What Kind of Church Should We Be?

[446 words]

Play a word game with me. What comes to your mind when you see or hear the word church? Do you picture a steepled building, dark wooden pews, crosses, offering plates? Do you hear hearty singing? Or does church trigger childhood memories of wiggling through sermons, playing tag on the parking lot, and Sunday school teachers telling stories about Samson and David and Daniel and, of course, Jesus?

Or do you experience again the flat taste of the bread and the sweet taste of grape juice at communion? Do you remember a particular Sunday morning when a sermon gripped you as though you were the only one in the crowd, or the day you became a Christian through baptism? Or does church bring other pictures on your mind? A wedding, funeral, evangelistic services, going forward, committee meetings, suppers served in Tupperware dishes, that time at camp when you determined God would have all of your life.

When you see the word church, do you have good feelings? Like laughter? Warmth? A quietness? Acceptance? Happiness? Awe? Love? Closeness to God? Or are your feelings negative? Like boredom? Anger? Confusion? Guilt? Rejection? Does church remind you of arrogance, hostility, manipulation, anger, or irrelevance? Do you think of it as a poor substitute for a picnic or a ball game? Church dredges up memories and emotions from deep within you, doesn’t it? Some are healthy, some painful, most somewhere in between.

Have you noticed that when Christians think negatively about church, they think of “them” not “I”? Church is an institution out there, a group apart from them. But we are the church, aren’t we, you and me? We may have a personal faith, but it is next to impossible to have an individual faith. God did not intend for us to be Christians by ourselves, every Christian to be complete, must be a member of a body of men and women who are followers of Christ. Therefore, whether we are part of a vital, growing, glowing assembly of believers depends in some measure upon us.

When it comes to the church, our role in it and our effectiveness at being God’s people, it is time to stop blaming others for our lack of personal and numerical growth. We need to put the blame where it belongs if we are not growing as we should individually and congregationally, we are to blame. If we hope to make a difference in our churches and for our churches to make a difference in the world, we need to know what a healthy church looks like and perhaps even more importantly, we need to know how sick churches can be made well.

Brian Mitchell
Jackson church of Christ
Jackson, MO

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