I had a great discussion with a local pastor this week, as we were meeting to pray for each other and some of the churches around the valley. He was wrestling with what it looks like to build a church that looks different, that has life to it, instead of the “buildings and butts” approach he’d grown up and cut his teeth leading. What he said that was so profound was this: “I’m tired of trying to get people to come to a bunch of stuff at church. Seems like that’s all I do here.” His is a traditional and historic church in the city. Very centralized and very…established. That’s not a critique, just a statement.
Anyway, the thing that struck me was my internal response. I was just bursting to share what God has put on our heart. He was sort of opening the door and asked the question: how do we do this differently? What is church that is alive and vibrant, that is more of a movement of people instead of just trying to always move people? (For a great video of the difference, check this video out).
What happened next was a 1/2 hour of me retelling the vision of Restoration–story after story of how we’re a movement, not an establishment. We’re on mission, constantly moving out in faith and giving our lives away for the good of the city and the sake of others. I recounted how in Ezekiel, God gives a vision of a central place (temple) where a stream emerges. As the stream goes out from that place, it turns into a river and gets wider and deeper and WILDER (more life, more excitement, more growth). From Ezekiel:
When I returned, I was surprised by the sight of many trees growing on both sides of the river. Then he said to me, “This river flows east through the desert into the valley of the Dead Sea. The waters of this stream will make the salty waters of the Dead Sea fresh and pure. There will be swarms of living things wherever the water of this river flows. Fish will abound in the Dead Sea, for its waters will become fresh. Life will flourish wherever this water flows.”
I love that last line: LIFE will flourish wherever that water flows. I told him how for too long, the church has stopped people from going out into that deeper and wilder by trying to constantly draw them back to the temple. The temple IS important…but it’s only out in the river that we get a taste of a wilder and deeper and more life-giving Spirit. It’s only when we GO on mission into a hurting world with water that heals and brings life. That’s what’s missing from many people’s experience of church – especially when that church is more focused on programs and drawing people inward!
At any rate, I believe we’re that kind of church – the kind that’s more interested in being a movement, not an establishment. We wrapped up and it struck me how excited I am to be doing what we’re doing. I’m excited that we are a different kind of church, and I want to make sure we continue being that kind of church – the kind that sends people out into the water, deeper and wider than ever before, loving people and inviting them to go for a little swim!
Man, I love our church!