We all have a definition of the church. Some of us may see the church as the building where we gather for weekly worship and Christian discipleship. Others may see the church as an institution that primarily exists for Christians who seek to be in relationship with other Christians. Perhaps some others may see the church as a community that is not important for spiritual growth and discipleship.
How do you see the church? How do I see the church?
My definition of the church is it is the “ongoing witness of Jesus Christ in a broken and hurting world.” The church, for me, is not a noun. It is a living and breathing movement of God.
It is an understanding of the church that comes through experience and an appreciation for how God is present in the church and the communities that we share the love of Christ in.
Primary in this definition is that the church is the “ongoing witness of Jesus Christ.” Atop of Mount Olives, Jesus commissioned his followers to be a community of faith that shares the message of Christ’s love with others. We see this in Matthew 28:19 where Jesus calls us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” A work, we are told in Acts 1:8, will take us to places close to home and to places beyond our imagination.
It will lead us to being the people who are willing to go into the community and be witnesses of God’s love. We do this nothing that God’s grace goes before us and meets us in our community. The church is in mission with our community knowing that the love of God goes before and with us in this work.
Thus, we exist as the ongoing witness of Jesus Christ with a confidence knowing that we can share hope, love, grace, and joy through our acts of worship, discipleship, and ministry in our local communities and around the world. We can be bold and must be bold if we are to truly glorify God and partner with God to change lives and communities.
This is work we do, though, in a broken and hurting world. We do not have to look far to see the effects of a world that is hurting. We saw it in Las Vegas this week with another mass shooting. We have seen it in the polarization within our nation. We have seen it in the poverty that plagues our communities. We have seen it in the drug epidemic that is destroying lives and families.
We have seen it in ourselves. We see it in the things we do that we do not want to do. We see it in our own pains, struggles, doubts, and fears. We are all people who are hurting in some way.
Yet, we are also people who are loved in a mighty way. One of the most important messages for the church to share is that “God loves you, and so do we.” To share that message we must be willing to receive it ourselves through experiencing God’s love, growing in our relationship with God, and being willing to live out love. When the church is grounded in a love of God that comes out of knowledge of who God is and how we have experienced God’s love in our own struggles, we are better able and equipped to respond to the call of being the church God knows we can be through our words, actions, and deeds.
So, why are we here?
We are here to make disciples as a movement of faith that seeks to be the church in a broken and hurting world. There is nothing more important for us than this great work.