Monday, October 27, 2008

Church Is Not An Event

My family took a trip this past weekend to Sea World in San Antonio. By the way, this time of year is perfect for a Sea World excursion. Beautiful weather, and no crowds make for a most enjoyable family outing. Sea World, of course has attractions that include aquariums full of sharks, sting rays, piranhas, eels, and other forms of sea life. There's a place where you can feed dolphins, seals, sea lions, and birds. There's alligators, penguins, rides, and lots of junk food. Then there are the shows. The events where humans interact with these massive sea beasts in ways that leave the observers oohing and awing.

I've seen it all before, but it still amazes me how they train these animals to perform the way they do. It is quite entertaining to both children and adults. We love those events so much that we watch some of the shows more than once every time we go.

I sit there in each of those shows and I wonder what it would be like to be a part of the action. I wonder what it would be like ride on the back of one of those killer whales, or to dance with one in that massive pool. What it would be like to to be suspended 30 feet in the air on the tip of Shamu's snout or to hang onto the dorsal fin of a dolphin who's slicing through the water at 30 mph. Of course, you can't just jump into the water and take off interacting with these sea creatures. Being a part of that action requires a bigger commitment than the price of admission. We are talking about highly trained individuals who have invested years of their lives into these animals in an effort to perform and entertain the masses.

As I was sitting here just thinking about all of that, I thought of how church is often exactly like those shows. The masses show up for the event on Sunday morning and we watch as highly trained, or sometimes not so highly trained, professionals entertain us. We sit in our chairs, or pews and we watch the performance. If its good we come back, if its not, we look for a better show somewhere else. We want the worship team to sing songs we like. Songs that move us, deeply. God forbid they sing a song that we don't like or can't connect with. Then, we want the minister to make us feel good. We want him to preach a message that stays away from the garbage in our life that needs attention, while pumping us up and exhorting us. Then, when the offering plate is passed we drop in enough to cover our price of admission if we were entertained well. Then we leave the show, our life no different than when we came.

Somehow, that process seems to be missing the whole purpose for which the church was created. The church is not an event. When we narrow it down to that, we facilitate a philosophy that will insure that the church, while reaching the masses, will fail miserably at becoming what it was created to become. The purpose of the church is to engage the masses to get out of the seats and "into the water" so to speak. It is only then that the church can become the powerful force God intended it to be. When we place a demand on those who are simply spectators, to become engaged in doing kingdom business, then and only then, are we fulfilling God's mission for the church.

Sure, there are those who come into church, in desperate need. They come in need of salvation, deliverance, healing, freedom, and a host of other things. But, when the church serves them in a way that never helps them get passed those needs, but makes them eternally dependent on the church, the church has failed at its mission. We need to do whatever is necessary to get them saved, delivered, healed, and free and then train, equip, and enlist them into kingdom business. It is only when we trash the thinking that the responsibility of ministry is reserved for a sacred few, that we can truly experience church the way church was meant to be.

In every local body of believers there is a wealth of ministry sitting. What is so tragic, is that next week, next month, and next year they'll still be sitting. And there are churches everywhere that will put on a show to accommodate their desire to simply be entertained. Trust me when I say, I'd rather go to Sea World. They are much better at putting on a show.

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