Church divides more than it unites. Streets in the southern United States especially are covered with different names of different churches that send messages to non-Christians and lapsed Christians that only reinforce their negative feelings about church. But I think we can change that.
Romans 13-14 imagines a world where everything starts coming together, where the world starts falling into place in a way that makes more sense than it does on most days. It is a world imagined where we put all of our focus on Jesus in such a way that welcomes more than it divides. We give one another the benefit of the doubt knowing that God is working to shape us in ways that go beyond our delusions of precision and control.
One line in Romans 13 paints a beautiful picture: “For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers.” God’s salvation is nearer to us today than it was yesterday. Now that’s not literal, book-chapter-and-verse truth, right? It’s poetry. It is a clever and beautiful way of saying something about God drawing us nearer and nearer each day. But that beautiful and poetic way of speaking about God’s salvation has an impact on both why and how we do church.
First, to the why. Why church?
The biggest reason has to start with Jesus, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. If not for Jesus, we would be nothing more than a very odd looking social club. But because of Jesus, our odd gatherings each week make sense.
And I am using the word “odd” on purpose. Because where else would you see the broad spectrum of ages that you see at many churches on Sunday mornings? And so the most important thing about our gatherings is that in the name of Jesus, we come together to tell the story of Jesus, and the way that story shapes our lives. The “why” of church is basically across the board in most Christian communities: Jesus is Lord.
But the “how” is another story. How do we do church? How do we be a church? That one is harder to answer. And it is the one that divides churches. But I’m wondering if the “how” unite us in Christ?
The most important answer how starts with our hearts. Scripture is quite clear that if you get the form down without the heart, God doesn’t care any more about the form. If you read the book of Amos, for example, it’s about a group of people who have the form of religion and worship down pat. But the one problem is that they do not love each other with the love of God from the heart.
So if we place our focus on being a Romans 14 church, it might affect the “how” with more intention. This is especially true in light of Romans 14:19—“Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual edification.”
What if we strive to reflect Romans 14:19 in all of Christianity? Because when we as Christians place our focus there, on the salvation of God through Jesus, it reminds us to keep dreaming, to keep looking for the ways God dreams new dreams for us as his people equipped for God’s service.
So let’s dream again. Let’s dream and pray. Let’s start by putting Romans 14:19 front and center on the front burner of the stove. What can we do to cultivate peace and building up each other?
Let’s dream again. Let’s put just as much passion and focus that we place on our Sunday morning time together into serving others outside of our churches. I love that the ministry of the Bering Drive Church of Christ spreads around our city, and believe that there are more opportunities for service that we have not even thought up yet.
Let’s dream again. Let’s continue to look for ways to welcome others into this wonderful story and community we share. We at Bering started praying a couple of years ago that God would bless us with ten new individuals and/or families. Remember that? Talk about an overflowing cup! God answered our prayers and then some! But sadly, we have also lost some families and people we dearly miss. So you know what? Let’s pray and dream some more. Because what we have here is worth sharing.
Let’s dream again. One of the reasons we are entertaining doing a massive remodel of the Bering building is for the primary reason that we can say “yes” to new dreams. So what’s your dream? What have you been praying about lately? Me, I have been praying that God will work among us in such a way that we can proclaim the truths of Jesus boldly and without reservation in such a way that those who walk through our doors will find a home for a lifetime.
Isn’t that what we all want? A place to call home that lives according to a story so powerful that it saves our lives. Guess what? That’s the story we have. The story of “God with us.”
So let’s dream again.