Every day I drive past church parking lots and admire the church buses and vans that sit collecting dust while we attempt to address the transportation crisis in our city. Across this city, congregations gather for meals that resemble a feast as I watch my urban friends scrap together a meager meal so that they can enjoy the same kind of table fellowship. I read church bulletins about the upcoming missions trips and the thousands of dollars being raised to help send members to the other side of the world for a one week experience while our local urban missionaries fail to find the support and encouragement they need to transform our own backyard. We currently have four desks crammed into one office and two team members per desk while many inner city churches sit empty all week. I get letters from churches asking for funds to support their next mega-building campaign while I watch families become homeless because they do not have the $200 they need to maintain their housing. When we approach churches about using what should be God’s resources to advance God’s Kingdom or care for God’s children, we hear the following:
“We can’t use our van to help you take inner city kids to the park because of “liability” issues.”
“We can’t host your fellowship event because our people are just too busy.”
“Members of our church really like going away to foreign countries to do missions.”
“Our policy is to only use our building for “church-sponsored” activities.”
“We only provide financial support for “members” who are in crisis.”
These comments point to the fact that Christ’s church has become totally focused inward on its own needs, likes and wants. Churches with this mindset think that the gifts and resources they are blessed to have are theirs, they paid for them, they “own” them, the gifts and talents their members possess are theirs to use. They operate out of a scarcity mentality, thinking there is only enough for them. These same churches preach the message to their congregants that “Everything you have is God’s. God gave you the ability to earn that paycheck. God gave you those assets and expects you to use them for the Kingdom. God will provide for all your needs.”
I have never had a church say, “God does not want us to care for those in need in our community.” Or “We don’t believe Embrace’s mission is in line with the mission of our church.” However, I have had churches qualify their rejection with the following requests:
“We would be able to help you if you were “Methodist, Baptist, or fill in the blank.””
“If your missionaries sign our statement of faith, then we might be able to help them.”
“If you are willing to put our denominational name on your project and count it as “our” project, then we will help you.”
I know this post sounds very negative, and I am sure you can feel my frustration — which is exactly what I am hoping. I went to a conference a while back and the presenter stated that the only way to bring about change is for people to feel the tension of “the gap.” The gap is the space between God’s Kingdom and our reality. I believe in God’s Kingdom, every asset is God’s asset and every child of God is equally worthy of benefiting from what is God’s. The reality is that the wealthy have all the assets and give them to wealthy churches while the impoverished children of God make due with what they have. The same inequality that exists on an individual level also exists at the communal level. There is a gap and I feel the tension of that gap every single day as our urban missionaries ask me for the resources they need to do what God has called them to do, but the resources simply are not there. It is not that God has not provided for all his “missionaries.” It is that those resources are not flowing into the gap. In other words, we are so busy investing our time and resources into building our church, we have no time or resources left to build the kingdom. I must confess, after standing in this gap for more than six years, I am losing my faith in the local church. I need you all to help me regain it.
I have decided to stop begging at the gates of the “church building” congregations and instead seek out the “kingdom building” congregations. I know they are out there. I have caught glimpses of them and have met a few of them over the years. I shared the story of one such church in my post “Recycled Churches” and hope to share many more stories with you in the coming months as God leads me to more Kingdom Churches but I need your help to find them.
So here is what I am looking for:
- Churches that seek to release their people and resources out into the world instead of consuming them for their own needs.
- Churches that are truly investing in the kingdom for the long-haul as a way of life, not simply doing missions events.
- Churches that are doing more than giving money or stuff, but that are building relationships that are transforming not only our city, but also the church.
- Churches that are supporting Kingdom work without getting the credit or having some other ulterior motive like trying to recruit church members.
Are you a part of a church that seeks to fill the gap and build the Kingdom? Is your church willing to sacrifice the comfort of its own members in order to build a city that reflects God’s Kingdom come? Is your church courageous enough to invest in local missionaries not just for a week but for the long-haul?
I once heard a pastor say “I would rather have 10 fully devoted disciples than 10,000 lukewarm Christians” and I think God can do more with 10 Kingdom minded churches than 10,000 church-centered congregations. I long to meet the Kingdom-minded church leaders in our city. Please help me in my search. Help restore my faith in the local congregations. My goal is to find 10 Kingdom minded churches over the next year.
Will you help me with this quest? Where do you think I should start?
I wrote the above post on Saturday night and spoke at a church this morning. All I can say at this point is God is going to have fun restoring my faith in the local church. Stay tuned…God is on the move!