I have recently felt God leading me to write a book on church, partially inspired by a previous post of mine on this site, "Church - Jesus style". In order to do this I know I need to really condense and crystallise my ideas into a small package, which can then be expanded upon.
That's really the purpose of this post.
Indeed, I think that as this progresses that I'll be back here again re-visiting this as I discover and understand more, and want to crystallise my thoughts again. So get ready for a few more posts like this.
I'm posting it here really so that others can be blessed by what God has already spoken to me and also to maybe get some feedback. Hope you like it.
So what about church then?
I believe that the 'established church' in the UK and all over the world is in great peril. The establishment church has become or is in serious danger of becoming nothing like what Jesus imagined church to be and how He modelled church to be.
I believe church is not - and was never meant to be - an institution, but a community of believers. All people who profess the Christian faith are part of this on a global scale, but we all belong to smaller communities of believers, or smaller 'churches'. These communities are intended to be Jesus to their community.
I believe the church is a community of activists, a community of revolutionaries who take action against poverty, injustice and suffering and serve both their local and world communities, through their everyday lifestyle, through what they publicly stand for and against, through serving in their own communities in projects, like 'God loves Peckham' in London.
I believe that church is a place where people are mentored, disciples, healed, prayed for and prepared for works of service, and a safe place where all people should feel welcomed, accepted and loved. A community where individuals gifts are harnessed to build the kingdom of God.
I believe that the church needs to be the community which takes the lead worldwide on major issues of injustice and poverty, without being constrained by politics. Jesus never intended the church to be another institution, or indeed Christianity to be a religion. He called us to a way of life, to do community together and to be like Him to the rest of the world. He stood publicly against injustice, oppression, suffering and poverty and it got Him in trouble. The church should not be afraid to publicly stand against these issues in the world, even if it means saying we don't agree with government.
I believe the best way to grow a church community is not to just go and 'do evangelism', but to actually do what Jesus said. Go and serve the community. Provide for needs in the local community in whatever way that means. Model and show them a different set of values and way of life. Show people how valued and loved they are, how accepted they are by God by accepting, loving and valuing them.
I believe that there are basic principles behind how we do church, but that often how we do church depends on the type of community we live in. Prosperous communities need to be reached but in different methods than you would use to serve and poor and run down area. They have the same needs, but they need different keys to open their eyes to see them, and their resources can enable a church to do more for other areas which have great need.
I believe also that consumerism and the culture we now live in and what so many people orientate their lives now, and what is spoken to us by media and culture, has diluted what the church is all about and hinders us from truly living out our faith, both as Christians and therefore also as a church.
Indeed, I think that what being a real christian and real church are is closely linked. I think if we're truly living as Jesus intended and modelled for us, we end up with what real church is almost by accident.
Even more than that, I think what Jesus models in the Bible shows us that He expects and desires us to be in community, that being a christian to the full can only really be done in a community - church - context.
Maybe I need to write a book not only on how to do church, but on what a real christian looks like.
They seem so tightly joined.
Yet they are also two distinct things.
Being a Christian means living the way of Jesus in community, and that community is both local, national and global.
The community just happens to be called church. It doesn't make it 'the church' as western culture defines it. Its just church - Jesus style.
The church is together the body of Christ, which is meant to act like Jesus and be Jesus to the world. It means it needs to be working together to function properly. It means that individuals and churches from top to bottom need to be living the radical life Jesus calls us to.
We're like a broken, disjointed body which isn't working properly.
The circulation isn't right.
The brain isn't quite right either.
We're trying to pull it apart with our own agendas, through capitalism and consumer culture, through the politics of the established church and through fear of being radical.
Healing a broken body. A story of what's wrong with the church, what church should be and how living like Jesus (being a christian) is at the heart of it.
There is hope for Christianity and the church - if we start putting Jesus back at the centre.The body of Christ has hope and has a future.
We just need to start doing something about it. God's entrusted us with building His kingdom on earth and we are the body of Jesus here now.
Its time we started acting like one.