Friday, April 8, 2016

Inwardly Missional Church

So seize any opportunity the Lord gives you to do good things and be a blessing to everyone, especially those within our faithful family.
~ Galatians 6:10, VOICE ~

"You Christians are only pro-life until the baby is born!"  That's the kind of cranky backlash I have received from some of my pro-choice friends.  While, it may be untrue for me, that kind of harsh statement is definitely convicting when you look at the Church universal.

This is especially sad in a generation where Millenials find it cooler for churches to be "missional."  In other words, this generation is finding itself in leadership positions, and is fond of sending church members out to serve in the community at soup kitchens, at neighborhood rehab projects. and organizations to end human trafficking.

Hear me when I say that these are GOOD, GOOD THINGS.  

However, I have two challenges with this outwardly missional hyperfocus:

  1. Unless we are sharing the gospel with those we are serving in the community, we are just like any other secular person who is trying to work their way to heaven.  Instead of authentic relationship, we're suddenly just treating someone like our project.
  2. We make ourselves look like complete hypocrites when we do missional outreach while neglecting those who are struggling within our own Church Body.  If we haven't even made room for the disabled to attend or serve, or for those with special needs to receive spiritual formation, we again look like we're just treating people like a temporary project, trying to beef up our numbers, a Christian Club for all the beautiful people.
What if that changed?  What if we became an INWARDLY Missional Church first?

In John 11:36, the Jews saw Jesus crying as Martha and Mary greeted him at Lazarus' graveside.  Their response was, “See how he loved him!”  When those outside of our church community see the way we love one another inside the Church Body, they can't help but notice.  Our love for one another becomes attractive to them.  EVERYBODY wants caring community to surround them when life gets hard.

I can give you at least 2 examples of God's glory on display to non-church-goers around us when we were on the receiving end of those who were inwardly missional.  When I was pregnant with our 3rd child, I began having premature labor at 5 months.  This was particularly challenging because our 2 year old with severe hemophilia still wanted to be picked up.  Add to that challenge the fact that no mom of very small children is off her feet very much.  Nevertheless, doctors wanted me off my feet and resting in order to carry the baby to term.  It was our church family that helped me with meals, housecleaning, and shuttling my kindergartner around.  I couldn't have made it carrying that baby to within two weeks of my due date without our church family rising to the occasion.  We're still friends with several of them.

The second instance, it was not my church, but a women's Bible study group I was a part of outside the church.  These women were inwardly missional with everyone attending the study, and provided us with a major lifeline when our son had been hospitalized with a life-threatening ileopsoas (hip joint) bleed.  Once we returned from the hospital with a PICC line placed in his arm and in a wheelchair for about 6 weeks.  Our family life was very much up-ended.  In the beginning, he needed daily infusions, sometimes twice a day.  Things were a nightmare just getting him to and from school.  These loving women helped put gas in our cars, food on our table, and get our daughters to where they needed to be.  Their love in our darkest hours made all the difference.  They are still my "soul sisters" to this day.

When Paul wrote these words, he was writing to the Church about the Church in Galatia, "For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." (Galatians 5:13, ESV)  In fact, if you look up the phrase "love one another" in the Bible, you will find myriad verses admonishing the Church Body to serve, encourage, and edify each other.

This is where the old adage originates, "Charity begins at home."  Those of generations before us in the Church have recognized that we can't reach out to the secular world and look credible unless we are first living out that love within our own existing church communities.  It would be sheer madness for an unbeliever to want to join our ranks when they see us neglecting those who are sitting in our own pews on Sundays.  It exposes our lack of belief in the value of all life at ever stage and ever phase.

When we get it right, the world around us truly notices.  God's glory is clearly reflected to the outside world, and people want to be a part of that.  They see us truly living what we claim to believe, and it draws them in.

Sadly, although amazing organizations have existed in the Christian world for decades, churches still tend to treat those with special needs, chronic illnesses, and disabilities like they are an occasional project.  It's easier to have an us/them mentality than to face our fears, get dirty, and become fully inclusive of these hurting families.  Which makes me CRAZY... And regrettably validates that accusation by the pro-choice lady.  

Wake up, Church!  Let's get this turned around!

PRAY:  Jesus, you made yourself incredibly uncomfortable, to the point of torture and death, for our sake.  Holy Spirit, soften Your Church with gentleness, compassion, and lovingkindness to step into the mess of those of us living with a child who has a chronic illness, disability, or special need.  Stir our spirits to reject easy church life.  Motivate us to reflect Your loving glory through how we love one another.  Let our charity begin at home and spill out naturally to a dark and hurting world.

*For further reading:

2 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for validating my thoughts and feelings about my congregation. I love them, but they just don't get it.

    ReplyDelete