Have you noticed the names of "Churches" lately? Imagine if someone knocked on your door, or invited you to this Church…
"Hello, we're from the United, Interdenominational, Non-denominational, Denominational, Independent, Conservative, Fundamental, Restoration, First, Second, Anglican, General, Evangelical, Reformed, Pentecostal, Holiness, Charismatic, Progressive, Contemporary, Traditional, Southern Gospel, Church of God - in Christ, of Jerusalem Acres, of Prophecy, All Saints of Bethel, Trinity, East, West, North, South, Uptown, Downtown, Faith, Hebron, House of Joy, Kingdom Covenant Ministries, Willow Head, Willow Creek, Morningside, New Beginnings, Paradise, Various Trees, Saint Whoever You Want, Firstborn, Messianic, Covenant, Victory, Celebration, Bethlehem, All Saints, AME, Apostolic, Full Gospel, Lutheran, Freewill, American, Southern, Baptist, Methodist, Calvary, Crossroad, Assembly, Fellowship, Gathering, Cowboy, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Encounter, Global, Cornerstone, Connection, God's True, River of Life, Core, Guardian, Disciples, Christian Missionary, of the Nazarene, Savior, Lord, Living Water, Rock, and King Jesus Christ, Temple, Tabernacle, Community, Cathedral, Chapel Home Group and Church"
(Whew! Could you imagine writing your 'tithe' check to this institution?) A name like that, of course, would be ridiculous. But let's take a moment and consider "THE NAME" of the institution we attend.
We as people who 'claim to follow the Lord Jesus Christ' can come up with some interesting names (and yes, sometimes some ridiculous ones also) regarding what we want to CALL OURSELVES and to BE KNOWN AS… AND we 'wear' those 'names' with great pride, and many times as a badge.
Ask the average Christian, "Where do you GO to Church?" and you'll probably hear a combination of some form of the list above. The SAD reality is that we TALK MORE about our own INSTITUTIONAL CHURCHES than we ever do about Jesus Christ, and it doesn't stop there. We Expend the majority of our Efforts, Energies, and Expenses to PROSELYTE other 'church goers' to our 'corner lot or street address' in order to increase the Size of our Buildings & Attendance, Monies coming in, our Program expansion, et al, in order to HOOK OTHERS into our own 'Community' than we ever do by truly focusing on building the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
But I digress. The focus of this article is that WHAT WE call ourselves is really NOT IMPORTANT. Recently in our home town, another 'Church' has changed its name from the typical, standard denominational wording because it felt that it just wasn't relevant any more to our modern culture. Therefore, they 'changed the name' in the hopes that it would be more contemporary and user-friendly. That somehow, "CHANGING THE NAME OF WHAT WE CALL OURSELVES", would be an ATTRACTION to 'get people to come' to our location and somehow define us more accurately. Or even better, to cause people who have never come before, to now want to come because of a new name we've tagged ourselves with. But an Institution is an Institution. And no matter how we REPACKAGE it, RENAME it, or REWORK it, the essence, structure, and emphasis, for the most part, is still the same
Here's the REALITY: It doesn't matter what WE call ourselves – what DOES matter is what the WORLD calls us. Did you get that? Please, read it again.
For some reason, we as 'Christians' are living in a fairy-tale world and pseudo-spiritual mindset where we 'THINK' that what we are DOING and HOW WE DO IT are actually relevant and impacting those around us. In truth, for the most part, the only ones we are 'impressing' may be other believers in other institutions (who, if we were honest with ourselves, are the very ones we are COMPETING with! Don't believe me? Attend an average citywide Pastor's gathering, and you can 'cut' the Posturing, Power struggle, & Personalities vying for Preeminence, Dominance, and Control with a knife). We are NOT impacting our city or society. In fact, if the average 'Church' would take its "head out of the sand" we would find that society is laughing at us – not because they don't understand spiritual things but because of our MINDLESS, MEANINGLESS RELIGIOSITY.
We keep trying to REPACKAGE and REDRESS what we are doing ON THE OUTSIDE with NO REAL CHANGE on the INSIDE. Where did we ever get the idea that doing a 'facelift' of our particular Institution would 'FOOL' those outside it, or ever be a DRAWING CARD to those who don't know Christ?! People aren't attracted to Cantatas, Programs, Buildings, Personalities, Movements, Gimmicks, etc. People aren't stupid. They SEE THE HOLLOWNESS of what we are doing and the BOREDOM as well as the MONOTONY. Where did we ever develop the thoughts and mindset that they are blind and oblivious to our HOOKS – that we think they can't see what attempting to accomplish
Think I'm off-base. I challenge you; over the next week to ask your fellow co-workers, neighbors, students, and relatives what THEY REALLY THINK OF THE LOCAL CHURCH – that "thing" we have developed, redefined and call 'Church'. But let me warn you, you'd better be prepared because you WON'T like what they are saying, and you WON'T like what you will hear. And when they tell you, DON'T take it 'personally' and certainly DON'T try and defend your position against their comments, accusations, and insights. For once, step back and LOOK AT IT THROUGH THEIR EYES and see it as THEY do. If they TRUST you, they will be HONEST. If they don't, well there is no telling 'what' you will get. Either way, their answers and insight will SHOCK you. It did me, and boy am I glad it did.
You see, the world, (both the un-churched and lost) are looking for people who are REAL in their walk with Jesus Christ. They are TIRED of all the PLASTICITY and MINDLESS COOKIE CUTTER ROUTINE. It doesn't matter to them if you 'Dress Up Your Duck' and try to become more User-friendly or relevant or not. They are looking for someone whose devotion is not geared toward a 'Sunday Morning Event'. Where the 'Jesus' we promote in our meetings, and rarely talk about outside of them, is TRULY REAL, and where they can see Him ACTUALLY IMPACTING someone's life in a meaningful way instead of a people who claim to know Christ and simply traded a "Secular Country Club for a Religious One". Where life become vibrant instead of a RELIGIOUS, DEAD ORTHODOXY - Where HE is REAL and THE FOCUS of their life –where there is an INTIMACY with Abba Father, where walking daily in the dust of The Rabbi is a DESIRE instead of a DUTY, instead of mindlessly serving the endless expectations of an institution.
Go ahead, ask them. One of the answers you will get is that they see a people IN LOVE with a Building, Meetings, Programs, and Schedule; but they just don't see those same people TRULY IN LOVE with A PERSON. They will tell you about: Power struggles, Dictatorship, Contradictory Rules & Regulations, Meaningless Traditions (both Old and New), Promoting of Personalities, Endless Programs, Phoniness, Money-hungry, Obligations of Attendance and Service 'Inside Four Walls' to and for an Institution which they have set up as a standard of faithfulness and true spirituality, where DOING is emphasized more than BEING, and their list will go on-and-on. And whether you feel it is 'true or not' doesn't really matter. WHY? Because perception is 90% the rule, and that is what we've been presenting, and what they have been perceiving by our actions. (Remember the old saying, "What you are Doing speaks so loudly I can't hear what you are Saying")? In reality, that IS what we have been doing and still do. How do I know? Because not only have I been guilty of the same and 'been there', but the Scripture tells us; 'Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks".
You see, "It's NOT what we CALL OURSELVES that matters, but what OTHERS CALL US". Whether those names include "Hypocrite, Religious, Phony, Fake, Empty, Churchy, Boring, Self-Righteous, (and add to it any of the CHURCHY names from the beginning of the article) etc." What do people CALL You? The Bible tells us, in Antioch, the lost world called those who believed in, walked with, and followed Christ, CHRISTIANS. Did you catch that? The Christians didn't choose their name or title, but OTHERS DID IT FOR THEM. And WHAT A TITLE!
Individuals who exemplified not a denomination, non-denomination, church building, or movement; but individuals who were totally consumed with A PERSON, JESUS CHRIST. So much so, that HIS LIFE became their ALL and FOCUS so consumed with His REALITY, PERSON, and LOVE that they became just like Him. People consumed WITH, BY and IN a RELATIONSHIP and NOT a 'religious duty'. And THAT is what the world saw. (They just 'called them like they saw them')
Am I just too naïve to think that is the way it should be today? I don't think so. The more I place my heart in His, the more I understand that He first loved me and loves me with an everlasting love, then the LESS important the 'churchy name I'm called, or group I'm affiliated with, or building, or religious institution becomes. We've been trying to build THE INSTITUTIONAL CHURCH with worldly success principles OUR way as if that was the way He would do it. Jesus didn't die to start another movement, religion, or building. He no longer dwells in buildings made with hands. And yet, we've redefined the 'Church' to what it is today - a Building and Location vs. a Body. Jesus said, "I will build MY Church". People today (both in the Religious Structure and outside it) are BORED with the way we are DOING Church. More and more Christians, as well as society is looking for a PEOPLE (not an institution) whose emphasis and reality is on BEING the Body of Christ and not DOING Church. And THAT has NOTHING to do with LOCATION.
Oh that that would be our FOCUS today instead of OUR institution, building, kingdom, and names. Oh that there would rise up individuals where CHRIST was such a part of their lives, that out of the abundance of their heart, He would be on their, no our lips. But instead, we just keep PROMOTING and REDRESSING our duck trying to make it more relevant to a world that could care less and wants nothing to do with our Religious Social Clubs.
May I ask you this question, as I have asked myself many, many times lately, "What do my and your fellow co-workers, neighbors, students, or relatives REALLY SEE as the essence of my and your heart and life? Is it a "Location" or a PERSON – a 'RELIGION' or a RELATIONSHIP – Is it Endless involvement with an INSTITUTION or INTIMACY with a Loving God"? What if you asked them about you? Would you dare? If they were to look at your life and all that it represents, what would they CALL YOU? Is your emphasis and focus more on one of the 'names' from the list above, or Jesus Christ?
I'm NOT telling you to leave your particular institution. I AM advocating that you WALK with and LOVE HIM so much more. "I am!" you might say? If you really think so, then ask someone, outside of your 'fellowship, gathering, or church'. If you did, what would people CALL YOU if you asked? Are you willing to "drop your label" and see what people CALL YOU? Give it try and then let's stop REDRESSING OUR DUCK and start LOVING and WALKING with our SAVIOR!