By Cailey Morgan
Have you ever researched the meaning of life? I recently asked Siri about that very topic, and her response was “chocolate.” Thanks Apple.
Our church, as a Body—God’s people in a place—needs to be asking these kinds of questions. Why are we here? How do we view the church in the context of the world? What is the church’s purpose? Why does our local congregation exist? These are questions not so quickly solved by a conversation with an iPhone.
Perhaps your mind runs to the weekly church service, the sending of international missionaries, the provision of tradition around cultural milestones such as Christmas, weddings and funerals. Perhaps home groups, visiting the sick, potlucks, and youth programs round out your experience of church.
But these activities in and of themselves do not explain why God’s church exists. Each of these elements are biblical and often helpful manifestations of God’s people in the world, but they are only the how, not the why.
In some circles, there has been a backlash against traditional elements of congregational life like these. And in most cases, I agree with the prophets who are crying out “something’s missing!” But all our attempts to change the how—offering sermon podcasts, meeting in a funky warehouse, improving the coffee served during the service, or even exchanging “Sunday morning seeker-sensitivity” for grassroots missional neighbourhood outreach—will not change the reality that perhaps it is the why that we have backwards. (Although I must ask if there’s anything less pleasing to God or humanity than coffee so weak it comes out of the urn looking like tea!)
I would argue that if we are able to interpret ourselves, our world, and most importantly, our God correctly (the why), then the modus operandi (the how) will become of secondary importance. When our people are inspired by God’s good why, the how becomes a point of healthy discussion and relational depth, rather than a reason for dissension.
So What is the Why?
What is Christ calling us to? Who are we to be? I believe both these questions can be answered through prayer and the study of our context, once the primary issue—what is our purpose?—has been answered.
Brad Brisco, church planting advocate and co-author of Missional Essentials and Next Door As It Is In Heaven, points out several paradigm shifts he thinks today’s church needs to make, in view of Scripture’s description of our purpose. Here are two that I think are especially relevant for us:
In the articles that follow in the coming weeks, I will elaborate on both paradigm shifts. My hope is that some of the traditions of your church will be validated as you see them from a new perspective, and that some parts of your congregational expression will be challenged as your why is again brought front-of-mind.
If you’d rather hear from Brad Brisco on these topics than me, check out Missional Essentials, a brilliant and down-to-earth 12-week curriculum (available in Spanish and English) to help your small groups or leadership team explore these and several other biblical directives.
This is the first article in a series. Read the other posts here:
- Why, Oh Why?
- Incarnational Presence
- Space to be Truly Present
- Missional Margin
- Missional Mindset in Everyday Spaces