At the Global Leadership Summit last week one of the
speakers, Craig Groeschel, made a statement that got me thinking. He said – and I’m not using quotes here
because I may not have gotten it exactly right – the Church does not exist for
us (meaning Christians) we are the Church and we exist for the world.
This is such an important reality, a vivid distinction, a paradigm
shift that makes the way we view ourselves, our churches and our lives
differently than if we were to live as if we ourselves were the central focus
of all we do and say.
Is this statement something the Bible supports? The Bible
tells us that the church is the bride of Christ, we belong to God, but in this
world whose are we?
Of course if we traversed the entirety of the scriptures on
this one we would find a lot of theological truths to dissect but let’s stick
to two (well sort of three) key analogies from Jesus himself that address the
issue. In talking to the disciples who
are to become the church Jesus says that they are …
A city on a hill
and the light of the world; and
A city on a hill and light of the world. These are sort of put together so we will
consider them that way. Jesus points out
that a city on a hill cannot be hidden and that people don’t light a lamp and
then put it under a bowl. These things
are meant to provide light for everyone around.
To bring illumination where there is darkness.
Salt. Salt for us is
about flavor. And high cholesterol. But in Jesus’ day it was used for preserving
food. Meaning its purpose was to keep
things safe to eat. Things that would
otherwise become rancid and inedible are saved by salt. Food is made flavorful and kept safe by adding
salt to it.
Salt and light … these analogies tell us that the church
is for the darkness and for that which would decay without it. The world.
The church is the worlds. It is meant
to bring life to a dying and dark world.
What this means, for me, what I see as the implication is
that the church exists not for the church but for those outside of it. This is exactly what Mr. Groeschel was saying
– we exist not for ourselves but for the world. This may seem obvious, but
where its blatancy is not so blatant is in how it is translated into vision and
reality by churches today.
The question becomes do our lives and of our churches
reflect the truth that we are meant for the world? That we exist to bring light and preservation
to those outside our four walls? Does the amount of time, resources and energy
we invest express the fact that we are meant for the world and not ourselves?
Occasionally yes, occasionally no. We get it right
sometimes, but what I see in so many churches I know is that most money, most
programs, most thought, most sermons, most everything is geared toward the
people of the church. How can we feel
better about ourselves, how can we love our families better, find a job that
fits us, find contentment, achieve financial security etc. These
are the questions we ask and answer with the means we have been given.
That’s not to say we don’t need the church to meet the needs
of Christians. Looking at the Acts
church it did just this. We cannot live by
analogies alone. The church is meant to
be a place where Christians are loved, supported, encouraged and helped. But that is not the end in itself. The reason we exist must always be kept in
mind. We exist to be a city on a hill,
to bring light where there is darkness and to prevent the decay that happens in
the world when we aren’t there. We need
a place to get and stay healthy so that we
can go out and light the world with Christ’s light and flavor it with his
love. But too often we stay where we are
and keep the light inside the well-lit building and keep the salt in the salt
shaker where it does no good.
We exist for the world. To bring the hope of Christ.
What we are meant for should inform how we allocate all of
the gifts God has given us as a body. We
are meant for the world. To be a light
in the dark and to preserve that which would decay without us. That which is currently, actively,
constantly, endlessly decaying right now.