This is why it is so troubling that many churches are dying today, and why it is even more troubling that many more churches, in spite of their buildings, budget and attendance, as far as the world is concerned, are essentially dead.
Here are six things that I believe the church must get in order to get a life:
The Christian faith is about coming together as a community. The first thing Jesus did to give birth to the Kingdom was to call together a community of disciples to share the good news of God’s love with others. The Christian faith is personal, but Jesus never intended it to be private. Faith should never be tucked away deep within the soul of an individual. Faith should always be worn in public, out on the sleeves of a community.
The Christian faith is about selfless, sacrificial service. It is about God who came down through Jesus, who was laid down in a manger, who crouched down to forgive sinners, who stooped down to heal the sick, who knelt down to welcome children, who bowed down to wash another’s feet, and who bent down to take up his cross. For many, church is about getting uplifted. We need to make church about getting down.
The Christian faith is about following someone who preached against the fake piety and hypocrisy of organized religion. In Jesus’ first sermon, he warned us about being judgmental of others who have specks in their eyes, while we have logs in our own eyes. And no one who hears the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery ever forgets Jesus’ words: “Let those without sin cast the first stone.” Therefore, no one in the church should ever act as if he or she is superior to anyone.
The Christian faith is about serious grace. With grace, Jesus always seemed to overdo it. 180 gallons of wine is a serious amount of wine for a small wedding party. The gift of the best robe, a ring, a fatted calf, loud music and dancing is a serious gift for a prodigal son. If the church is to ever have life again, the church must share this serious, extravagant grace with others, even while others accuse us of seriously overdoing it.
The Christian faith is about prophetic justice. Jesus announced God’s new Kingdom by quoting the prophet Isaiah, saying that he had come “to bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind and to let the oppressed go free.” The church must always be willing to get up and stand up for the liberty and justice for all, especially the poor, the disabled, and the marginalized.
The Christian faith is about getting out into the world. Jesus was always out on the move, going out to the people. To be a church that is alive, the church needs to get out of the sanctuary and go to the places Jesus went, see the people Jesus saw, and do the things Jesus did.
Will there be folks in the world who will despise us for it? According to Jesus: most definitely; but at least the world will know that we are alive.