Sometimes I listen to Christian radio, and when I do, one thing usually stands out to me: ads for churches. I just don’t get it. I don’t even know a lot of Christians who listen to Christian radio, let alone people who haven’t found their way to a local church.
I grew up in church; I spent years of my life thinking that churches grow when Christians from other places move into town, do some church shopping, and hopefully pick yours. It was as if we’d given up on a Kingdom that grows like the little rogue saplings that somehow took over my yard last year and overshadowed everything else in it. The best we were hoping for was to rearrange the Kingdom. It was in those years that I felt a call to ministry in life, but it was also then that I wavered in that commitment because I didn’t really understand what was so great about a church. How is that anything to get excited about?
Lately, however, I feel like I’ve had a front row seat to the kind of movement Jesus spoke of when He compared His kingdom to a raid on hell. I’ve seen a church grow full of people who are walking away from lives of destruction, selfishness, apathy, shame, and fear as they decide to trust Jesus and follow Him. I may not have been sure of the Church early in my life, but now I’m convinced that her work in the world is the most relevant work anyone could be a part of. I’m not just talking about GCC, either. And I’m not just talking about big churches or modern churches or churches with nice sound and lights. I’m talking about the communities of Christians I’ve encountered in the past few years from literally all over the world that are reaching out in all sorts of different ways. The one thing they have in common is the deep conviction that we can work toward a changed world and a growing Kingdom.
Inevitably someone will argue that I’ve missed the point. They’ll say:
But Jason, you poor, misguided kid. Don’t you understand? The Church isn’t FOR the world; it’s FOR CHRISTIANS.
The Church isn’t FOR Christians. It IS Christians. It’s the people in whom Jesus’ Spirit dwells, which is why the Church in Acts always seems to be doing the same things that Jesus did. (Read Luke and Acts together in one sitting sometime and be blown away at the continuity between the life of Jesus and the work of the early Church.) And Jesus seems discontent (to put it lightly) knowing there are people on this planet who don’t know they matter to God so much that He would send His Son to be with them and die for them. I don’t think Jesus would be any more excited about my early vision of church than I was. I think He’d go and do something more interesting.
One important caveat: we at GCC know all too well what it feels like to have an aspect of our ministry criticized by those who have no understanding of our vision and no context for our work. If your church advertises on Christian radio, I’m not writing to come after you. Without knowing why you’re doing it and how it fits into your larger strategy, I’d be ignorant to criticize something I don’t understand. However, I think everyone of us could ask ourselves the question: do we really believe that places and people that are without God today could discover life with Him through our churches? Or are we just hoping to rearrange things a little here and there?