Monday, November 16, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Monday, November 02, 2009
reprint from The Tennessean 10-31-09 , by Ken Behr
Since we often see many churches in every community and on nearly every corner it would be easy to assume that many, if not most, of the people we meet are Christians.
Recently, I was recalling how when I had the opportunity to travel in Europe, I enjoyed visiting the old Gothic churches that are common there. I loved the architecture with the stained-glass windows, the beautiful and graceful arches and the carefully fitted stones. I could imagine what it would have been like in times past to hear the church bells and witness literally all of the villagers come and fill up these old cathedrals to worship God.
Sadly, today these old churches and cathedrals in Europe are mostly empty. They have become tourist attractions, and the tiny congregations can no longer afford the upkeep and the churches have become wards of the state.
Here in the United States, church attendance has also been declining as a percentage of the population while at the same time many new and larger churches have been built and are thriving. I believe one of the main reasons for the decline is that people think of the church as a building. It is not. Buildings are primarily stone, wood, iron and plaster. The Church is and will always be the people.
The word translated "church" in the New Testament Greek is the Greek word "ekklesia," which is a combination of two Greek words: "ek," which means "out," and "kaleo," which is the Greek word for a "call" or a "calling." Therefore the church as defined by the New Testament is actually about those that are "called out."
If we are "called out," what are we called out to do?
Perhaps an example is in order. Recently, we received a phone call from a woman who was desperate as she was being evicted from her home and had found a new place to live but needed somebody to help her move. She didn't need to come to "church," she didn't need instruction on finances, she needed four guys who could help her move. We met that need and enjoyed being "called out."
It's easy to fall into a comfortable routine of weekly services, meetings and gatherings for adults, the youth and children. At the same time, being called out means that we need to become a catalyst for change in the hearts of the people. Once we embrace the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have a calling and a mission that extends way beyond our local church building. It is in the local and extended community that we have the opportunity to minister to people both spiritually and physically. We are to live a life of compassion for all people and provide the opportunity for reconciliation.
The primary example for a life of compassion, forgiveness and redemption was none other than Christ himself. Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, who despite the enmity that existed between the Jews and the Gentiles, crossed that ethnic and religious divide with compassion to help someone who was left half dead.
When we understand that we are called out, petty differences in the way we worship or the type of music that is played in our congregations and denominations should largely fade away and we become partners in this ministry of reconciliation and transformation.
As called-out ones, we are to have the compassion to offer forgiveness to the sinner, embrace those who society has cast out and offer hope to those who have been abused. Those who are called out don't judge as much as they offer a ministry of reconciliation. Our lives are to be transformed so that we no longer seek to benefit ourselves as to benefit our neighbor. The transformation is to take us from being selfish to being selfless.
When we are truly transformed by the power of the Gospel, we are called out of the buildings that we call churches. It is in our local and extended community that we find our calling.
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