I have been plowing through Dr. Larry Crabb's new book, "Real Church…does it exist?" At first I thought, "oh man, another let's trash the church book…" but the more I read, the more his heart and passion began to come through challenging us to ask some really tough questions about the current gathering practices of the church, why we do it the way we do? does it transform people? and are they a place God would even want to show up?
Larry tackles the, "There must be something more" question that many people ask when it comes to the Church. In all honesty, that was a driving question I had which resulted in the types of gatherings we have at the church I pastor, Snoqualmie Valley Alliance. In fact, you need to stretch beyond the concept that church is a "Sunday only experience."
Far too many people think that Church is what happens on Sunday. In truth, that is simply one "gathering" of many that happen all week long. So to be fair, we can't simply make a broad brushed statement about the gathering practices of a church based on Sunday alone, that is, unless the only gathering you have is for the very small time slot on Sunday, and if that is the case, you really do need to readdress the relevance of your church.
Larry makes a statement early on in two short sentences or points, that I really enjoyed:
1. God is a party happening.
2. I'm invited to the party.
I love that. The Trinity has been enjoying each other forever. There is a trinitarian party going on, a dance of the Divine that is beauty, joy, life. It's His party, but the really cool news is that we have been invited to the party.
So Larry looks at the church and believes that it was God's design that we be a dance studio. He states:
"A gathering becomes a church when a group of Christians together hear the music of heaven's party and the laughter of God enjoying Himself and begin awkwardly dancing with the Trinity into the relationships and circumstances of life in order to bring heaven's way of doing things to earth…That's the more."
What an incredible visual! Crabb also moves to motive as well when he says:
"A gathering becomes a church when people meet for one supreme purpose, not to enjoy life, not to help others enjoy life, not to persuade others to find life in Jesus, but to become like Jesus in the motives, thoughts, and appetites-all for the pleasure of the Father…When people gather to relate to Jesus-to God, and to one another-they take on a challenge that will expose and confront every drop of self-centeredness in them. And that's the more. And that's impossible without the Spirit…When a group of Christians meet to become little Christs, they declare war on everything that gets in their way, on everything in them-not in others-that hates the goal and violently opposes the process."
Most people try to find a church that they like…is hip…has a great kids program…looks nice…has good teaching. The list goes on and on. Perhaps the church has become more and more ineffective over time because the church has traded transformation for attraction.
One law of group dynamics is that what ever method you used to reach a person, that is the method you need to keep them. If we are only about attraction, then we must always do bigger and better attractional stunts, and when the show isn't quite as good, the people look for a better attraction.
That is not what church should be about. That is also what burns out so many pastors in ministry, and disillusions so many people people seeking an intersection of God in their lives.
I dream of a church that truly experiences and dances with God on a daily basis…
I dream of a church that is creative because it's people are creative, not as a marketing ploy.
I dream of a church where the dance with God transforms the life of the dancer into beauty, joy, hope, and life.
I dream of a church that relates and becomes for each other the center of encouragement, challenge, and care that we so desperately need.
I dream of a church that is as giving in grace as it is in receiving grace.
I dream of a church where the people are becoming self-forgetful, and live paradoxical lives of radical others-centered-ness.
I dream of a church that the Trinity longs to dance with.
Hhmmm…it's always good to ask the hard questions of ourselves and our motives and realign with the heart of Abba.