I believe that an engaging and authentic church is a community of followers and believers that looks from the outside like the people on the inside (not always like some other church or program somewhere else). This is authentic.
Imagine a community of people in dialog with each other about Jesus, about God, about the Bible, about life. This is engaging. I would point out that dialogs are conversations that are open…not closed.
Jesus was a Hebrew, a Jewish Rabbi. The Scripture makes this very clear. It is not a fact that we can change….it is simply a fact.
One of the differences between Hebrew view of Scripture and Greek view of Scripture is that in the Greek way of thinking, which is what our culture by-in-large subscribes to, it is all about having the answers. It is all about having “figured it out”. Truth, in this way of thinking, is static. In the Hebrew way of thinking, the way that Jesus thought, it is all about the questions, it is all about the contemplation…it is much more dynamic in terms of our spiritual growth. It is all about trying to understand….not having the answer…but seeking always. I will add that this is NOT relativism, and I am NOT describing the thought that each person has their own truth, that truth is relative. I am describing a seeking heart, a heart on a journey for truth.
A friend, Jim, agreed that it is actually important NOT to necessarily have to have all the answers. The point is to always be seeking truth. Again, this is NOT relativism….as Jim said, “God has an absolute standard, truth,reality; call it what you will; toward which we strive. I think that the important thing is attitude. I remember reading about some of the Jewish traditions..in the rabbinical tradition, debate was to be animated, but without rancor…a group of scripture students/rabbis debating a point would have looked to an outsider like a melee without fisticuffs. It was considered each individual’s dity to passionately give his all to the point he was making…without animosity. When debate was done, it was done. I think we can even do this one better…we can learn to passionately discuss the truths we’ve discovered while still listening; simultaneously to the other(s) and to the Holy Spirit. Only in this way, I believe, can we gain everything God is putting before us to learn. The Talmud has a wonderful saying..’The wise man learns from every man; the fool from none.'”
It is impossible to dialog when both sides “have the answer”. We can easily find people who share our “answers”, but the true test of a person is to be able to listen, to look at opposing thoughts, to allow the Holy Spirit to work in that. To seek the truth and wisdom of God……and never necessarily have the defining answer. Why? Because Scripture is alive when read by God’s people.
When was the last time you talked about your anger and you contemplated with your friends what Jesus taught about the subject in your dialog? When was the last time you discussed God’s Words and you allowed the other person to present their thoughts while you presented yours…and there was no anger? True, someone may say things that you feel are outrageous and that you do not believe. But, by listening, by allowing them their belief, and by their then listening to yours…..there is room for growth and God can be in command of the conversation rather than us.
Indeed, just like Jesus and the ancient rabbi’s of His time, they discussed Scripture, not just listened to one man’s interpretation of Scripture. God’s Words are alive, He wants us to seek, He wants us to contemplate, He wants us to discover. None of this can be accomplished if we already know the answers. Or rather, I should say that none of this can be accomplished if our hearts are so hardened as to not allow others ownership of their thoughts, their journey, their understanding.
Contemplate the story of Jesus as a twelve year old boy in the temple…. the broader context of this story is found in Luke 2:41-52 (ESV). We will look closely at verses 46, 47 and 52:
LUKE 2:46-47 and 52 (ESV)
46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
Another online friend of mine, Mrs. Darcey, told me one time (speaking about a conversation with a friend), “…her pastor says their church is a hospital for sinners.” That’s a powerful thought! I believe that a community of Christ followers, a church, should be place of healing. Mrs. Darcy went on to say, “It needs to be first and foremost a place where we go to find relief from our burden of sin. And then in turn we who are healed and healing can minister that same hope to those who are still burdened. If we go to church for this purpose, and stay at church to minister in this way, that seems to me to be the best recipe for authentic, organic worship. Because we will each be there because we recognize our need, and we draw new souls to the Lord because we help them, too, find their way out of the morass we’ve been rescued from ourselves.”
Again, an authentic church (remember, WE are the church) is a community of followers and believers that looks from the outside like the people on the inside. An engaging church is a community of followers that is in dialog with each other about Jesus, about God, about the Bible, about life. Their attitude is less an attitude of having all the answers, and more of an attitude that is more about discovery of the treasures of God’s wisdom, and this is, I believe, of achieved through questions and contemplation.
Additionally, an engaging church is a place of healing, a safe haven to heal from the rigors of the world we live in.
The key is always this: “IT” begins with “I”….”I” want to be authentic, “I” want to be engaging, “I” want to heal and “I” want to help others heal.
What do you think?