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The great hope of the American church is…

Photo by Gary Ericson via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Neighbors loving neighbors.

The funny thing is that if you read enough church leadership blogs or read enough books by big-time church people you start to think that they believe the great hope of the American church is the church organization and its staff.

We know Jesus was a big fan of all things mega, right… (read John 6 to see an example of Jesus’ mega model.)

And we know that he sometimes went to the Temple or local synagogue but he just as often met out in public spaces, in a field, or in homes.

As a member of my faith community I’m reminded of the words of Paul in Romans 12:3-5.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

What about people? Do you know any people?

Healthy organisms are marked by their ability to grow.” – A church leadership mantra.

Apparently they skipped botany and biology. In my garden the goal of a maturing organism is reproduction. If something grows too big, is not pruned, and doesn’t reproduce… I pull it out of the ground and add it to my compost pile. A plant not reproducing is a waste of good soil, space, and time.

Understanding species

See, big churches or small churches or whatever your church species choice/preference is, were never designed to be the solution to reaching people. I’m a fan of churches of all sizes and shapes. But the species of a church was never the point in the Gospels.

The church is a gathering place of worship where we celebrate what God is doing in us and through us. In nature, the health of any organism is measured by its ability to reproduce. I believe the same is true in the church.

The solution is you. Your love for your neighbors is infinitely reproducible. Jesus death tore the veil between priest and citizen. Jesus freed Hope from the descendants of Aaron and gave us each equal access to the King. You have been empowered to reach your neighborhood. And thanks to the hard work of generations of scribes and translators you have, in your possession, the greatest tool you could ever need to reach your neighbors– the Bible.

Jesus could have chosen to spread his message by force. (Some of his disciples really wanted that!) But Jesus knew that hope doesn’t spread by force. Change only happens when the heart is transformed. (Our military has learned that in Iraq and Afghanistan.) [If you want to see the power of a message of hope vs. a message of force, just compare the exploits of David in the Old Testament to the exploits of the apostles in Acts.]

A message of reconciliation to the Father was a message of the heart best transferred neighbor to neighbor. It was never intended to be a come and see message. It was only meant to be a go and do message. It’s not dependent on a top-down leadership structure. Instead, Jesus empowered the people to change the world from the bottom up… from neighbor to neighbor.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

4 replies on “The great hope of the American church is…”

I have stated before about my desire to reach out to my neighbors and non-believing friends. It is so rewarding and very enjoyable. I find so much time to do this is lost in church meetings and unimportant matters to make sure everyone INSIDE the church is happy. This is important information (this concept of reaching neighbors) that more of us have to make our mode of operation.

Love it, dude. We have some new neighbors upstairs. I’ve started interacting with them intentionally and it’s so foreign but so good. Our culture (especially in the suburbs) is so non-communal, it feels weird. But I know that I need to hear other people’s stories just as much as I need to share my own.

Loving our neighbors and showing them care and concern is one of the greatest ways to reach people for Jesus. Too many people look for programs for outreach. While these are good, nothing takes the place of a Christian who cares. Thanks for your article!

Terry Reed
Small Church Tools

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