Thursday, October 06, 2005

The People of God

First, I'm sorry I haven't been here much. My real life is kind of hectic this week. I will probably not be around much again until next week. My parents will be here for a visit this weekend.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a post of some thoughts I've been having about our identity as the people of God and some interesting things that others have said recently along those lines.

From Kyle Potter:

It's not a question of mere semantics. The language we use derives from and contributes to particular values. So let's stop having Church. Let's stop going to Church. Let's be the Church, the People of God.

I think that to the extent that we have lost sight of our identity as the people of God, we lost sight of our mission. If our identity, first and foremost, is our particular denomination or church and our role or position there, we have become fractured from our identity as the people of God.

This causes the splintering we have within the body and has greatly hindered our ability to truly value one another and work together. All of our attempts at ecumenicalism will be fruitless if we don't clearly see ourselves and our brothers as the people of God with a common mission.

Well-stated thoughts from Van S:

You are church before you do church...

If this is true, then why does modern church planting amount to “service starting?” This is putting the cart before the horse, ecclesiology before missiology. We decide how we are going to “do” church before we have built missional relationships. Putting missiology first changes how we think of ourselves as the church.

More than the type of gatherings we assemble and structure, our effectiveness as the people of God will be determined by our living. It seems that so much of our effort has been put into shaping the structure of our gatherings. I believe it's time to shift the focus to the effectiveness of our mission.

An excellent quote from John Frye from the comments on Scot McKnight's blog:

The followers of Jesus had a story that spanned millennia; it told how powers (ruthless and otherwise) had come and gone, yet the “people of God’ were still around. Jesus was the grand climax of the story and, raised from the dead, now reigns as “Lord of Lords.”

They did not spread their “story” by power or by might or by creeds or doctinal statements or by votes or petitions. They spread their story BY THE WAY THEY LIVED. “Anyone who claims to live in him must WALK as Jesus WALKED.”

Postmodern visions of the church are not going to be built by “conversations” as good as they are; nor by deconstructing the modern church as culturally compromised as it is; nor by innovative expressions of “church.”

It's almost as if we've been off in a corner perfecting a prototype factory, neglecting the reality that we've not produced the desired product, but simply tweaked and retweaked the assembly line.

If we see ourselves as the people of God, Monday through Saturday, at home, work, and play, then we will no longer isolate ministry to the things that happen in church settings. The way we live becomes our ministry.

From an excellent post by Michael Kruse in which he explains how settling into our denominational "homes" has been contrary to the journey that God intended for us:

Jesus calls transformers into a journey to transform every realm. He sends us out into the world to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth with his presence. Some of Jesus’ most powerful metaphors concerning mission deal with the dispersion of substances so that the mission might be realized. Salt to preserve food and add taste. Yeast to leaven bread. Seeds to grow crops. The mission of the Church is to disperse and bring every realm under the loving Lordship of Christ. Realm does not just mean geographic regions. It also means social institutions and varied human relationships. Jesus strategy is the dispersion of his people into every realm so that each realm and person may be transformed into extensions of God’s love and justice.

And a clear description from Alexander Hamilton on how to go about living the gospel, being the church, the people of God:

By contrast the incarnational approach to mission is refreshingly simple. It requires us to live amongst the people in our communities, love them, share the good news of the kingdom both in action and in speech and then as people become followers of Christ to form up indigenous communities of faith that reflect the specific context. This requires no great resources or buildings, no slick marketing plans and no highly talented people. In incarnational mission the gatherings exist to support the believers as they move out in mission rather than being seen as the place to bring people to. While attractional churches will continue to dominate the landscape of the Christian world, I strongly believe that hope for the future lies increasingly with an incarnational approach to mission that takes both gospel and context seriously and sends Christians out as missionaries rather than calling pagans to come and attend church.

The question should no longer be "where do you go to church?" but, "are you being the church, whenever and wherever you are?"

Being the people of God is who we are. Everything we do flows out of our understanding of that identity.

8 comments:

Bill said...

Hi,
I enjoyed your Blog and agree with your thoughts on the "brick and mortar" church. I find Christ in the shadows and underneath the bridges where poverty lives. I seek Him there in human compassion, rather than in a beautiful, and expensive building.

Blessings,

Bill

fr'nklin said...

Grace,

Nicely said...I like this Ghandi quote:"Be the change you wish to see in the world." I kinda hear that in this post. BE the change you wish to see in the Institutional Church.

I don't want to start "worship services", and I'm amazed at how that is my "default" mode of thinking about church planting. I'm gradually becoming much more focused on BEING church wherever I can...and you've been instrumental in helping me learn that...THANKS!

Peace.
Fr'nklin

[rhymes with kerouac] said...

This is another thought altogether, but sort of related, I think, to what you've said. I wonder if Christ might not be better served by us simply dropping the entire idea of "church" altogether and referring to ourselves instead as "His Bride".

RonMcK said...

Good stuff!
I have written about his in my book Being Church Where We Live.
Blessings
Ron

David Cho said...

Great post.

I think this goes back to the institutionalization of the church which has been harmful.

Right now, out biggest identity seems to be conservative politics. Not that there is anything particularly wrong with conservative politics, but that shouldn't be what defines us. Well, whether we want to admit it or not, it is our identity and most Christians don't seem to mind it.

That is very dangerous.

Pam Hogeweide said...

Hey Grace,

Yeah, be the church instead of doing church.

How does that look? What does it look like in the ordinary course of our ordinary days to be the Bride?

I wonder what that looks like for me?

When I choose to spend time with God, to talk with Him while I'm washing the dishes or folding the laundry is this being the Bride? If I pause and listen to the harried shopper at the grocery store vent about her overwhelming life is this the stuff of kingdom living? How does being the church manifest itself in my dull, uneventful life?

One question I have been mentioning to God for, like months now, is do only the professionals get the best part of Him, the best intimacy with Him, the best insights and understanding? Does God reveal the depths of who He is to ordinary folk like me, who are not clergy or monatics? I don't have a lifestyle of hours of prayer and study and ministry. Will I therefore not be privelaged to the depths of God as much as the pastor who earns his living studying and praying and preaching and...?

Where is the kingdom of God in the non-religious life? This is what I'm after. Finding Jesus in the mundane.

Somebody said God must love ordinary peope because he made so many of them.

I think David hits it on the head when he talks about identity. Is my identity in the truth that I am the church, 24/7, where ever I go? I have the capacity to manifest the love and grace of Jesus without being prompted by someone else. There is no sacred day or place or time over another. The beauty of following Christ is that he is the most non-religious Person I know. He was church wherever He went - including the taboo places.

Ok, maybe I need to blog about this myself, instead of rambling on here. Thanks Grace for triggering yet another avalanche of thought in my ordinary mind :-)!!!!!

grace said...

Testing....

I've replied to these comments twice and lost them both.

Grrrrr!!!!

grace said...

Hi Bill, it's nice to meet you. Thanks for your comments. I agree that we best see Christ when we express His love and compassion to those around us.

Fr'nklin, I understand what you are saying about default mode. I sometimes still find myself thinking in terms of service starting.

Rhymes, being His Bride is exactly what I was talking about. However, sometimes I have seen that when we think of ourselves only in terms of being the bride we can become inward focused and lose our sense of being a people with a mission.

Ron, it looks like you have given a lot of thought and study to this topic. Hopefully, I can spend some time at your site soon reading some of your material.

David, I think the problem may not be as much with the institution as it is with putting the focus on the institution instead of the mission. As far as politics, I am "apolitical" for now. Not sure if that's good or right, just where I'm at at the moment.

Pam, great comments again. Maybe we should do a collaborative blog. You always have such a great way of explaining and expounding on what I'm thinking.

I think the power of the gospel is when it is allowed to flow among and through ordinary people rather than obstructed by religious systems.

The reason we need to take this to the identity level is so that we are no longer separating things along the lines of spiritual and ordinary. Thinking in terms of identity, you are Mrs. Hogeweide wherever you go, not just when you are with your husband or doing something for him.

You express this in your last paragraph about being the church and bringing Jesus into all that we do, no longer segregating the sacred from the mundane.