September 30th, 2015 by Kali Lewis

Pastor Don

A driven congregation is one of passion, moved to share the suffering of others, compelled to action and stirred to the depths by love. That kind of church can change the world and bring joy into the life of each individual who enters. The pastor and the congregation should be clear about their purpose, and have an inner passion for it that will give them the energy and power to achieve it. In the Gospel of John, 11th chapter verse 11 we read, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

With all of the problems in this world, that is a powerful promise. We are told to be custodians of that message and of that joy. Suffering and joy are the components of the life that Christ lived and to which he has called us. A church that embraces these elements is a passionate church.

What is a church? Think practically. What kind of an organization does the busy visitor find when stopping by our church? Is there personal warmth here? Is there a feeling of love, free of judgment? If I am a neophyte in the faith will I still feel welcome, that there is a place for me? If we are to grow it must start with that question. Some writers feel that small group studies are the answer. Small groups are often called committees. We have committees that do not meet unless it is absolutely necessary. There was a church that had a stewardship committee and the chair of that committee told the pastor that they were going to disband because the finance committee made all of the financial decisions. The pastor was ok with that as it meant one less meeting to attend. The pastor was met by one of the congregation who pointed out to the pastor the errors of his decision, to let the committee disband. The member stated that the function of a committee is to bring the people together in the name of Jesus Christ, to spend time together in Christian fellowship and to become friends, and while there to conduct the business of their committee. If there is no business to discuss, there is the business of being together with fellow Christians.

I found the above during my early years in the ministry, perhaps in one of the classes I was in at MTSO. It is an important reminder to me and to all that we are a community of Christians, and when we meet individually or collectively, we are the children of a loving God. We should always keep in mind that we are a family, the family of God. This is true in committee meetings, in the worship service, as we are about the business of our daily lives, and when we are in the wider community. Too often we think in terms of only our own congregation, or our own denomination, as constituting the family of God, but in reality, all who would serve Him, worship Him, and have fellowship in His name are members of His family. Moreover, everybody else, all those who have never been in a church, all those who have never heard of Jesus, all those who sleep in mansions, all those who live under bridges and in cardboard boxes, ALL are potentially members of the family of God. Those of us who see ourselves as members of God’s family are charged with including all those who are seeking a place at His table, whether or not they even know this. It is up to us to include them, and not up to them to seek us out. After all, when we’re at home, as we are when we are at church, isn’t it the one at home who invites the outsider in, rather than the outsider who enters uninvited? If the outsider doesn’t feel wanted or comfortable, he or she is unlikely to respond to our invitation. How do we insure that those outside the church doors feel comfortable? By going outside those doors ourselves and establishing relationships with them! If we go where those outsiders are, whether at secular events, in the shopping mall, at the bar, or even under the bridge, and by being ourselves, our friendly and warm and welcoming selves rather than self- righteous and judgmental religious fanatics, we may begin to inspire others to become family members with us—and we, rather than those we invite, may actually be the ones who benefit most from the experience. How about it?