24 January, 2008

Missio Ecclesia

When will the church start being the church? This is a question that many in evangelical circles are asking. The context of the question is the fact that many view church as one or two services a week and then a mind-your-own-business-spirituality the rest of the week.

This was not the practice of the Lord Jesus and his disciples, the early Church, the Reformation church, the Puritans, or even Victorian Christianity. There have been great periods of the church doing ministry and living out her faith to a degree that changed lives for the sake of the Gospel. This is our duty. I think of the words of Wesley: the world is my parish! We have a duty to mankind to bring the Gospel and its life changing message. This begins in our homes, our neighborhoods, our communities, and extends to all spheres of life with which we have contact. Most importantly, this is done in Word and in deed.

1 John 3:18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. Colossians 3:17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

The Lord has been showing me this more and more and I know that there are many saints in the Reformed churches that are seeing the need for Jesus Christ to break into our lives and to make a people that are more than 'Sunday Christians'. It is sad to see the Emergent Church and the Evangelicals doing more- and with less Truth. There is much work to do. The Lord Jesus said,

Matthew 9:37-38 The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.

He also said concerning those who claimed to be Christians, but did not do these works that the Gospel requires of them:

Matthew 25:42-46 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

We have much to reform in the Reformed churches; much of which does have to do with doctrine, but with practice. Our heritage is filled with men and women who lived for the sake of advancing the Gospel; many of us are but consumers. My pastor has challenged his congregation with this.

What should be done from? Should we continue with individualistic consumerism, or be the Church?


steveandjanna said...

Well, you're the pastor to be. What are you doing to change all of this and what can you suggest the rest of us do? Complaining about it doesn't solve the problem, lead the way pastor to be.

Mark said...

The resident crank saying that complaining doesn't solve anything? That's rich. :)

I've been going through some of the same thoughts as you lately. For what it's worth, I don't think you came off as complaining at all. There's a lot to be said for ministering to the needs of others in the congregation, and I think First does that well, but I agree we need to go beyond our walls. It's one of the things I like so much about the RPCNA - they do doctrine and practice well. Hopefully we can improve on our practice soon.

steveandjanna said...

I've yet to see the practice in the RPCNA since we joined. From what I can gather about these people, they water things down to get people in. That's another issue for another day though.

Yapping about a problem in the church like this without providing any solutions is utterly pointless. I've seen more than enough yapping about how pathetic the reformed churches are on this issue since I moved to GR but the people who are constantly yapping never provide any solutions nor do they take any action themselves besides yapping. The time for yapping is done, if you want to turn things around provide some solutions to the problem or stifle yourself.

An Eshelman said...

There are many Reformed churches in GR that are doing good work- I just do not think that we are one of them in this regard.

Like Mark said, we do good with ministry to each other, but when it comes to corporate ministry to those outside of the church, we do nothing.

Of course, many of us do things individually, but we do not our works before men, but before God.

There have been a number of attempts to get something going corporately, but I do not think that our congregation's laundry needs to be hung out on my blog. Just know that there are people trying to get things going.

As for 'pastor to be' and yapping: Your and my minister has opened this to the whole congregation in an evening service. He has invited this kind of discussion.

And as for us being RP and their ministry, just remember that you too are RP and verbally covenanted before God to work with the denomination: flaws and all.

steveandjanna said...

I look forward to the day that the RP's excommunicate me. I'm disgusted that I was pushed into a corner by you and the session on this issue. Join us or have no church, you guys put me there and I did the only thing I could do which is join this worthless denomination. I pray for the day that I have the opportunity to leave it, I pray that we as a congregation come to our senses and leave or in the unfortunate alternative, another reformed psalm singing church opens in GR. You pushed us into this corner for your career, I hope it serves you well because it's not served our church well no matter how much you pretend otherwise.

You are doing little more than what Ray did, opening up conversation but not providing any solutions. Talk is cheap, sitting around with a Starbucks and yapping about what our goals should be is pointless. Put up or shut up and I say that to you and I'll say that to Ray as well. Talking has gotten our church nowhere, either propose something that we can do or do nothing but continuing to talk doesn't do any good at all.

shawn said...

Looking at the Scriptures you have provided, Nate, it looks like our Lord calls us to much work.

It seems like we should work it out in the plain and simple meaning of His words.

I really would like to see a parish set up, with a school, medical clinic and of course Church, but that seems long term.

I have been looking for means of outreach, because the one thing that you and Steve agree on is that we need to "provide some solutions".

I think that something our Church could utilize would be this:
I hope to present this to Session soon.

The key is having a vision for it, implementing it and volunteering to take part in it.

I'm looking forward to the Evangelism conference as well, praying that the Lord would stir me to convicted action by His Word.
He knows I need it.

Steven Carr said...

Thank you for the challenge Nathan. One of the things I have been thinking about is how I can use the things I have been given for the kingdom of God. I have a home small though it is, yet I can use it for the furthering of the kingdom. 'Given to hospitality' is a qualification of a bishop. It is also a qualification of every Christian. Bringing people into our own homes to feed them physically and spiritually is a good way to advance the kingdom of God.

I am saddened by Steve's words. These are not the words of a god-fearing man. "You will know them by their fruits."

Charles Jurries said...

There are churches that do just talk and talk, who spend more time on their schools and societies than on outreach and ministry. I'll agree with Steve (I know!) that talk IS cheap, and that without anyone bringing up any examples of how to make things better, this is just banter, nothing more, nothing less.

However, I like Nate's focus more, talking about the Christian church, rather than a specific denomination. That should be the focus all the time. It shouldn't be, "I'm Slavic Reformed" or "I'm Irish Reformed," but "I'm Christian." A denomination is a nice way to categorize the beliefs of your congregation, but it is the actions of the congregations themselves that make an impact.

Your own congregation has a time together on Wed. nights, so then at least there is some interaction with each other throughout the week. (Not to mention that what, half your congregation has blogs and/or Facebook to stalk.) Staying connected with church family, and helping to keep the focus on the Trinity throughout the WHOLE week, not just on Sunday, is an important thing for a church to do.

Even though I disagree with some stuff practiced in the "mega" churches, we can certainly follow their model and leadership to see how to better reach out. For example, even though I am not a fan of Mars Hill, their ministries - both aimed at inside and outside the church - are very admirable and a lot can be learned from what they do and how they operate and can be adapted to fit a smaller congregation.

It is a good discussion, and a necessary one. May the real changes come for you guys.

the reverend said...

I must enter a demurrer with regard to the perceived effectiveness of the evangelical and emergent churches in ministry to those who are without.

Our congregation, through a goodly number of its members, is involved in ministries of various kinds. I suspect that measured by percentage of membership, we have more active members than Mars Hill does. We cannot compete in terms of money, or scale, or simple numbers. But we may have a much larger portion of our members at work in the field than many larger churches do. If ten of our members are in ministry that is one sixth of our members. If 600 Mars Hillers are at work, that is only .06% of their congregation.

It seems to me my recent remarks on this line may have been misunderstood. I simply pointed out the nature of the sins for which the "goats" are accounted as wicked, viz., sins of omission, with regard to even the simplest acts of kindness, things which even the heathen know they out to do; and not sins of the flesh, etc.

the reverend said...

And furthermore: We should not be so easily impressed by churches with great wealth who can hire "professionals" to organize, administrate, promote, etc, the work they do in the name of the congregation. Time and again I have had to point out that the mega-churches have mega-staffs, mega-buildings and mega-bucks. I wonder if the Lord Jesus Christ will be of a mind to separate these mega-sheep in a pen by themselves.

Mist said...

We do not attend your church, yet when we have visited we have noticed that their is a graciousness there and a sweetness of fellowship.

One thing I would like to say is that I think sometimes we are to critical, not keeping a proper perspective. I looked in the bulletin of the reformed church that we have been attending and this is how they are reaching out.

-Volunteering to help the American Red Cross distribute smoke detectors.
- Making Hygiene Kits for Guatemala.
-Collecting items for the Pregnancy Resource Center. Many are giving cribs, homemade blankets, clothing, ect. to mothers who choose not to abort their babies.
-Going to other countries to help with pastoral assistance i.e. salaries, training, books.
-Not to mention a focus on training men by helping with a reformed seminary, sending men out to preach the gospel.
- Hurricane Felix recovery (Puertos Cabezas region, Nicaragua) by giving to the Word and Deed ministry.
-Ladies go once a month and fold laundry at the local nursing home.
-Men going to the local prison to preach and talk to the men.
-Training children and evangelizing "unchurched" neighborhood children.

I think this is more common than you all are giving credit. We need to see that God is working in the church and many good things are happening. I agree that with a small church you can't do as much. The reason many efforts fail at churches is because they do not have the people that joyfully serve.