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It is one thing to hammer away at a problem, to point at something and say over and over, “This is broken.” It is altogether a different and more challenging thing to offer an alternative.
I’m still processing all this myself and don’t fully have it defined…even so, in between describing what is broken (activities centric definitions of “church”) I want to give examples of what I believe we should be striving for.
Let’s start at the beginning – Abraham.
Genesis 12 marks a shift in the Biblical narrative. Up until this point the stories have been fantastic and written in a mythical style. Suddenly in Genesis 12 the stories become much more concrete. They are stories we could imagine happening today. This shift begins with a conversation between God and Abram (who God will later rename Abraham). The conversation is foundational to the Biblical narrative. It sets the ground work for the rest of the story.
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
From the very beginning of the story it is not about activity. Relating to God is not about doing certain things or following specific rituals. There is a lifestyle, a redefinition of a person who in faith goes on mission with God, at the center. God doesn’t lay out any rituals for Abraham to perform. There are no rules for Abraham to follow. Abraham’s relationship with God is defined by his lifestyle of journeying with God. Activities during that lifestyle are going to come and go…but the journey remains.
Our definition of what it means to be followers of God, our definition of what it means to be the church should likewise revolve not around the things we do but rather our common life as people on mission with God. Activities come and go. They are simply tools – means to an end. The end is the journey with God, joining Him on His unexplainably awesome mission to bless the world.
We must keep our lifestyle of imitating Jesus centric and hold our activities loosely.