January 2024 Connection

Muddy Footprints in Jesus’ Church 

And Other Reasons It’s Not Really About Us

A number of years ago, a church I served, after about 10 years of hosting a very popular Trunk-or-Treat on Halloween night, finally had to move things indoors on a particularly rainy Halloween night. Rain became mud, and not a soul wanted to be outside unless it was to move from one candy source to another. The night was still a great success, but, as you can imagine, the church’s carpets we pretty well muddied
and in need of cleaning. The next day, as I listened to a church member complain about the community’s disrespect of her church, I offered a not-so-subtle reminder of an important truth: “This church is not yours or mine. This church belongs to those who don’t yet have a church family.” The conversation ended, but I do hope that my point was taken. Sometimes, in the busyness of being the church, it’s easy to forget
what our purpose is.
In John 21:15, responding to Jesus’ question as to whether Simon Peter truly loved Jesus, Simon Peter’s reply was, “Yes. Lord…you know that I love you.” It was at that moment that Jesus gave the first of three nearly identical instructions: “Feed my lambs.”
In Mark 1:17, after calling his disciples, Jesus tells the two fishermen, Andrew and Simon, “Come, follow me…and I will send you out to fish for people.”
In Matthew 28:19, we discover the resurrected Jesus giving the disciples what has become known as the “Great Commission:” All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Time and time again, Jesus invites his disciples (and we are his disciples, too), that the notion of the church – the “Body of Christ” – is only about us up to the point that we are fed. Once we are fed, it is no longer really about us. We become the church for someone else! It becomes our obligation to become fishers of people, lamb feeders, and into-the-world goers!
The problem is, over time, the Church as institution (note the capital “C”) has done an amazing job of convincing Christians that church is all about “us.” We’ve been taught that Christianity’s goal is getting to heaven and getting as many people to go with us as possible. We’ve been taught that good people “go to church” and that Sundays are the most important thing we do.
Now, don’t get me wrong! I absolutely love the Church! I love being a Christian and I love being a follower of Jesus. That said, the Christian Church (notice that capital “C” again) needs to reexamine its role. We need deeply to see that the goal of Christianity is and has always really been about caring for and seeing the image of God in our neighbor, loving those who struggle to love us back, and praying for those we’d otherwise call our enemy. We deeply need to see that there are many, even in our community – our own backyard – who have been hurt by Churches and have walked away because Christians haven’t always been the best reflections of God’s immense and limitless love. We deeply need to begin to understand that worship attendance, while immensely important to our spiritual health and relationship with God, is not the marker of one’s “goodness” or their Christian faith, for that matter. Worship is, at its core an expression of gratitude and love for a God who has loved us before we could ever comprehend it (we call that prevenient grace).
Does this mean that we ignore one another and only focus on those not in relationship with this church or another church? Absolutely not! Jesus’ commission was never to forget one another. In the early church, we see countless examples of seeing and caring for one another, praying, encouraging one another, and growing deeper in faith! Just read Paul’s letter and you’ll discover it immediately. But you’ll also discover that the goal for all of that was singular – that others might come to discover through the church (little “c” means “Body of Christ) the good news of Jesus Christ.
In other words, its time for the Church to embody the church, and to see the muddy footprints on the
carpet as evidence of grace, goodness, and good news. It’s not my Church and it’s not your Church. We
exist as a church for those who have yet to discover the real gospel!
Are we ready – are you ready – to do what it takes to fish for people, feed sheep, and go into all the
Today is a new day.
Pastor Brian
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