reexamined.”
--C. B. Hogue, in “Love Leaves No Choice,” (Word Books, 1976, pp. 42, 44)
Think about the statements just above. Most of us would agree with these words, at least initially. But when we start applying them to our church in our situation, we might pause just a bit. Are there other things that hinder us in our mission besides the ones mentioned above? Are there traditions or unspoken rules of conduct that stand in the way? Are there certain prejudices, expectations or behaviors which prevent us from being all we should be or could be as the Body of Christ? Is our church’s style of worship or even its reputation preventing us from sharing “Christ’s message of hope”?
These are definitely meddling questions. The answers might even be painful. But if we are not doing what Christ put us here to do—indeed, commanded us to do—then what is our real purpose? Have we not become little more than a social club? Should we not have a bigger agenda than “feel good worship,” syrupy sermons sprinkled with a lot of jokes, and an attitude that says I must have my own way every time about everything?
Yes, worship should strengthen our faith, but if I never walk away from that time under conviction about something that needs to change in my life, have I really spent time with God? No, sermons should not always be “hell-fire and damnation,” but let’s face it—when we have to deal with the claims God makes on our souls, sometimes even the best joke just won’t do it.
If the church dares to ask, “What is our purpose? Why are we here?” and is honest about the answers, it may realize that a lot of things may have to change. And that, brothers and sisters, may be the exact reason why we don’t have the courage to do it. Doing what Christ says almost always involves change. And we would rather do it the same way we’ve done it for generations (for even for the last month) because we don’t want to do anything which will make us uncomfortable, or upset Aunt Sally or Uncle Joe. We have sold our integrity as members of the Body of Christ because we are afraid of change and how it will upset things.
This should not be used as a lame excuse for adopting some pet project or program we’ve dreamed up. Even our favorite ideas have to fall under the scrutiny of “will this help us accomplish our goals of reaching others and building up the Body of Christ?”
We can preach on the Great Commission all we want, but if the burden is never translated into how we “do church” we will never make a bigger impact on the world.
--Rocky Henriques, www.uticabc.com