Is your church an instrument of God, representing the vivacious life of Christ in the world, or an institution of man, perpetuating the preferences and rituals of men?
My great desire is to be a part of a local church that is experiencing, reflecting, and advancing the Lordship of Jesus in the world, not a mere center of predictable, never changing tradition.
Now don’t get me wrong. Lot’s of traditions are good. We value lots of traditions at our church that serve us well and encourage us in the faith. But we are at our best when our ultimate focus is not on the tradition, but on Christ and what he is doing in our lives and communities.
Furthermore, by my opening statement I do not want to suggest that all churches fit squarely into one category or the other. I would argue that my church is significantly experiencing God’s powerful movement in the here and now. But if truth be told, we no doubt have blind spots where we have allowed “the way we have always done it” to restrict our responsiveness to the promptings of God’s Spirit.
In addition, it should be said that tradition is not an enemy of faith or of responsiveness to God. For example, the tradition of weekly worship (a tradition based in Scripture) provides a continuous format for God’s people to be equipped, motivated, and deployed for serving the Lord.
What I am saying is that a church that leads her people to move with God will connect those people in certain very distinct directions. In Timothy Keller’s book, Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City, he mentions four ways churches should connect people that they might be a part of the move of God in their lives and communities.
As a member of your local church, you want to see your church encouraging and facilitating these kinds of connections. For those of you who are in church leadership, these are connections you will want to intentionally facilitate in the lives of the people you influence.
Here are the four connections:
Churches Moving with God will…
- Connect people to God through evangelism and worship. It all starts with evangelism. Welcoming people into an experience of the good news of salvation in Christ should be the heartbeat of every church. We should tell the gospel to everyone, invite every person to respond to the gospel, and we should celebrate this good news in all we do. Furthermore, our churches should be intentional about connecting people to worship the Lord with great affection. This will be done in a variety of different ways and styles depending on the context.
- Connect people to each other through community and discipleship. Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” The church, at it’s essence, is not an organization. Of course every church should organize. But fundamentally the church is a family, Christ’s family. We were born again that we might be brought together as his redeemed people. Because of that, local churches should encourage people to build relationships designed to spur one another on in their faith and practice. In our church we do this through encouraging our people to participate in small groups for Bible study and relationship. We also encourage our people to serve in ministries that edify the congregation.
- Connect people to needs of your city or town through mercy and justice ministries. Christ is forming his Body, the church, that he might express and advance his mercy and justice in the world. The active presence of the church in the community should make a difference in the lives of people who are vulnerable or under-privileged. In our church the Spirit of God has prompted our people to provide for the poor, assist in the assimilation of Burmese refugees into our community, partner with organizations that equip people to get free from destructive addictions, and minister to our Hispanic population. In some contexts churches will seek to rescue women from the blight of sex trafficking. In meeting the needs of the vulnerable we move with God as we allow him to express his mercy through us.
- Connect people to the culture through integration of faith and work. This is one that the evangelical church has not done a great job with over the years. It is an area where we must improve. For far too long we have bemoaned the fact that we are losing influence over our culture. But this is in part because we have not engaged the culture with our influence. Instead of seeing ministry only in the context of leadership in the local church, we should recognize that God’s Kingdom calling is not only for preachers, missionaries, and seminary professors. God has called us all. Whether you are a homemaker, factory worker, small business owner, manager, doctor, lawyer, or teacher…God has a calling for you to serve him in those contexts. Your occupation is a mission from God. Your faith should shape how you approach your job as you influence the culture of your home, business, school, or community organization. This is a subject I will need to blog about in the future. Imagine the powerful effect of an entire congregation with a vision for applying their faith, not just at church and with family, but in the workplace in creative and dynamic ways. That is where we can see the world around us change and the Kingdom of God advance for the common good of all and the Glory of God.
So what about you? Are you connecting, along with your local church, in these four ways? If not, is it not time that you join what God is doing in the world? I encourage you to follow the promptings of God to connect with what God is doing and be a part of his movement.
Question: In what ways is God calling you to more deeply connect with the move of God in your world? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
 Timothy Keller, Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City, Zondervan, 2012, p. 250.