""I thought that you would reassure me. You are like God's Messenger, who is able to distinguish right from wrong. May the LORD your God be with you!"" 2 Samuel 14:17(GWT)
It amazes me sometimes that there are those within the body that say that they cannot find a fellowship in which to worship, in which to find succor in the midst of this journey. I have been to three churches in the last three weeks, churches that are uniquely their own personalities and styles….each preaching a biblical message in the formats which paint a beautiful and sometimes challenging picture of God's word.
Berean Bible Church in Livonia, Mosaic A2 in Ann Arbor and Life Church in Canton were the churches I have either been invited to or have found on my own. One is in transition from one pastor to another, one is a new church plant in Maize and Blue country and the other a relatively young church of 800 or so. The messages I have heard in the last few weeks have spanned the breathe of the Gospel; from the end times to the destinations we travel.
Today I went to Life Church just up the road from where I am staying.
Where Berean was a generational church, seemingly consisting of families who have called its halls their home for generation upon generation. Then Mosaic A2, a church born of a pastor's passion to plant a church in a college community that would be home for those in the college environment and span the generational gaps between the 'age' groups.
Life Church was born in the backyard of the Lead Pastor and developed into the current location through many cycles of growth. My first impression of it was that it is a comfortable church, one that will engage you wherever you are at….according to what effort you put in….and never take more than you are willing to give. You can exist in a comfortable level in the chairs of its auditorium.
I wasn't born to live in comfortable surroundings.
I have been in a wealth of 'character' churches, each weaving a brand of religion that they feel meets the needs and expectations of the congregation and I have found disillusionment and heartache in each of them to varying levels. Many would point to the growth of their congregations as proof that they are doing something right; expanding a 50+ acre site, following a 'name-it-claim-it' healing doctrine, expounding upon the word of God rather than topical sermonizing and preaching a 'love' postmodern gospel of varying biblical truth. None of which I have found that passion, that drive, that brings me into discipleship.
Few have whispered to me, this is where you belong. Those that have, like fruit, I have found corruption at their core the deeper I have traveled with them. None have accepted anything other than the type of gospel they preach. Some have given the promise of challenge, only to falter upon the shores of realization once I've accepted the challenge. Few have given me the feeling of home.
A Church of discipleship; a church that lives to prepare you to leave.
"Great expectations are great engagements, especially to persons of honour," Matthew Henry states, "to do their utmost not to disappoint those that depend upon them."
Life lived up to its declaration, "Just come in, relax and participate as you feel comfortable." It was a comfortable worship time, no fog machine like at Mosaic and hymnals like at Berean, just an easy flowing melody of music to raise your voice to. We went to the information kiosk to find out the programs for the kids, and after waiting for a few moments, were directed over to the LifeKids area….without any real information for what they had for my son, but the assurance there was something for my daughter. We weren't engaged around the donuts and coffee, weren't approached in any way as to what and where the service would be. When we went into the auditorium, we were guided to seats for the service, assured that we would have to sit together because 'we'll be packed today.'
Their stated vision of planting 20 churches and 20 ministries by 2020 didn't seem to thrum in the heartbeat of this congregation, move among the people with a insistence that pushed the edge of the envelope or flavor the engagement of the congregation to those new to its fellowship. The vision statement seem to fall flat, "As a church that began in the summer of 2002, we have a vision for creating a place where real people can connect with God and experience real life. We desire to be a place where lost people can be found and hurting people helped. This can only happen through the body of Christ being fully engaged and fully empowered. Through obedience to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment our vision is to make a difference for Jesus Christ...in our lives...in our families...in our community...and in our world."
I didn't feel engaged or empowered. I just felt alienated.
I know my church wound colors my perceptions and I know that I hold a view of what a church should be that defies human logic, possibility and possible realistic expectations, but God has enticed me with illogical, impossible and improbable purpose. My expectations of what a church should be is only possible in the realm of God-involved pursuit and free of human limitations. Not exactly what churches today are built to be in today's world.
But Life has proved one thing; that the promise God makes that His word will not go out to return void has been proven time and time again as I search for that place He would have me fellowship for this season.
Pastor Alex Rahill, the Lead Pastor, gave the first of a six-part message entitled "Destinations", based in part on Pastor Andy Stanley's book The Principle of the Path. Today's sermon was entitled, "Not Where You Want To Be?" based on Proverbs 7:6-27….the warnings of immoral women…..
The question asked was simple, "Is the path I am on going to lead to the destination I want to be at?"
Nobody gets lost on purpose and the realization of being lost is one that comes after a lot of distance is covered being in such a state. The principle of the path remains true in this statement; the road you travel on is going to always lead to the same destination. Right or wrong. It is the disconnection of the world's message that we usually get bound up in, not all paths will lead to the same destination…..
This applies far beyond the typical application we use; the road on a map will take us where it goes and conversely so will the path we travel in regards to finances, dating, marriage, profession and health. Spiritual as well as physical.
We start travelling usually because of emotional enticements; this seems right, this seems 'destined' and so on. And prayer doesn't affect our desires or intention when we set out upon the path (we can pray for travel mercies and still head in the wrong direction), the direction we take is the only guarantee we have in arriving at the destination we seek.
Kinda like the saying, "Illogic is doing the same thing and expecting different results."
Maybe God is telling me that it is time to stop following the established line and reach out into the unfamiliar path…..maybe it is time to stop going to churches that are part of the norm and find or create a church that the norm is the un-normal pursuit of a God that defies human conventions and ideas.
A God of the illogical, impossible and improbable salvation of all of us.