Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Imagine a Church...

This weekend, my church gathered together on a Saturday night in order to hear from the pastoral team about where they feel the Lord is guiding our body, both literally and philosophically. Pacing a stage littered with pine trees and decked out with various hiking tools representing the beginnings of a wonderful new journey into the unknown, Pastor Rob Cowles spelled out the vision to an eager congregation.

Reaffirming the solidity and strength of our past and evoking a glowing and thrilling future, Rob explained that the concept of the journey is the proper perspective for the Christian life and that transition and change is the necessary phase of growth in the life of any living organism.

“The church is the entity God has chosen to change the world,” Rob began. “There is no ‘Plan B.’”

He went on to say, “Jesus declared that he would build His church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. He has entrusted His church with the sacred trust of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the message of reconciliation. He has also empowered the church by His Holy Spirit to be a witness for Him to the ‘uttermost parts of the earth.’ The Great Commission is a commission given to the universal church.

The living out of that purpose, however, is done in ways that are unique to each local church. The four gospels all tell the same story but in unique ways. Each of them is written to a different audience and therefore the style and details included in the story are different. So it is with local churches. It is as though God has marked each local church with its own unique fingerprint. The story is the same but the methods and emphasis are unique to the culture of the community and the culture and giftedness of the local church.”

I thought I would share some of the exciting vision of that night with you now, providing you with the frame that was given to use and fleshing it out a bit with some of the language and ideas of that evening. The ideas communicated here are certainly not new, nor relevant only for my church. I think many of you will find the substance of the evening inspiring and though-provoking. Read on…


Multi-Generational Approach:
The most beautiful diamond is the most multi-faceted one. The Bible’s metaphor for the Christian community is family and it is in this context and this understanding that everyone in the church comes to realize that they have something to contribute and teach others. We must not only build bridges to our community and our world but across our foyer as well. Multi-Generational does not simply apply to physical maturity, but spiritual maturity as well. We must embark on the journey together, delighting in our common bonds and in our infinite diversity, celebrating our unity not our uniformity.

All People Matter:
If people of all stripes, walks of life, and orientations matter to God then they must matter to us as well. Jesus treated every person He met as unique and special. He crossed the lines of categories and groupings to seek out the individual. Whether it be across the street or across the ocean, we must bring hope and love to whomever we can, wherever we can.

Real Relationships:
Everything in Christianity springs from relationship. We recognize that it is out of our relationship with God that our ability to love others flows. Holiness cannot be separated from relationship. As we are made in the image of a triune God, we are created to be creatures of community—we are designed to need each other. We desire to facilitate opportunities where people can know and be known, serve and be served, and grow to reach their full potential.

Kingdom Vision:
Our mission on this earth is to advance the Kingdom of God, not our own petty and insignificant empires. As Rick Warren said, “It’s not about you!” We must redefine our orientation assuring Christ is the head and reason for all we do. Furthermore, we must break down denominational lines and embrace and support all true believers.

Demonstrated Love:
Christ said that His followers would be known by one thing and one thing alone—their love. We must demonstrate that love tangibly and without any strings to a world writhing in agony. Love, without demonstration, is dead. It is imperative that we recapture social concern.


We will worship God by growing a community of people who are becoming fully devoted followers of Jesus. This model is best represented in Romans 12:1, 2 where it says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”


Building Bridges and Bringing Healing as We Journey Together with Jesus


Imagine a church that is wholly devoted to becoming like Jesus, and, in turn, becoming an extension of Him to the world.

Imagine a church where everyone is valued—from the youngest to the oldest—in age and in spiritual walk.

Imagine a church that pioneers innovative ways to bring generations together, bringing glory to God and growth to everyone.

Imagine a church that so loves its city that it selflessly serves the needs of that city, bringing physical, emotional, social, and spiritual healing to people.

Imagine a church that demonstrates God’s love in such tangible ways that it’s thought of with affection and respect by its community.

Imagine a church that is so committed to following in the steps of Jesus that each one seeks to serve the needs of others before him/herself.

Imagine a church where people diligently seek to discover how God made them and then are empowered by leadership to serve according to the way God made them.

Imagine a church where relationships are so real that community becomes the context for all ministry.

Imagine a church where relationships are the primary source of care and accountability in a person’s life.

Imagine a church that regularly gives birth to healthy new churches and satellite locations, all committed to growing communities of people who are becoming fully devoted followers of Jesus.

Imagine a church whose ethnic diversity reflects the diversity in its community.

Imagine a church where people at any point on their journey towards Jesus can find love and support and safety.

Imagine a church where fully devoted followers of Jesus so love people that they are willing to sacrifice their own comfort and desires in order to see people come to Jesus, becoming fully devoted followers themselves.

Imagine a church where fully devoted followers of Jesus actively build authentic relationships and, through their journey with Jesus, inspire others to begin a journey towards Him.

Imagine a church where baptism services are the highlights of every year.

Imagine a church where every follower of Jesus sees him/herself as a missionary somewhere and gives sacrificially of their time, energy and resources for the sake of the gospel around the world.

Imagine a church that gives over $1 million a year to missions and sends hundreds of people on short-term trips all over the world, sometimes resulting in families and singles moving to different parts of the world to serve.

At the conclusion of the service, each member grasped a fist-sized rock and with a black marker, scribbled upon its face a characteristic of God’s church that they most wanted to see in the future. I jotted down “authenticity.” We then rose and placed the rocks before the alter in the form of a cairn, a mound of stones piled up as a memorial or to mark a path.

The evening was exhilarating and powerful, full of the spice of hope, promise, and corporate destiny. It now falls to us all to take the skeleton we were given and paste the flesh of substance and tangibility upon it in order to make it live. I am humbled and trilled to be a part of it.


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