When we choose to follow Jesus, we choose to become representatives of Him to the world. We become contributors to the reputation of Christ. Needless to say the Church, and the individuals of whom it is composed, have historically NOT always done a very good job at being accurate representations of Christ to their communities. As a result today we see a society, in the United States and across the world that hates God because they hate the church.
Now I’m not saying that the failure of the church in being incarnational is the only reason that people hate God. No, people hate God for a multitude of reasons, but I would suggest that church-suck (as I will refer to it) is a major contributing factor. As a millennial in my young 20’s I have inherited a discouraging predicament from those who have come before. Not only do people not know the news of Jesus, but they are resistant to it.
The church has so egregiously failed to understand Jesus’ ministry and mission in the world that it has failed to be what it was, by nature, designed to be. When Jesus first established, and Paul first encouraged the church the vision was much more about life with life discipleship and encouragement—people living life together. In that mutual encouragement the Church was to look outside of itself and address the spectrum of social to spiritual problems common in the day. It was to be a community of people who passionately followed Jesus, not a social club or religious organization.
I think that the key to the church becoming the church as it was intended to be, comes down to the simple reality that in following Jesus we ought to mimic his way of life and how he treated people. In the spirit of the season I would like to use the word Immanuel—God with us. Not to say that we are God or even that we can be like God, but to say that if we want to follow Jesus we need to be with people.
. . . . .
There is a man that I know named Jim. Jim has a heart to see Native Americans come to know Jesus, so 15 years ago he partnered with his father-in-law to begin a ministry on one of the reservations on the western United States. Needless to say the relationship between Native Americans and outsiders has not been good, historically. Even in the last century Native Americans have found themselves objectified at the hands of the U.S. government and in some cases the church. So Jim and his father-in-law had a lot of work to do.
In the beginning of their ministry they would simply take some food up to the reservation on a flatbed tailor, pull into a community parking lot and sit in the car while people received the gifts. They did this for several years in an effort to build a culture of trust. And slowly but surely their ministry grew by the power and goodness of God.
15 years later the ministry looks a lot different, but has the same heart. The relationships that were built over the course of so many years have now created an environment where Jim and what is now a team of college kids can create and distribute food boxes in person. His team also has opportunities to enter into the local elementary and middle school and pour into the students and teachers–a short but important encouragement.
God has taken Jim’s heart, some time and hours of work and turned it into what is now a beautiful ministry. I think it is because Jim, in many ways embodied the oh-so-important reality of the incarnation of Christ. Though Jim is only there for a few days each year with his team, he is there. Without fail, come rain or snow, he is there. Every year for the same week he is there.
There is a Truth of the Gospel here. We as followers of Christ must be with people. The fruit is evident. Even if it is for a brief time, there is something to going and going and going again that makes the ministry effective.
As we move forward, let us be Christians who choose to be intentionally incarnational with all those around us. I don’t think it will be people dragging people to Church that will save them or the church, but rather it will be people dragging the Church to people that will usher in salvation. I love that picture. The living stones who compose the temple of the living God becoming intentionally a part of people’s lives on a regular basis. The church becoming like Christ by being with people; the church being the church as it was intended to be.
Matthew 1:23, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).”