Thursday, June 29, 2006

Shouldn’t churches already be this way?

In his book, "An Unstoppable Force," Erwin Raphael McManus writes:

"The traction comes when we become honest with ourselves and others -- when we become cheerleaders for inquiry and seeking rather than simply knowing and finding. Traction comes when outsiders experience the church as a place where honest questions can be asked when people journey together to discover God and find the answers in him."
When I read this I initially had the thought, “Wow, how profound.” Then I reflected on it for a few minutes and thought, “Shouldn’t churches already be this way?”

Over the past several months I have had an ongoing dialogue with several pastors, ministers, and other lay leaders, about the purpose of a church. The responses range from a place where unbelievers can come and discover God, to a place where mature Christians can be discipled and grow closer to our Lord. Shouldn’t it be both? In other words, shouldn’t churches be a place where the lost can come and explore their faith, ask questions, and discover God; and mature believers can be discipled to grow closer to Christ? Why does it seem most churches are one way or the other?

As people are invited to a church or Bible study, they should be encouraged to ask questions about faith. We should encourage their quest as they explore Truth. When they have their “Ah-hah” moment and invite Jesus into their life, mature Christians should step up and guide them along their new journey. As time goes on they will discover their new self in Christ, recognize their purpose, and be ready to step out on their God-given mission.

Here’s my point. Churches shouldn’t be so seeker sensitive that they only attract the lost and leave mature Christians looking for more; nor should they be so focused on mature Christians that seekers don’t feel welcome, and in some cases, even intimidated. Churches should be full of mature Christians living their life as God designed them. In doing so they will reach out to unbelievers as if to say “Hey, come and live a life that is True.” And when these explorers come to check us out, they should be welcomed and encouraged to seek the treasure waiting for them.

Those are my words.


  1. Good thoughts Jim. It's cool to be able to come and listen to your thoughts. You have bitten off a big question - "What is the purpose of a Church?" But it seems that your arguments answer a different question - "How do we make disciples?" I believe the question, "What is the purpose of a church?" may not be the best question. The church is because God is a church - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit living together in a community of love. The church as we experience it is rather simple - we gather to celebrate, participate and worship in the community of the Three who are One. The church is driven by worship. The church is a response from God's creation to His glory. If we don't start there, we get into a very man-centered discussion. It isn't about what we do - it's about who God is. The church falls into being the kind of church Erwin fights against and you argue against when we forget that all we are about is participating in an amazing community that already exists. Our discussions must begin with this amazing God. He "invented" church because He is a church - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - living together in love. A community of love is a magnet for humanity. So how confusing is that?

  2. Hey Jimbo. Good stuff. I also agree with what Jim M. says about keeping the focus on God and His glory. I think that two big indications that a follower of Christ is mature is that one, they are God focused and focused on who He is more than what He does, and two that "seekers" are attracted to them. A church full of mature God focused believers will naturally be attractive to non-christians who are looking to the church for answers.

    Keep up the good work bro!

  3. I agree with both of you; church is all about worshipping God. But as I tend to do when I preach, sometimes I drift off topic a bit.

    My point is more to who our neighborhood churches attract, the lost or the mature believer, and how they are received. In an ideal situation, they would attract both, and serve both. However, churches develop the personality of their membership, and as we have discussed, a DNA is formed. Some are more seeker sensitive, while others are not.

    Churches should be a place that seekers feel comfortable asking questions and exploring their faith; and mature believers welcome them, and participate in their journey to God.

    Thanks for your comments. –jim