Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Becoming the Church

In many ways the church was unprepared for the acceleration that has hit us. As the church was building on values that affirmed stability, security, predictability, and standardization, the era of change seemed to catch us by surprise. This is ironic when you consider that the church was intended to be a revolution – a movement, not an institution.
Erwin McManus, An Unstoppable Force: Daring to become the Church GOD had in mind

My heart longs for the Church to be the Church. With this in mind, I am well aware that major changes are necessary for the Church as we know it today. The Church was never intended to be static, passive or stationary – whereas, Scripture paints a beautiful portrait of a Church on the advance, penetrating and influencing all spheres of society. In order for the Church to fulfill its God-given mandate, apostolic leadership must create new models (wineskins) for equipping believers to be a catalyst for change within their sphere of influence. This demands a new outlook regarding the role of the believer in relationship to what it means to be the Church. This is contingent upon utilizing a God-initiated strategy and corresponding structures that facilitate the equipping of the disciple-catalyst for kingdom influence within their sphere.

No longer can the Church afford to be self-absorbed, intent upon the survival and propagation of its own institutional existence, elevating its array of programs, activities, and in-house busyness at the expense of impacting its community. A worldview that disengages disciples from penetrating the spheres within the community is inadequate in a landscape that is changing rapidly. The Church at large has become impotent in changing the world, while the world has become quite adept at changing the Church. Peter Wagner, author of The Changing Church, soberly writes that “Even after 10 years, we cannot point to a single city in the United States that has undergone a sociologically verifiable transformation! “ This must change. But how?

The apostolic influence has yet to be unleashed upon the Church to the degree that is needed to bring about a new kingdom advancement mindset that is sorely lacking in the Church as a whole. Nevertheless, there remains humble, obscure apostolic vessels who are on the advance, blazing new trails for others to follow, penetrating all spheres within society. The traditional mindset sought expansion and growth of the immediate infrastructure and size of congregation – even to the detriment of the community at large. What I am advocating is the need to see the Church differently so that we can impact culture and society. Often we are immersed in our own perception of what the Church should look like that could inhibit our own influence within our sphere. Are you willing to change your perception of what the Church should look like?

This reminds me of an experience I had as a campus minister at my alma mater, Bridgewater College (BC). As a student I had started a ministry called RIOT Campus Ministry. After graduating, the Lord called me to minister on college campuses. During this time I became friends with a great guy, Doug Granger, who was starting a Campus Crusade for Christ chapter at BC. Often we would get together to pray for the campus and for one another. At the beginning of my third year of ministry, (1999) I was sensing the Lord calling me to lay down RIOT at BC in order to focus more on building up the overall work that God was doing on the campus through other groups. Was I willing to lay down my own dreams in order to expand God’s kingdom? Was I willing to pray in obscurity with the students for the growth and expansion of CCC? I had spent countless hours as a student and campus minister laboring in prayer for God to move on that campus; my heart genuinely yearned to see a move of God’s Spirit on the campus. I had invested a lot, but…I was also holding to my own ambitions of proving myself capable through the building of a ministry. My perception of what the ministry should look like was intertwined with my desire to build my own reputation.

The Lord led me to John 12:23-24 – “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” I had to wrestle in prayer for a season to come to a place where I could accurately discern that this was indeed the Lord’s leading. There was grace to lay down my perception of success so that the Lord could do His work in and through me. Furthermore, we did have a “funeral” for RIOT, burying a RIOT frisbee on the campus. In faith our band of radical believers on a chilly autumn night declared that this seed was going to be planted in the ground so that it would die and produce many seeds! Seeds of revival and transformation on that campus!

It has been over seven years since that night. And I honestly don't know what has transpired over the years on the campus. Recently I came across a short retreat video on YouTube of the CCC chapter at BC that highlighted what God is doing among a group of BC students. Also I read an article about a believer on the football team who is impacting the BC campus for the glory of God! Possibly this is a trickle of the things that I had longed to see birthed on that campus.

Disciple-catalysts must be willing to sacrifice personal ambitions and agendas for the sake of the Cause of Christ to be exalted within the city church and community. Are you willing to change your perception of what you believe the Church should look like so that you can advance God's kingdom within your sphere? Is there personal ambition in your heart that is seeking self-glorification? It is a process that the Lord is committed to walk us through so that He can impact culture and society through us, the apostolic Church!

For His Cause,

Brian Francis Hume

1 comment:

weave said...

Brian, another thought-provoking post. I think we all suffer to some degree from a skewed or impartial view of the Church. Consider how much of the Church has bought into the Gnostic ideas of two worlds--material and spiritual. Many Christians have no idea whatsoever that the culture belongs to God, not the world, and that in God's economy, neither the spiritual nor the physical is superior to the other.