Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Church

This last Sunday I went to church at Nags Head Church, which is the church we go to when we are on vacation at the beach. Over the last several years I have gotten to know a few of the people there a bit, including the pastor's son, Nathan. I just added his blog as a link to visit from my site because his story is one of absolute trials and faith. I'm not worthy of telling his story for him, so please just read his blog to find out what he and his wife and daughter have been through and the story they have to tell - it will melt your heart, strengthen your faith, and rock your world. I don't know him all that well, but Nathan is a friend of mine and he has taught me a lot about church. There are many things that Nags Head Church has: a cool building shaped like a wave, a phenomenal worship band, a Spirit-led and God-honoring pastor who is an exceptional leader and preacher, and a group of wonderful people as the body there. I absolutely love attending there, it blesses my heart so much that it hurts me inside to leave after only one worship service a year. And that's the way it should be.

For all the things that that church has or doesn't have, there is one thing that they are that can be summed up in one word: genuine. They are genuine Christians and it shows in everything they do. The worship wraps around you and you fall into it because it is so genuine and Spirit-led. The words of the pastor, whether they are stern, joking, instructional, or story-telling, they are all genuine, spoken to the people, straight from God.

Is my church genuine? Am I? These things are a lot more difficult to see in the mirror than they are in someone else. It made me take a good hard look at myself and ask, when people are around me, do they see a genuine Christian, or do they see someone who talks the right way and knows some things but doesn't seem quite like the real thing. What is the experience like at my church? It is different. Maybe it's different for me and not for others, but I think regardless, it may not be quite as genuine. As a member of my church, I include myself in the Church I talk of.

If we're not where we need to be, why? What needs to happen in a church in order to get the body functioning as genuine Christians all of the time? If there was an easy answer to that, all churches would be healthy and wonderful because we would know how to do it. As an up and coming Christian leader, I struggle with this immensely - what should the Church look like (what should it be), and how do I get people from outside of that framework into it?

In his book The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer says, "We Christians are the Church, so whatever we are doing is what the Church is doing." Well, that's a good answer, but it's a scary one too. That puts the responsibility on the people in the church, not just the pastor. The whole can not be greater than the sum of its parts. What each church actually is - is the sum of each member of that church and what they are currently doing. If the church is made up of a bunch of genuine Christians with servant's hearts who are surrendered to God's will - you will have a church that is the very same. If your church has a decent leader, but the people generally are just Sunday morning attenders and they're not in God's will and are not surrendered and genuine in their daily lives, then the very same things will be true of your church. Again, this clearly shows that the personality, if you will, of a church does not stem from the pastor, but from all of the people in that church. What am I doing as a Christian? Do I understand the parallel consequences of what I am doing to the type of church I am a part of? The kind of Christian you are is a direct influence upon the church you regularly attend. And every person there has the same level of accountability and responsibility in this regard.

As I continue to reflect on my time at Nags Head Church, it creates a clear picture in my mind of the type of Christians who make up that church - because it comes through not only in the worship, or the message, but the entire experience - from the time you park to the time you leave the property. Now, if I don't think my church experience is the same (as good), then who's partly to blame for that? ME. If I want my church to be a certain way or do a certain thing, I need to be that way and do that thing first. What we do and who are are is what the Church is doing and what the Church is. Think about that, and ask yourself what kind of church you want, and what you're going to do about it in your own life.

Some final thoughts from the message brought to us last Sunday. "We must change so others can be changed by knowing us." "Let it be said of us that we lived our lives as a blessing to others." "In what significant ways is my life being changed by the Word of God?" "I've been changed to bring change."

Let these words be the words we live by as Christians. I will challenge myself with these phrases in order to ensure that I am a vital part of whatever church body I attend. I pray you would challenge yourself with these too.


MilePost13 said...

Hey Jeremy...just seeing this now. Great to see you this summer...hope to see you and the family again next year!

Rick Lawrenson said...

Thanks Jeremy for the kind words and keen insights as to what makes a church.

Barb said...

I absolutely agree, Jeremy, that if my church isn't this or that and I believe it should be, then it's my responsibility to make it happen. If I see it as important.

Well-chosen words, ones that Christians who've been around awhile could heed.

Mary Smith said...

Hi. I found a link to your blog from Pastor Rick's blog. My husband and I also attend Nags Head Church while on vacation. We get SO excited thinking about attending in the months leading up to vacation. I totally agree with the wonderful fact that the the people there are so genuine! It makes me miss these people that I hardly even know! It's nice to know there are other "vacation attenders" out there who understand the excitement of going to church on vacation!