I started reading Jason Dukes’ new book, Live Sent:You Are a Letter a while back, but never finished it because I just got burned out with all the reading and writing I was doing. As I’m on track to start a small group in September, unless God intervenes, I felt that now was the time to get back into the swing of things, and this book was on the top of the list to re-read and finish. I’m only four chapters in and I’m absolutely confident that I can say that this book is vital to Christians who desire to live missionally (or reformissionally, for the Driscollites out there).
I posted some of my reflections on this book a few months ago, and this is going to be much along the same lines.
The Topic: How we “do” church
I’m certain that we are not the first generation or culture to face this problem. The church has been around for 2000 years, and from the moment Jesus ascended to Heaven, mankind has been determining how the church should function. Relying on Scripture and the convictions laid upon us by the Holy Spirit, to be sure, but we’re fallen, broken, sinful people who have a tendency to colossally mess things up. That said, Dukes rightly points out that we have a huge obstacle set before us: Christians have begun treating “the church” as a place we go instead of who we are.
Language Clarifications: Not “should be”, but “are”
One of the reasons I chose Transforming Words as the title of my blog is because words are so powerful. So, when we talk about how the church acts, we have to differentiate between who the church is and what the church does. Let me explain: When we hear a pastor or teacher say “We need to start being the church 24/7” it implies that we currently exist in one capacity and need to transform into existing in a different capacity. This cannot be the case with the church.
We must differ between how the church functionally behaves and who the church ontologically is. The church always has been, is now, and always will be the body of Christ. This is true whether we are in a “church” building, worship center, chapel, at work, at school, a pool hall, or at the local bar. We are ontologically the church, period. The problem is the way we function.
Functionally, we “go to church”. We act as though church is a place we go, instead of who we are. This thinking transcends into how we act at work, school, in traffic (guilty!), and anywhere else we go. We constantly fail to functionally be the church everywhere we go. This may sound like semantics to some. Consider this though, not many parents would tell their child who brings home a “C” that he or she needs to “be smarter” to get that “A”. No, they tell them that they are ALREADY smarter than a “C”, and they need to put forth the effort to live up to their capabilities. It’s the same thing with the church; we are functionally living contrary to our ontological nature in Christ. In other words, we are living down who we really are!
This stems from a couple different areas, and I’ll let you read the book to read about most of them for yourself. I will say this though, it starts with how we talk about ourselves as “the church”.
Honestly, I don’t know that I have definitive solutions for this issue. Granted, I haven’t finished the book yet, so that could be a reason why this is the case. I would submit, though, that if one of the ways this plays out is in how we talk, we need to change how we talk about ourselves in relation to the church. I’m not exactly sure what we would replace “I’m going to church tomorrow night” with, exactly, but the phrasing reinforces wrong thinking. So, feel free to leave your solutions to that one in the comments.
One thing I can say for certain is that we need to open our eyes more often. That’s not a spiritual metaphor either (though that may be true as well). We need to physically slow down and look at our surroundings. Example: Today I was at Starbucks reading before an event with some of my friends from The Village. I sat down after getting my drink and began reading Live Sent. I read a couple pages, and then the irony hit me. I was sitting in a crowded coffee shop reading about how to live sent, and not paying any attention to what was going on around me!
I stopped, looked around, and noticed that the guy across from me was reading his Bible, and the girl sitting right next to me was reading hers. As I was trying to figure out how to live sent to these people without it being completely awkward or creepy, a mutual friend of mine and the girl walked up and started talking about her toe being broken and only being able to run for 15 minutes last night (I know, I’m impressed too…though she is a bit crazy, lol). Once that connection had been made, I found out the girl goes to The Village as well, and then it was an easy transition to bring the other guy into the conversation and give him my contact info before I had to leave.
Living sent is hard because it forces us to do something completely anti-cultural: pay attention to someone other than ourselves.
Things to Think About
How do you show that you are the church on a daily basis?
How do show exhibit God’s letter of love to those around you wherever you go?