Someone asked me, not too long ago, “What kind of church do you preach for?” Interesting question, isn’t it? I’m asked this quite often.
You probably hear similar queries. It has been my observation that such inquiries usually seek to elicit information regarding denominational affiliations. In response to this inquiry I do my best to explain the un-denominational expression of Christianity to which I aspire.
Still, this question has always settled deeply into my thought processes. Long after the questioner has nodded in understanding to my reply, I find myself reflecting on the question: What kind of church do I preach for?
Some time ago, after returning home from an exciting evening of community outreach efforts, the substance of this question hit home with a wallop. As I sat down for a late dinner and to relax for a few moments, a publication that I’d been perusing earlier was open on the table in front of me. The title of the banner article was: Needed: Redemptive Churches. Underscoring this headline is the scripture text: “…the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth,” 1 Thessalonians 1:8.
This set me to thinking about what the conversation would sound like if we were to ask the Apostle Paul about the church in Thessalonica. Based on what he wrote in First Thessalonians, he would likely say it was a loving church, an expectant church, even an obedient church. But, there is little doubt, because of the commendation set forth in 1 Thessalonians 1:8, he would speak of this church as a redemptive church.
We live in interesting times. In many respects we have come of age. We are becoming much more widely known throughout the nation and the world. Thanks to the hard work of a couple of generations before us, most congregations enjoy the benefit of fully equipped, functional buildings, which are well-suited for ministry. Our educational institutions truly are among the most highly respected in the land. As a result of global relief efforts, many people at home and abroad think very fondly of the churches of Christ. Additionally, we are well-positioned for the future with a prolific presence on the Internet.
Yet, according to some who travel widely, many congregations struggle with issues that bring conflict and dwindling numbers. Many of these same churches are adrift, merely floating through a sea of opportunity, due to a lack of purposeful leadership. There are no easy solutions to this situation. However, it has been observed by many and confirmed by my own experiences that churches with a decidedly outward focus—redemptive churches—are faring much better.
Thus, the question set forward at the outset of this post is so piercing. What kind of church am I working with? Is it a redemptive church? What does a truly redemptive church look like? Perhaps the following questions will help us think about this with discernment:
—Does my church encourage people to seek a deeper relationship with God?
—Does my church foster the development of loving relationships with others?
—Does my church encourage and facilitate creative conflict resolution?
—Does my church lovingly serve people in the community?
—Does my church actively equip members to utilize their giftedness in service that builds up of the body of Christ?
—Does my church’s leadership focus on crisis management or proactively directing redemptive ministry?
—Does my church eagerly share the Good News of God’s desire to include all people in His story of grace and human redemption?
Well, is yours a redemptive church? Perhaps the preceding questions are sufficient to begin a thoughtful inquiry. In my estimation, redemptive churches are spiritually healthy churches that are experiencing true, spiritual growth. This is not the result of employing gimmicks. No single person, or small group of individuals, can do it, either. It takes all of the members working together in harmonious service to others, thinking and living redemptively. Then we will definitely be working in concert with one another as a redemptive community to sound forth the word of the Lord. By God’s grace and for God’s glory, please, please, please, (Yes. I am unashamedly pleading!) let’s do it!
© Bill Williams, September 21, 2006