New Background

Can You Hear Me Now?

Monday, April 10, 2006

What is Church?

Our church small group (we SO need a name BTW) was discussing “church” this weekend and what church is -- exactly. This topic typically brings much thought and experience to the table and invites an honest outpouring.

Our small group is relatively new and I think to some extent we are still learning to trust one another. This translates to mean it got very quiet when the questions were posed. Some did the “nervous laugh”, others shared brief answers. The questions we pondered were related to the church in Acts we had read about in a previous sermon. We talked about going to our “church” for needs and offering our ‘stuff’ and our ‘money’ to the corporate church body in order to meet basic needs as was taught in Acts.

It was pointed out, that the church in Acts did have somewhat unique challenges in that being Christians, they were often martyred (to the death) and their “businesses” suffered or were lost due to the societal stigma. The people in the Acts Church NEEDED help to survive.

Honestly, I know there are SOME churches that have “Mercy” ministries available to their congregants and occasionally to the community, but these seem to be few and far between, even here in the Bible belt. I have to wonder if we are becoming more and more cynical and hard-hearted, or if we are continuing to turn a blind eye to the needs of our brothers and sisters as we continue to fill our own personal purses with more “stuff”.

I remember when my husband was first “saved” and he informed me his desire was to “give”. I thought, “Well yeah, we all want to give.” He explained he wanted to give money to those in need. Immediately, my mind began to calculate how much/when/who/why? Being the more “seasoned Christian” of our coupling, I was certain I had the Biblical upbringing to help guide us in wisdom.

Okay, so admittedly my upbringing was somewhat marred by my own parental lectures on making “do” with what you have and not living beyond your means and working hard for everything you get. There are no “handouts” in life. It’s each “man” for himself. My father would leave a church altogether if he felt they were asking for money too often.

I am a selfish person. I can try to explain it away as trying to look out for my own, but each one of God’s children is supposed to be “one of my own”. God placed me in this church, at this time, for this community to serve, to help, to GIVE. I will defer our “giving” to my husband, whose heart is right and not marred by selfish ambition.

One of the “start-up” churches I attended was in a fairly affluent section of our city. I remember the pastor responding to requests for a mercy ministry by saying: “we are too new a church to provide for the community.” Honestly, at that time I didn’t have a problem with that response. As I reflect back now I have to wonder…if we DON’T provide for the community, we aren’t having church we are having a social club.

The final thought/question at our small group and for this posting is this:

“If your church were to close its doors tomorrow, would the community notice? Would the community be sad/happy/indifferent? Does your community even know your church exists?


Morning Glory said...

Over the years we have attended churches that have felt more like social clubs than churches. I'm happy to say that the one we are part of now would be missed if it didn't exist. It has a number of ways it ministers to the community and the neighborhood where it's located. We have really felt the sense of Family of God in this church.

GiBee said...

I know this is off the beaten path... well, maybe not ... but ever since our church started "tithing" 10% of our projected offerings for the year (to world missions, local missions, church plants, etc.), our church has been abundantly blessed by God. Unbelievably! We make an adjusted offering at the end of the fiscal year for the extra income we didn't plan on at the beginning of the year.

Also, we have a ministry that's called Caregivers -- they do local missions trips, take up collections (Baby Bottle Campaign, etc.)for the local Pregnancy Crisis Center, and if they hear of a family within the church OR the community in need, they will provide them with gift cards to Wal Mart, and local grocery stores, or drug stores to try and help out, or drop off bags of groceries, or fill their pantries. We also collect food for a local community food bank.

And we only have about 100 members.

We are a small church with a very big heart. And I can see God's hand blessing us up and down... It is actually very exciting when you stop and think about it!!!

Karen said...

I think the churches in my area are pretty mission/community outreach oriented. There are a variety of programs offered through them and there are several community programs that are supported by a network of churches in our area not based on denomination. When I was practicing social work I had no shortage of church-based foodbanks, charities, children's programs, and counseling programs to draw from for families in need.

kpjara said...

That is really reassuring to know that there are so many churches offering to and MAKING a difference in the community. Sometimes it feels a bit like an eye-dropper of water in a very big bucket of water....

I should have known the women out here in blogdom would be a part of something only God would ordain and lead!

I pray our church is always one that serves AND makes a difference in our community.