A Messed-Up Focus

One of the pitfalls that I keep finding myself in is the focus I give on the church as a meeting place, building, service while forgetting that the church is more about going and living than it is about a building. When I look at the early church, we do see them gather and fellowship, break bread and pray. However, when you read Acts, there is more emphasis on going and living among the people than there is on getting together.

Somehow we have shifted the attention to our gathering. We do everything possible to make sure people have a great time on Sunday morning. We demand perfection from our worship team, childcare for our kids, entertainment from our pastor and the ability to leave and go back to our private lives as soon as service is over. I’m not saying that any of this is bad. We want great worship, relevant teaching and our kids to be taken care of. However, this mindset has created a generation of me-centered people that are only interested in the church to make them feel good or entertained. It is not producing disciples that are going and living. Unfortunately, because we went into a building and sang some songs and heard a message, we think we just “had church.”

[pl_blockquote]Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. (Acts 5:12)[/pl_blockquote]

The church is not just a group of people that come together every Sunday morning and sing songs and listen to a pastor and then go and live our individual lives. The church is so much more than that. We are a group of people, filled with the Holy Spirit, who have been given the power to take the message of God’s transforming power and love everywhere we go because Jesus is with us and in us. The church is disciples of Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father who both corporately and individually take the presence of Jesus to the places where God calls us. We recognize that it is “Christ in us, the hope of glory.”

[pl_blockquote]And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. (Acts 6:8)[/pl_blockquote]

As a pastor that has dreams of being “successful”, I need to constantly remind myself that the church is not about how big the building is, how many people attend the service, how great the sermon is, how amazing the kids ministry is.” The church is a movement of people, in love with Jesus who are going and being sent out, knowing that the Holy Spirit is with them, into a world that needs hope.

[pl_blockquote]Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. (Acts 8:4-5)[/pl_blockquote]

This means that there is a shift from trying to engage people in all the activities that the church is doing to encouraging people to live out their faith in the places where God has already placed them. It means that while the service and the building is important, the equipping and empowering and sending of the people into the world takes precedence. It means that instead of “going to church”, we become more interested in “taking the church” to our world.

How does this play out for a disciple of Jesus?

[pl_blockquote]Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. (Acts 8:26-27)[/pl_blockquote]

Stop focusing on the meeting

It’s very easy to come to a church service and find everything good/bad about the service. Don’t be self-centered. It’s sad when people complain that they are not getting anything out of the church, but in reality they never put anything in to building relationships and living their faith together with other people.

Over the last several years at LOFT City, I’ve been watching God take some people out and bring new people into the church. The majority of the people that He has weaned out are people that were more interested in what the church was doing for them. They could very easily find faults in so many different aspects of the church. Sadly, because they were self-centered, they missed the individuals God was bringing and how they could have impacted their lives. Over the last several months, God has been bringing people from various ethnic and faith backgrounds with incredible stories and because we tend to be me-centered we miss out on what God is doing.

Focus on people

Our church building will not be in heaven, but the people we building relationships with and invest in have eternal significance. Invest into people. Figure out who God is bringing into your life and invest in them, invite them into your lives/homes. Go celebrate and weep with them. Be interested in their lives. Don’t make them a project, but genuinely care about them.

Pray for the people that God brings into your life.

Live God-centered lives everywhere you go.

Build relationships, love people, pray for God-appointments, live among the people

Use the gifts that God has blessed you with and use them outside of church.

You aren’t gifted so that you can bless the local church. You have been gifted by God so that you can point people to Jesus.

[pl_blockquote]Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. (Acts 11:19-21)[/pl_blockquote]

[pl_blockquote]While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:2-3)[/pl_blockquote]

Photo courtesy of ©Greg Hirson under the Creative Commons License 3.0

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