Welcome back to the God Questions series.  In this series, we are answering a lot of the bigger, more common questions that we have about our Spiritual Lives.  So, you could call this, an FAQ on Spirituality and it’s been very helpful as we have dove in and talked about so many foundational parts of our Faith.  I think it’s been awesome to spend a few weeks and Easter Sunday talking about Jesus, who He is, and what our Savior was truly up to for our lives.

Now today, this series will shift to one last subject, and as we dive into this subject, I just want to talk for a moment.  Because, as I look at my own life and heart condition, I realize something.  Most of the pain I feel, and where so much of the tension, and hurt that I walk in, comes from the thing we are talking about today.  Now, I need to make a distinction here.  That isn’t to say that what God intended and designed this to be brings pain and tension and hurts to me, but what we humans have made it, and determined it to be, or need it to be to have any interest in it at all, is heartbreaking to me.  In so many ways, I walk out of many moments around what we are talking about today, literally with sorrow in my heart and soul, thinking of the worship song, “I’m sorry Lord, for the thing I have made it.”  You might be thinking, ok, what are we talking about today?  Well, I have not told you the subject yet on purpose, because the second I do, I could lose you, and here is why.  I could lose you because you already know in your mind what this thing should look like.  You may already have a preset idea and expectations of what it should and could be, and you may even have your preset idea as to why we are doing this, already determining the motivations we have for what we are talking about today.  So, this will be an uphill battle, that much is something I clearly understand at this point in my life with people, talking about the thing that can be so good, yet can also cause so much pain.  So, before we move into today’s subject, I think we need to stop and pray for open and ready hearts today. Let’s Pray

Today is the first of four conversations about The Church.  We are going to answer the God question –

How Should I View The Church?  

This is very important, and I was praying about how I wanted to approach this with you today, and I kept coming back to this one moment, where Jesus clears the temple, and the disciples remember something important.  This is a big moment, because in it, I can show you the big tension point that we face in The Church, and then we can talk about how we resolve that tension by viewing and treating the church in a specific way.  So, let’s go to one of the more ferocious moments of Jesus’ time on this Earth, where He drives people out of The Temple.

John 2:13 It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. 14 In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. 15 Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. 16 Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” NLT

So, this is a “wow” moment for sure!  Jesus makes a whip and drives people out of the temple.  He flips tables and scatters things everywhere!  This is so intense, and you know He meant business because everyone leaves!  But it’s this next moment that I want you to see…

John 2:17 Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.” NLT

This is a big moment, where we see Christ’s passion for God’s House.  But it’s that same heart and passion that leads to the biggest tension point found in and around The Church.  How many people were in that temple doing everything opposite of what God would want to see done in the church?  We don’t have an exact number, but I would venture to say a lot…even many who worked for The Church.  How many came to the defense of God’s House?  Just one.  This prophecy the disciples are remembering was made by David in a Psalm (Psalm 69) where David expresses something we must see…

Psalm 69:7 For I endure insults for your sake; humiliation is written all over my face. 8 Even my own brothers pretend they don’t know me; they treat me like a stranger. 9 Passion for your house has consumed me, and the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me. 10 When I weep and fast, they scoff at me. 11 When I dress in burlap to show sorrow, they make fun of me. 12 I am the favorite topic of town gossip, and all the drunks sing about me. NLT

So, as David grows in passion for His Heavenly Father, how do the people of this world around Him respond?  Not so well.  As David grows more and more passionate about God’s House are droves of people coming to Him?  How do they respond?  Not so well.  Now, let’s go back to Jesus driving all “the fun” out of God’s House, and address the biggest tension point in and around church to this day.  Do you think there were more or less people in that church the next time it met? 

The Tension Point – As Christians, we are to grow more and more like Christ each day.  As we do, the things that matter to Him will matter to us.  What He cares about, and desires will become what we care about and desire.  The problem is what He cares about, and desires are just opposite from what the people of this world value, care for, and desire.  That is the tension every church faces.  It pulls on church leaders.  It pulls on denominations, and it pulls on Christians to bend to culture and this world.  After all, how can you keep the lights on if you aren’t attracting people and how do you attract people with something as polarizing as The Truth?  It’s the major conversation in and around The Church today, how do we reach people of this world?  It becomes a circular conversation with no real good answers, but unfortunately, at times, The Church will bend to culture, in an effort to reach people and then justify it as best they can.  What is right?  What is wrong?  At this point, I know that I don’t know, but I do know that in my heart and mind, I wish that Jesus Christ and The Gospel were the main attraction and were the stars that people focused on today but unfortunately, when we point to Jesus and The Gospel message as the main attraction, it’s often met with a “Yeah, but what else do you have for me?”  So, what is right?  What is wrong?  Well, this is why I call it the tension point…this is the thing my heart and mind spins in.  This is why there are days when the only song in my heart is “I’m sorry Lord for the thing we have made it.”

Alright, now that we have addressed the tension point, I want to show you the best way to ease that tension.  I am a big believer in mindset and thinking intentionally.  I think the way we choose to view things in life matters greatly and affects our hearts, our attitudes, and our actions and I would say it’s no different when it comes to things like church.  So how should we view the church?  Well, The Bible describes the church in a few different ways.  One that you hear often about at MRC is the church described as The Body of Christ, which implies that we are the action reaching out into this world.

Ephesians 1:22 God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23 And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself. NLT

Later in Ephesians Paul also describes The Church as Christ’s Bride and equates the relationship of a husband and wife, to that of Christ and The Church.  Verse 25, is worth a second look as so many struggle with the concept of giving and not getting when it comes to The Church.

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. 23 The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. 24 So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands. 25 Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church — a love marked by giving, not getting. MSG

I love that, there are other ways The Church is described that we don’t have time to dive too far into.  We see the concept of The Temple described often, and in Revelation, we see it described as A Lampstand, that is a fun one that would have been worth discussing, but I believe there is one way to view The Church that would allow us to treat it very differently.  You hear me call The Church this often around MRC, and I do not do it by accident, it’s very intentional.  I believe as we view and treat The Church this way, we can ease that tension we spoke of earlier… Are you ready?

We should view the church as Our Family. 

1 Timothy 3:14 I hope to visit you soon. However, I’m writing this to you 15 in case I’m delayed. I want you to know how people who are members of God’s family must live. God’s family is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. GWT

So, let’s talk a bit.  I have a lot of thoughts and things that come to my mind when it comes to church and church life, and I wonder what comes to yours.  I think all our experiences, some good and some not so good, can shape how we view church.  In some instances, it may help us draw into the church community, but so often, it’s the hurts and negative experiences that shape us and can push us away from God, and The Church.  I wonder if you see Church as a positive or a negative thing.  Do you see it as part of who you are?  Is it something you look forward to being part of consistently?  Is it a refreshing part of your life, or is it more of a thing you feel like you have to do, an obligation, maybe the thing that interrupts other things you would rather be doing?  If that is the case the church and any event or engagement in serving in the church are probably pretty difficult things for you to do.  So, what is it like to serve the church?  Does it feel more like work than something you are grateful to be doing?  This is important because how you feel about the church is probably telling you how you view The Church.  I want you to think about this and personalize this with me.

How do you view the church?

You know, the thing that has been weighing heavily on me lately is this.  Why is church life so painful and messy?  Why is it that a group of people who have been saved by Jesus coming together can hurt each other so badly?  With Christ at the center, why is it so hard and difficult to find unity, love, and health?  Why would a group of people who are rallying around the greatest gift we could have in salvation through Jesus Christ, with the greatest mission to work on together, struggle to get along with each other, and frankly struggle to stay on the very mission Scripture so clearly calls the church to be on?  Why do we have such a disinterest in the things that Christ is interested in even as we say, we are growing to be more like Him?  This weighs very heavily on me, it hurts my heart as I see what we have to do to attract people, it messes with me as I have walked through church life for all of these years, and I will just tell you one of the main reasons this happens.  Yes, there is spiritual warfare, and yes imperfect people coming together will always be challenging, and yes, some people just don’t know what God’s Word truly calls the church to be, but the number one reason church life can be so messy and painful is the fact that we humans aren’t viewing the church as God tells us we should.  We see the church as a resource to take from, or a place that should make friendships for me, or maybe some weird religious obligation, but what we don’t ever do is see it and treat it as the Bible says we should…and the Bibles tells us we should see it and treat it as family.  We were created by God to be part of God’s family.  That family is the church.  The church is what we would view or should see as our Spiritual Family.

1 Timothy 3:14 I hope to visit you soon. However, I’m writing this to you 15 in case I’m delayed. I want you to know how people who are members of God’s family must live. God’s family is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. GWT

Is this how you view your church experience, as your spiritual family?  Do you treat it as family?  What would change in how you treat the church if it truly was your family?  Just a reminder, we become part of our Spiritual Family through Jesus.

Ephesians 1:4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.  NLT

So, through Jesus, we are now part of God’s family, but is that how we view the church?  As our family?  What would change in your life if you did view it as family?  Why would I say this is the number one reason that the church struggles?  Well, if we people of the church viewed church life and community as family, we would treat it very differently in many ways and I want to discuss just a few of them with you today.

First, in a healthy family, there SHOULD be love, generosity, and support.  

Here’s what I know about family, it should be a life of loving, giving, and supporting each other with no strings attached!  As parents, we love and support and give whatever we can to help our children grow up and succeed.  As parents get older kids take care of and love and support and give whatever they can to their parents.  In a healthy family, it centers around love, we serve one another, we want each other to succeed, and we are generous with each other doing whatever we can to help each other out!  Now let me ask you, do we treat the church this way?  If we don’t view the church as a family, we treat it very differently.  We compete for spots and don’t really want to see others succeed.  We see it as a resource to take from, we want positions, titles, and control, and if we don’t get those things we will move on to another church or make sure people feel our disappointments.

When someone in the family has hopes, dreams, and goals, what does a family do?  They do their best to help that family member succeed!  They rally around them and work together to make sure those dreams and goals are achieved.  Well, the church has hopes and dreams too.  The church has a mission, and it’s a very clear one, but we aren’t always open to or willing to help the church get there!  It’s annoying, or we decide it’s a marketing ploy, or it just isn’t something we are interested in doing…but what if we viewed it as family?  I wonder how we would treat people inside the church if we viewed them as family…I wonder if we would hold the same expectations over a church leader or member if we viewed them as family members that we want to see be healthy and succeed?  We have to see the church as family because when we do, we treat it very differently!  Selfishness, greed, and control have no room in a loving, generous family and when it is there it causes a lot of pain and hurts and damage.  Check out what Solomon says here…

Proverbs 15:27 Greed brings grief to the whole family, but those who hate bribes will live. NLT

You know one of the most fascinating things for me about church life is how hard it can be for people to do tasks or things around the church.  What is fascinating to me is when you simply look at the task for what it is, the task itself typically isn’t hard to do, and frankly it is something people do outside of the church with no trouble at all, yet something happens when we do them inside the church.  We have spent a lot of years setting up and tearing down at MRC in Dillsburg for over a decade and now in Heidlersburg as well, and really, it’s not hard especially after we found wheels, and technology has only made it easier, but for some reason when it comes to church, a simple task in everyday life feels difficult and exhausting to do.  Have you ever wondered why?  Well, I want you to see why.  Solomon is nailing it…it’s selfishness that makes things hard…I will show you an example of this in family instead of church.

So, one of the things you hear parents struggling with is taking their kids to their youth sporting events.  It’s so hard on some parents, isn’t it?  They complain they fight it, and they are so exhausted from it…but let’s think it through.  Is the task all that difficult?  I mean they are sitting in a park somewhere in a lawn chair, drinking iced tea or coffee, giving a thumbs up as their beautiful child runs by!  So why does something so easy become so difficult and exhausting? Why does sitting there in that lawn chair feel more challenging than climbing Mt Everest?  Well, it’s because Mom and Dad would rather be doing something else!  They want to do what they want rather than enjoy something their child desires and it makes it so hard and exhausting for them.  Do you see it?  It’s selfishness, and it’s the same at church.  It hurts the family!

Selfishness and Greed make this so hard, in the family and frankly in the Spiritual Family as well.  It causes church communities to struggle, and it is why simple tasks at church are so hard and exhausting, it’s because we have our plans, our agendas, and all this other stuff gets in the way of our wants and desires, and around the church, it causes a lot of problems!  Selfishness can destroy a community.  And it is why something as simple as showing up to church consistently or serving becomes so hard or even why you may do things around church but only with strings attached…it’s greed and it is the biggest disrupter to the local church and destroys what should be our Spiritual Family.

Proverbs 15:27 A greedy and grasping person destroys community; those who refuse to exploit live and let live. MSG

If you come to church and view it as family, you treat it differently, don’t you?  You don’t come into it looking to take from it or control it, the tasks and goals of the family are important to you because you want to see it succeed…you love, you give to it, and you bring your strength to it, you want to see it grow and reach its goals because family matters.

Second, in a healthy family, there SHOULD be patience, and a willingness to stick with it through tough times even if it doesn’t always go the way you want. 

This is so important; I want you to think about your family.  Those people are who they are, and you only get one family, am I right?  That means that when your dad or mom upsets you or your siblings disappoint you, you can be hurt or upset but they are still your family.  In a family we stick with things even when it’s messy…but in the North American church, we don’t do that.  We go to one church for a while, and instead of viewing it as family, and stepping in with love, generosity, patience, and strength we expect things from it and if we don’t get those things from it, or if things get tough on us, we just move on to another church.  Wouldn’t it be different if we saw the church as God’s word tells us to see it, as family?

Proverbs 17:17 Friends love through all kinds of weather, and families stick together in all kinds of trouble. MSG

When it comes to family we stick together and work through things, don’t we?  Well, this is important when it comes to church life as well because it will never be perfect, and because we don’t view it as a family we just end up going to a church for a while where it will inevitably disappoint us or someone will let us down and we just move on to the next church…think about how wild that would be if we treated family that way.  This isn’t like free agency in sports, family sticks together because they are family…and this is how the church should be viewed as well.  Even in difficult and divisive times, we stick together as family.  God’s word told us so, and I believe the church would look very different if we viewed it this way.

Lastly, and this is the key, in a healthy family, there SHOULD be continual Growth to Maturity.  

This is so essential, and I want you to think about this concept of Spiritual Growth and or Spiritual Maturity because so often inside The Spiritual Family, we misunderstand what this is, and we tend to try to measure it in ways that we just should not.  Spiritual Maturity is not measured in how long you have attended a church, who you know inside the church, or even by what you do at church, not even in how much knowledge you have obtained about God and Spirituality.  This concept of continual growth and maturity inside a family is very important.  I mean, can you imagine a family that had no adults, or grown-ups in it?  I mean, picture a family of all teenagers!  I’m assuming they would have some fun for a while but oh, my word!  What would get done?  Who would turn off the lights?  Who would make sure the doors are locked?  Who would clean up the home?  Who would be getting the groceries?  Who could afford the groceries?  Who would maintain the cars and mow the grass?  Who would pay the bills?  I think a home with no adults would have some fun moments for sure, but we can all say it wouldn’t function well as a home, would it?  Well, it’s the same thing in The Spiritual Family.  We are constantly and continually challenged to grow.

Ephesians 4:15 God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love — like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. 16 He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love. MSG

As we grow up into Spiritual Adulthood, just like growing up as a human being, we gain knowledge of the truth and tell it in love.  Peter ties our spiritual growth to our growth in the grace and knowledge of God.  Very important that those two stay tied together or we can get pretty prideful in our knowledge alone without God’s grace providing depth to that knowledge but let’s stick with Paul here.  We grow up healthy, and robust in love.  Think about the difference between a child and an adult.  A child is self-focused.  A child expects to be served not to serve.  A child is going to do whatever they feel like doing, and a child is often swayed by the latest fads and popularity contests of the times.  While an adult knows there is a time for fun, there are more important things than just indulging our feelings and emotions.  Adults understand they aren’t the only people on the planet, and an adult is less likely to be influenced by popularity contests and the latest fads.  We are challenged in Scripture to be continually growing into Spiritual Adulthood, becoming more like Christ each day, and just as this is needed in any family home, it is a necessity inside The Spiritual Family.  Why do I say that?  Well, do you remember that tension point I brought up earlier?  What the world wants, and what Christ is pointing us towards…very different things.  Well without Spiritual Maturity, that tension pulls the church away from God’s Truth and the mission it’s on, and toward what people of this world would find more pleasing.

Ephesians 4:13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.  14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.  NLT

Inside every family, there will be different people in different life stages of development, but there is a deep need for adults.  It is the same inside The Spiritual Family, especially in the world you and I live in today.  A world that pulls hard against what matters to God.  A world that is placing greater and greater tension on The Church to bend to the world’s ways.  A world that throws so much at us, that if we aren’t growing to be more and more like Christ, if we aren’t growing into Spiritual Maturity can cause us to be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching…and if you think about it, you can click a button and get all kinds of new teachings today.  Did you pick up on that in verse 14?  It takes an adult to not conform or be influenced by the world trying to trick us with things that sound like truth.  We must anchor to the truth and speak the truth in love.  Staying true to what matters takes a lot of maturity.

So, when I say that we must grow to be more and more like Christ, how does that hit you?  When you think of becoming Spiritually Mature, how do you do that?  You may think of programs or Bible Studies, but what do you think of?  Listen, when we accept Jesus and become Christians, growing isn’t a given, and it is not a natural or easy thing to do and many never do.  That requires intentionality and effort, it doesn’t just happen.  It’s not about your tenure in a church, or what you do inside it, it’s all about your intentional work with Jesus.  A spiritually mature Christian loves well. The problem is that few of us have learned or worked on how to do that. This is one of the greatest gifts we can give our world, it starts individually and affects the entire Spiritual Family.  This takes the power of God and a commitment to learn, grow, and break free from the things in our lives that keep us stuck!  This also means it takes work, along with God’s help…but it is so needed inside the spiritual family.  You see, an adult doesn’t bow to this world, or feelings, or personal desires, he or she does what is best for their family.  This is why growing into Spiritual Adulthood is so important inside The Spiritual Family, otherwise, culture and this world will influence the church, rather than the church influencing culture and this world. 

So, as we close, I want you to think about this.  There is a growing tension in this world.  A growing gap between what matters to God and what matters to the people of this world.  A growing tension on how to attract people to the Church.  This tension pulls on The Spiritual Family, and it takes us continuing to grow in Maturity to Him, to stay true to what matters to Him!  This is so important in a world doing its best to pull us away from God and onto everything, and anything else.

So, think through how you view the church today.  Do you view it as a Family?  If you do, you will treat it very differently.  Inside a family, there is no room for selfishness.  We find love and patience and work with those in the family, even when the going gets tough.  And it’s so important that we are growing into adulthood, otherwise, the family can’t function well, nothing will get done, and worse than that, we can be swayed by the things of this world.  With no Spiritual Growth to be more and more like Christ, we will veer off course because we live in a world trying to pull us off course, and we want to influence the world, not have the world influence The Spiritual Family.  Think this through today.  Think about the tension point we spoke of today.  Think about how polarizing Jesus’ message of Love and Truth is to the people of this world today.  Most importantly, understand how important it is that you view the church as your Spiritual Family.