Sunday, March 31, 2024

What Kind of Church Should We Be?

By Brian Mitchell

    Play a word game with me. What comes to your mind when you see or hear the word church? Do you picture a steepled building, dark wooden pews, crosses, offering plates? Do you hear hearty singing? Or does church trigger childhood memories of wiggling through sermons, playing tag on the parking lot, and Sunday school teachers telling stories about Samson and David and Daniel and, of course, Jesus?
    Or do you experience again the flat taste of the bread and the sweet taste of grape juice at communion? Do you remember a particular Sunday morning when a sermon gripped you as though you were the only one in the crowd, or the day you became a Christian through baptism? Or does church bring other pictures on your mind? A wedding, funeral, evangelistic services, going forward, committee meetings, suppers served in Tupperware dishes, that time at camp when you determined God would have all of your life.
    When you see the word church, do you have good feelings? Like laughter? Warmth? A quietness? Acceptance? Happiness? Awe? Love? Closeness to God? Or are your feelings negative? Like boredom? Anger? Confusion? Guilt? Rejection? Does church remind you of arrogance, hostility, manipulation, anger, or irrelevance? Do you think of it as a poor substitute for a picnic or a ball game? Church dredges up memories and emotions from deep within you, doesn't it? Some are healthy, some painful, most somewhere in between.
    Have you noticed that when Christians think negatively about church, they think of "them" not "I"? Church is an institution out there, a group apart from them. But we are the church, aren't we, you and me? We may have a personal faith, but it is next to impossible to have an individual faith. God did not intend for us to be Christians by ourselves, every Christian to be complete, must be a member of a body of men and women who are followers of Christ. Therefore, whether we are part of a vital, growing, glowing assembly of believers depends in some measure upon us.
    People are always looking for someone else to blame for their own lack of spiritual health and growth. A woman's husband had been slipping in and out of a coma for several months, yet she’d stayed by his bedside every single day. One day, when he came to, he motioned for her to come nearer. As she sat by him, he whispered, eyes full of tears, “You know what? You have been with me all through the bad times.
    When I got fired, you were there to support me. When my business failed, you were there. When I got shot, you were by my side. When we lost the house, you stayed right here. When my health started failing, you were still by my side. You know what?” “What dear?” She gently asked, smiling as her heart began to fill with warmth. “I think that you are bad luck.”
    When it comes to the church, our role in it and our effectiveness at being God’s people, it is time to stop blaming others for our lack of personal and numerical growth. We need to put the blame where it belongs if we are not growing as we should individually and congregationally, we are to blame. If we hope to make a difference in our churches and for our churches to make a difference in the world, we need to know what a healthy church looks like and perhaps even more importantly, we need to know how sick churches can be made well.

- Brian Mitchell serves as a minister with the Jackson Church of Christ in Jackson, MO. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at

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