This article was originally posted July 25, 2011 on The Outward-Focused Church.
THE CHURCH EXISTS TO GIVE ITSELF AWAY
by Stephen L. Dunn
There are too many stagnant and dying churches in America. There are too many churches with little or no impact on the communities around them. There are too many churches who cannot report even one new believer within the past year because of the efforts and influence of that congregation. It is both a tragedy and a travesty.
“If you are leading a hospital and your mission is primarily designed around keeping you nurses happy, your patients are going to die.” – John Pearson
The primary reason why these churches fail in their mission is that they have confused their mission. Jesus said it very clearly to his disciples, “The son of man came not to be served but to serve.” (Mark 10:45) John Pearson’s comment is a perfect description of this problem. They have been more concerned with their personal happiness than the lost and unchurched people that God has called them to serve. They no longer serve the spiritually sick, they serve themselves.
Jesus had something to say about that, too. “For the son of man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19.10) The hospital is intended to bring healing to the patients, not just to give the nurses an enjoyable way to pass the time until they retire. If the patients keep dying, they close the hospital and build a new one better suited to the task.
Many a church leader or pastor who has been captured by God’s vision finds his greatest roadblock is the people he or she is called to lead. Enormous pressure is placed upon those leaders to serve the church people first, if not exclusively. Visit us in the hospital. Pray at our family events. Be in your office so we can find you when we can’t find the Sunday School curriculum. Socialize with us. Listen to all our troubles. Schedule services (and design services) to meet our tastes.
Don’t change anything that is precious to us … even if it is not meaningful to authentic discipleship.
I sat in a workshop once led by Kenneth Haugk, founder of the Stephen Ministry. It was called “The Alligator Seminar-How to Deal With Antagonists in the Church.” He noted that when you have someone who totally resists vision and core values and insists things happen their way, you need to call a “come to Jesus” meeting. And at that meeting you tell them, “come to Jesus or leave.”
A whole lot of churches need to come to Jesus. And when you come to Jesus you will hear him say, “The church exists to give itself away.” Jesus is not concerned with our comfort or entertainment. He is deeply concerned about our obedience, being the Body of Christ doing the work of Christ.
Too many churches have forgotten that. Too many church leaders to keep a job help perpetuate that.
We now live in one of the most vital mission fields in the world — the United States. We once again need to become missionaries and get out to the community and help them find the healing of Jesus Christ.
The church does not exist for itself. It exists for Jesus and to do the work of Jesus. And just as the son of Man gave away his life so that we might find ours … it is time for us to do the same.
(C) 2011 by Stephen L. Dunn
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