I love eating at the Cheesecake factory – and I have the previously-well-fit wardrobe to prove it. I love their cheesecake. I do not however, really care for their menu. There are 97 pages in this thing. By the time I finish reading the wait staff has changed shifts. Do you, like me, ever get overwhelmed by too much information, even if it is good information?
I have been writing lately about the conversations, struggles, effort, and time being put forth by leaders and local church pastors in the United Methodist Church. I love that there is now a regular “Tweetchat” (though I believe I am the oldest participant and I feel it at times). But, even with all the good thinking and praying and talking we’re doing, I’m starting to feel renewal-fatigue. There are so many questions being asked by so many people. There are a myriad of good ideas being tossed onto the table. My mind can’t seem to keep up. I am overwhelmed.
So, I thought that maybe the best thing to do would be to begin building a catalog of hopes I have for the church – mainly local, but could apply to denomination in most cases. These would be things I would ask God to use His power to make happen. By that I mean this is not a list of things for us to do, but a description of the church I hope we can become – by the power of the Holy Spirit.
So here’s the beginning of my list:
Radical commitment to living as Kingdom People
Okay, I know this one is really general. There are more specific hopes that may flow out of this one, but this is one that I long for. We live our life in the world and give a bit to God. I have lots of folks who do what they can to help out, to make a meeting, to serve others, but real life and other activities often take priority. I hope we can shift that balance in God’s direction more.
Before you think I am letting people, like me, who work full-time in the church off the hook, no way. I have this same hope for me. There is a need to go out and bring the gospel to the world, if only in small ways. When I go to eat lunch, how easy would it be for me to take lunch to one of my leaders or church-attenders and talk about the life we’re finding in Christ (or not finding)? How difficult would it be to go buy lunch and take it where I know some folks are hanging out – either because they live on the street or they were waiting for work that never came? I could take more time to disciple others and build relationships. That to me seems to be a way to live as a Kingdom person. But, like I said earlier, this one hope has many smaller ones. Maybe I’ll get to those in another post.
I grew up white and cannot help myself now that I’m older – it’s all I know. I saw a video recently that said the country is 66% white but the United Methodist Church is 92% white. I would love to see God change that. I know God would need to change me and others for that to happen. Not because we’re racists but because we’re clueless. I believe the reason many of us struggle to develop a culture of diversity is that “white” is all we know. I hope God changes that in me and in our church.
Authentic, sincere testimonies
“Can I get a witness?” That’s the old song and the old call from the pulpit (well, not really so much in white churches, so maybe this goes along with the previous one). We need a way to tell others the story of God. It’s not that we haven’t tried in the past, I’m just not sure what has been done is really effective, at least not in today’s world. For example, I really don’t care for tracts – those little booklets that talk about being a Christian. I grew up seeing these things and watching people hand them out. I was even known to leave a few in places myself as a teenager. But I’m not talking about knowing the four spiritual laws or being able to explain Christianity on a napkin (thanks Bill Hybels – I do still use these in my teaching). I just mean sharing a story with others and telling them how God has been at work in our lives.
I hear people talk about how much their church means to them and how a certain church has changed their life. Really? Do we want to proclaim the glory of our church? People need to know we believe in a God who loves us, who forgives us, who restores relationships that would otherwise be lost, who gives peace in the midst of losing your home or even losing a child. It’s more than just saying “it was God’s will”. It’s taking the time to understand where God met you. It’s taking the opportunity you’re given and talking about how Jesus Christ is changing your life even after a lifetime of knowing him. I wish we were all more ready to tell our stories, because I know we have them and I know the world needs to hear them.
That would be the start of my list. I guess these become the focus of some serious times of prayer with God. My bet is God would love to see these things become a reality. My bet is that God has a plan to make this happen. Of course, He may want to do some other things first, so I’ll probably let Him set the agenda. I know, again it seems obvious, but you would be amazed at how often I tell God what I think I should be doing.
What about you – what are your hopes for the church, both locally and denominationally and globally?
Holy high-five to you,