Yeah, you heard my question. Are we living in coffins? A coffin serves one function – to house a corpse, a dead body.
I wonder how many churches are really just corpses waiting for burial – the building becoming nothing more than a coffin.
Almost nothing gets me going like seeing a church that is just waiting to die – of course these churches wouldn’t call it that, but that’s really what is going on. It turns in on itself, worries about it’s appearances and maintaining control. There are churches that have resources, money, large buildings, staff, etc. But they lack a reason for why they still exist.
I passed by one of these churches today. It’s a large church, which I know has a great deal of resources. It’s located in a neighborhood that is in need of a great deal – not just material resources. The material needs are just a symptom of something much deeper – the immaterial needs of the neighborhood.
There is a school in the neighborhood – there’s plenty put on the shoulders of this school that it can’t possibly provide. Schools can’t deal with the spiritual parts of life. Schools can’t provide hope, or vision, or salvation. Schools can’t build community and purpose. Let me rephrase that – schools can offer hope and vision if the community and the culture the school serves want it.
Maybe I’m being idealistic here, but I argue that churches can create an environment where hope, vision, salvation, community, culture, and purpose can come out of the neighborhood – literally drawing it out of the community. So often all of these things are already there, lying dormant, put in a coffin, buried, and dead. I don’t mean churches in the sense of the building either. No rather, a church is made up of the people living in community with God and one another, where the Spirit of God moves through the community, empowers it, gives it meaning. Give me a church that can answer the question – “Why does this church exist, what is it’s purpose?” and you’ve got a church that is ready to respond to what God is doing in its midst. The church is in the business of resurrection because that’s what God does. The church brings this message of resurrection and new life to location where death claims dominion. But the Good News is that death doesn’t have the final say, God does
Give me a church that is living out its purpose in a prime location and watch the magic happen. Seeing a church live out its purpose and mission in a community that lacks hope, vision, and purpose and you’ll see a community that is ripe for transformation and new life – a resurrection, or transformation that only God can bring about. It’s not the church doing this on its own, but rather a church being God’s hands and feet. It’s not a church that has a sign out front that says “join us.” It’s not a church that sends out the message that all are welcome if they come in and become like us. Coffins wait for a body to come in and reside in it.
Rather it is a church that knows who and whose it is and because of this, the church goes out from the building into the community, to accompany the community, to transform and be transformed by the community, to welcome the community and empower it, to expand the church. It leaves the coffin of the building, resurrected and with new life, ready to go out and proclaim what God has done for it and what God will do for all. It’s a church that is living out what it means to be church. It’s a church that looks different, thinks different, and is different because as more people become the church, as the church becomes more expansive and outward focused, the more it lives out its calling and the more lives are touched in unimaginable ways. That’s what hope, vision, and dare I say it, salvation can look like and means for a community desperate for life.
Jesus calls the church to life abundantly, a resurrected and abundant life. Not just for the church, but for all. The church is called to get out of its coffins and live abundantly.