20170621

Is "Love" Enough?

Last month, a dear brother in our church sent me a link about churches (within our very loose movement) who are closing. 
Here’s the link (hoping it still works):

I read the article and appreciated the notions and sentiments expressed. But something nagged at me about how the article was thought through. I collected my thoughts and bounced them off my church member. Here’s the email I sent to my brother …

“Thanks for the article.
 “As nice as the conclusion was; that we should fuel the assembly with love, that is not the whole picture. Loving the saints in the assembly is exactly what has happened in all those assemblies that have closed. They loved their own deeply and well: great fellowship, shared life, deep connections. It is comfortable, agreeable, and safe to love one’s own. There is great comfort in ministering to other believers.
“But. 
"Love of the saints is not enough to fulfill the Great Commission. We must love our neighbor – the unsaved, the troubled, the difficult, the messed up, and the irritating. If we do not love the lost, we will fail with the task of preaching the gospel to those who need it. Believers – all believers – need to see themselves as missionaries.
“God will, in his mercy, allow a disobedient assembly to continue to live out its life, but then will let that body die. Many assemblies, who loved each other – but not the lost – have enjoyed 'rich fellowship' but have closed their doors.
“Churches that are thriving, 'assemblies' or not, are those who are faithful to speaking and being the gospel to those who are far from God. They have moved from, ‘every member a minister,’ to, ‘every member a Missionary.’
“The sister is not wrong that saints within an assembly must love and minister to each other, but she did not say enough. Loving each other is not enough for a church to thrive. Loving God and loving people – all people – is what Jesus told us to do. That’s when his people, doing what he commands, will see his blessing.
“Many Blessings, Bro –

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“-          Eric”

Any thoughts out there? Is love the only answer? What does that mean? Is it enough to love my church family - or is that insufficient?

20170522

My Past Catches Up With Me ...

About two months back, a friend of mine was telling me that he was planning to move his family into his mother-in-law’s house. No jokes, here, just practicalities. Her husband had died a couple of years back, their house was large, and my friend would be closer to work, church, and friends. Everyone wins.
Except, he continued, that there was a lot of junk in the house – his father-in-law seemed to keep a lot of stuff around. To keep the conversation going, I was curious: what kind of “stuff?” He said there were lots of electronics and radio gear. Hmmm. I used to know something about electronics and radio.
Back when I was 13, I got my first amateur radio license. The entry level was the Novice class and that was what I got.
In high school, I took a couple of years of electronics but migrated to Information Systems. My amateur privileges lapsed. In college, I was involved with the school radio station both in production and technical support. One summer I worked for a Christian radio station near Fairbanks, Alaska – KJNP. The station was AM, FM, and TV production at the time – I worked in all of it. A couple that I knew from high school days were there and he was the chief engineer. While I worked as an announcer and other things, he had me doing minor technical things around the station. After a couple of weeks, he threw a self-study course for getting a broadcast engineering license (2nd Class radio-something-or-other) which I studied on breaks and such. My friend and I would discuss the material and he would have him help him with increasingly more interesting tasks around the station. A while later, he said he wanted me to sit for the actual exam – well, I went from casual to clever quickly. Sat for the exam and missed passing by two questions. Still, not bad for not much more than a lark.
I came back, retook the Novice exam again but got married, started a career, and just never could make radio happen.
All of this to say that I have a small background in “electronics and radio stuff.” I offered to come by and see if I could help them determine what was good and what was really junk. My friend was happy to have me come – no one in his circle understood anything about what they had at the house.

The day finally came when we could get our schedules to synch. (To be continued…)

20160222

Church Metaphors

A friend and I were chatting about ministry, telling stories, and generally encouraging each other. He mentioned a conversation he’d had with another Christian some years back. My friend had mentioned the church is “like a hospital.” Now the other gentleman responded back, ‘Well, if so, then we shouldn’t let the patients run it!’

This was an interesting conversation at several levels. One of those is the level of metaphor. The Christian church is legitimately compared to several things. Biblically, the church is compared to family, to the human body, to a special priesthood, and others. So comparing the church to something else is not a bad thing to do and is an activity amply supported by the Bible itself. In my time, I have heard the comparison of the church to a hospital (as my friend said), to a rescue station, to a war college, and several others – all depending on the point the speaker was trying to make.

I confess that I am annoyed when these comparisons are made.  Usually, whatever metaphor the speaker uses, well, that is THE metaphor for the church. The only one. The controlling idea. The Purpose for the Christian church. And this metaphor - which ever one is chosen - is Very Firmly Insisted. It is The One, True, and Only vision for the church.

People – and Christians are not immune from this – can be pretty silly.

I believe the church is All of those things. The church has many purposes and those purposes cannot be captured in a single metaphor.

Why do I say this? Is it because I’m just a mushy, ‘all points are valid’ kinda guy?

No.

I say this because this is the Biblical view. Just as I mentioned above, the Bible itself makes several metaphorical descriptions of the church: body, people, priesthood, family, bride, and so forth. Here’s just a few:  http://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/2011/05/16/new-testament-metaphors-for-the-church/

So … is the church a “hospital?” Yes, somewhat. Is the church a ‘rescue station?’ Sure, that, too. Is the church a ‘war college?’ Ah … seems a bit belligerent, but there are some reasonable notions in that comparison. And so forth.

It seems reasonable to me to avoid pigeon-holing the church into one, narrow, single comparison. We do the church a great injustice by treating the church in such a two-dimensional way. Even worse, when we choose to ignore the other metaphors, we are also choosing to ignore the other tasks the church is to do which are contained in those other metaphors.

There’s a word for not doing what God wants us to do. It’s a short word; begins with “s.”

By the way, the story I started with continued. After the gentleman suggested that a hospital should not be run by the patients, my friend responded, “Well, actually we’re all patients.”


And that is another story …