When you think about church, what comes to mind? Do you think about a religious organization with a specific name located in a particular building?
That certainly is true of the multitude of local churches scattered around the world. We all have a degree of branding, affiliation and many common characteristics.
But, what really makes a church a church is God’s Presence at work in his people. There is something very pragmatic and earthly about churches; and at the same time a mystical reality that sets us apart from other human organizations.
The New Testament Greek word Ekklesia defines what the church is. In Greek culture Ekklesia referred to a group of citizens who were called out from their homes into some public place for the purpose of deliberating. In the Christian usage of the word, we are called out of home life and come together in worship and holy deliberation. We are coming together to work things out as a unified body. It is deliberate and intentional that we come together. It is God who calls us out.
A great local church is one that people feel called by God to be part of. There will be much opportunity to think and work through deliberate ways to practice the Kingdom of God in our world. There will be opportunity to listen and be heard as together we love God and neighbour. This is part of the calling of the local church. How do we address the common and specific needs in partnership with God?
This past week, I met together with the church board to deliberate about our current financial challenges. Our particular local church simply needs more people giving money to cover the costs of operation. That’s a common problem. So we met together to discuss and pray about how to respond.
Our deliberation included moving some funds, communication strategies, prayer and asking the big questions about why anyone would give to support the work we do.
It was a good discussion. Why do a few people give to support New Song Church?
We concluded that people give because of our values and mission. We are known for our unconditional acceptance of people in all of their chaotic diversity. We foster an environment where people spontaneously help each other. We have a reputation for influencing people to live compassionately whether saint or sinner. That’s why we have people who put their money in the offering plate and other donors who appreciate what God is doing through us.
The mission of God inspires great change in the lives of people and has an effect on the surrounding world. Having started with a big idea, how do we keep ourselves moving forward in lasting ways? This is always part of the calling and deliberation of church life.