Archive for January, 2004

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Re-Imagine the Church

January 29, 2004

Let me first preface this testimony by saying that I do not have a
step by step plan laid out to be put into motion, nor that I am yet living
out what I am about to advocate. I have only a vision and the example of
Christ’s compassion. Today, I want to cast that vision to you all as
beloved children of God and as bond servants of Jesus Christ.

When I was a junior in high school at 16 years old, I began to memorize the book of Acts as part of the Bible quizzing program here at Grace. As I memorized these inspiring and humbling accounts of the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the first followers of Jesus Christ, it was also the very first time I was ever reading them. The vision that God continues to give me today concerning the church began as I was captivated by these stories of how the gospel that Jesus Christ preached spread against all impossibilities. Yet, “stories” is too trivial a word for such accounts, for these were tangible events in the lives of real, broken people, who having seen in human form the compassionate heart of Almighty God, surrendered themselves fully to the work of his power in their lives, regarding the cost and paying the price.

The affect that these accounts have had on my life is immeasurable and will continue to be that way for the rest of my life. What faith. What risk. What love. What power. I have longed ever since for something similar to be my experience with the worldwide group of people known as Christians. Or as the dean of the chapel at Taylor University used to call us, little Christs.

Yet this was a radically different church than the one I knew. I knew only what the church had become, not what it was intended to be. I knew the American version of the church. I knew a mindset of “get the most out of it with as little investment as possible”. I knew denominations that bickered. I knew five, eight, and twelve step programs to spiritual health, maturity, and blessings. I knew that Christians in America would support the so-called “inalienable rights” of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, even though Christ called them instead to death, slavery and the pursuit of righteousness.

The church I knew only faintly, if at all, resembled the one I read about in the pages of Acts. It had become a stale institution instead of continuing as a dynamic movement.

The first few hundred years of the dynamic movement of the church spawned hundreds of martyrs and built the foundation for what would become the most prominent religion in the world, Christianity. Although God continued to use his people to accomplish his purposes, the church abandoned its pursuit as a movement and settled for life as a national religious institution. It has been settling for less than its calling ever since.

But what if we decided to start a movement again. Not a new movement, but the continuation of that which was started by those who had seen Jesus face to face. The empire in which we live in today is not wholly unlike the Roman Empire of the early centuries. In fact, America has not yet gone so far in its debauchery and greed to give the Roman empire a run for its money. But we do live in an empire desperate for the Kingdom of God to come to it. And only a dynamic movement can usher in that Kingdom so that it may rescue a dying generation.

I want to invite you today to re-imagine the church. To actually take time to image how a dynamic movement of “little Christs” could introduce a new and changing, but still suffering, world to the Kingdom of God. To imagine storming the gates of hell before the gates of hell storms us. To re-imagine discipleship. To re-imagine evangelism. To re-imagine worship.

If you would, write this question down and your personal answer
to it. “If you could do ANYTHING for the Kingdom of God and not fail, what would it be?”

Dream big. Dream ridiculously big, as a child does. Imagine it, and ask your Father that it would be so. And know that he is able to do immeasurably more. Re-imagine your role in proclaiming that the Kingdom of God is here. Re-imagine the church.