Last night in our Bible study group, we were discussing what church is. I wasn’t taking notes (I usually do), but three P words came to mind that I thought about and brought up in the course of our conversation.
One is that church is ideally like a potluck dinner. It’s not just the pastor serving out a meal, but everyone bringing something different to feed each other’s souls. This is especially true in a small group setting, where we are interacting with one another rather than listening to a sermon. But it is true of the church at large, too – not just the local church but the “universal church” made up of believers from every nation and generation. The Bible teaches “the priesthood of every believer” – we are all meant to minister to one another. We each have a unique perspective to offer, unique gifts that God has given us to bless one another. In my potluck analogy, this might be a main dish, a side dish, a dessert, or a beverage – spiritually speaking that would be something to edify, encourage, challenge, instruct, amuse, or quench a thirsty heart.
The second word is pedestal. In our church, we’ve gone through a bit of shaking in recent months since the resignation of one of our pastors brought many troubling issues to more public light. This shaking is a gift, even though it has brought a lot of pain and many people have left. Why is it a gift? Because in so many ways, people have put our church and pastors on a pedestal over the years. One man said last night, “We thought our church was ‘da bomb!’” (as in something really special), to which another man instantly quipped, “Yeah, and da bomb exploded!” But God doesn’t want us to place our trust in a church or in other people who will invariably fail us in some way at some point in time. The purpose of being “shaken” is to topple things off their pedestals so they are instead resting on the one true and solid foundation, which is Jesus. Humility requires us to lower ourselves and lift up the Lord. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and of course, as long as you're looking down, you can't see something that's above you." Likewise, as someone else brought up, we are sometimes overgrown plants that must be pruned back to make us even more fruitful. He cuts away what will hinder us – even good things! -- to allow his energy to flow even more powerfully into the areas where he wants us to grow. Painful? Yes! Necessary? Absolutely!
The third word is pr'arrows. I’ll be you’ve never heard of that one since I just made it up this morning. It's a contraction for the words “prayer arrow.” Last night at our meeting, I realized that part of being “church” is to take the time to encourage and pray for our brothers and sisters who have ventured to far places on this globe to spread the Good News about Jesus to those who have not yet heard. They are engaged in “spiritual warfare” for the hearts of those for whom Christ died. Do we send them out there by themselves to the front-line? Maybe geographically we can’t be with them, laboring alongside them, but we can certainly cover them with fervent intercessory prayer – shooting out pr'arrows to assist them in the battle. I am trying to become more faithful in this, so I divided my prayer list into six days, with different things for each day. One of my daily categories is world missions, with one continent per day. I pray for three or four missionaries/ministries (most of whom we know personally) each day. To add practicality to my prayers, I also try to send encouraging e-mails, ideas for ministry, and occasional care packages. Why is this so important? Because in many cases, these dear men and women have had to leave their beloved home churches and minister in places where there is no established local church. They still need "church" though, or they will be even more vulnerable to discouragement and burnout. We are called to care for them!
- Potluck: We are each a vital part of the body of Christ, bringing our offerings to bless one another. Read 1 Corinthians 12.
- Pruning & Pedestal: We must be willing to let go of anything in our own lives that hinders us or others in our walks with Jesus. We must lift HIM up, and not place our trust in imperfect humans and organizations. Read John 15:1-11 and 1 Corinthians 3.
- Pr'arrows: We can cover our brothers and sisters in intercessory prayer even when we cannot fellowship with them face to face. Read 2 Corinthians 1:8-13.