Bridge Building in the Church

I often feel a stress about how infrequently I am blogging right now.  However, a couple of years ago I began to feel called to administrate a men’s retreat for affiliated churches in my area.  This has been where all my extra energy has been going. 

Today I have something on my mind in relation to church politics.  So, I am preparing to discuss it under my ‘Politics Monday’ category. 

One of the strongest choices a church can make is to find ways to build bridges to the community.

But what exactly does that mean? Simply put, it is finding ways to connect with people who do not have a church, and possibly would not normally consider setting foot on church grounds. If a congregation’s only chance to evangelize is to witness to those folks who happen to visit, they will be missing the entire point of the great commission.

When people talk about bridge building they will often center on whether an outreach event is on the grounds of the church or not.  And this does have a point to it. A lot of the people we should most want to reach would never attend an event on the church grounds.  Not in the fellowship hall, not in the parking lot and absolutely not in the sanctuary. But some will.

Those who would be willing to visit an outreach on the church grounds might well be the low hanging fruit of the great commission, but low hanging fruit needs to be picked too. For this reason, I am not in agreement with those who assert genuine outreach and evangelism cannot take place on church grounds.

However, doing events off the church grounds has tremendous value. Not only will you have a chance to meet people who you will not meet on the grounds, but you will also see the church’s faith stretched and the community’s hearts opened. The church that is seen by community involved people as also being community involved will be their most likely place to land. Furthermore, If you are always standing on the safe ground, were exactly is the faith in that?

But before you dismiss me as being a Pollyanna let me explain that both claims have another side.  When you see into the hearts of the community you might well have that tattooed biker chick who wears her pierced earrings everywhere except her ears dropping in on the senior ladies sewing circle.  It might mean having a perfectly normal looking teen boy bring his boyfriend on his first visit.

This is about the time when you begin to find that a congregation’s faith can crack or break when it is stretched too far too fast.

I suspect to many people it sounds a little bit like compromising with the world.  To others it sounds like polluting the purity of the church with the effluence of unregenerate souls.

So, bridge building is not for the faint of heart.  But then again, no part of faithful Christianity is. Real people have real problems and sometimes we get too accustomed to our view of the church as a trouble-free zone.  But it was real people for whom Christ died.  People with fears; people with flaws.  People like you and me.

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Spiritual Gifts

Spiritual Gifts are discussed in several places in the New Testament. But in terms of belief and practice they are one of the points of doctrine with the highest variation.

As for me, I do not believe that Spiritual gifts existed only for the age of apostles and went away when the last apostle died. This is one of the rarer perspectives on gifts, and in some people is adopted as a weapon to use against Pentecostalism rather than a thought out belief. But it was one of the perspectives which was historically strong.

I do not believe that speaking in tongues is a sign given to prove a person’s salvation. Some believe if you do not speak in tongues you are not saved, nor that tongues is necessary to qualify for vocational ministry. I do not believe every person who speaks in tongues does so through the Holy Spirit, nor do I believe every person who speaks in tongues does it falsely. My reading of Corinthians indicates Paul would prefer that we desire other gifts over tongues. Therefore it should not be treated as the highest gift.

I think we make a mistake when we get hung up about tongues. It would make more sense to be most concerned about the gift of prophecy. Regarding prophecy I do not believe it should be equated with preaching, nor do I think preachers should strive to sound prophetic. Instead we should strive to be exhortative.

I do believe that gifts reflect God’s design for the local church. Even in churches which ignore the idea of gifts, God has given different people in the congregation different abilities to design the ministry in the manner He chose.

I believe every Christian has at least one gift, and that most have a lot more than one. I believe we should be careful to limit the concept of gifts to certain Biblical lists, but we should also stop calling whatever we want to do, a gift.

I believe a person’s giftedness may change according to God’s will. This may include both adding gifts and losing gifts in different seasons of life.

Finally I believe it is a mistake for any church to fault another church on their handling of gifts. Those churches will answer to their Master in eternity and to their own circles of accountability while on earth.

Wrong Workers

Recently I had said I would begin talking about church politics from time to time rather than always talking about national politics.

This past Sunday I was not in my own church, as it happened the church I attended had their Pastor to Students bring the message. I thought the young man seemed very nervous but one point he addressed really got my attention. I found it to be so valuable I am making it the focus of today’s post.

I believe God designs His church. Not just in the universal sense, but also in terms of local congregations.  He brings needs to the church, and He brings His choice of workers to the church. The advice the young man gave the church, passed on to him by a mentor was, “When you see a need in the church, let it be a need until God fills the need.”

Churches are often blessed by people who have a can-do attitude. They will volunteer to fill any need they see in the church. These people can be a tremendous blessing. Capable people who will take initiative are a wonderful thing in any church—Right up until they become a curse.

I have seen it happen a few different ways. Once I saw a person who felt the ministry owed them something for all their hard work. Soon they were stealing from the ministry. I have seen lesser examples when people begin to express they can do things better than other people and force those others out of ministry.  I have seen people who began to feel that because of their level of involvement their vote should carry more weight than other members. Numerous times I have seen people wear themselves out and quit altogether, often with a big show blaming someone else.

All of these things came about because people took on more of the work in the church than they should. Ultimately they did this because they failed to trust God to supply the workers.

When I say it like that it seems so obvious, but in the flow of the life of the church it’s anything but obvious. Helpful people are always appreciated. Workers are never turned away. We always need more volunteers. At least we think so. What we really need is the patience and insight to use the workers that God has chosen, selected and gifted for a ministry.