Someone asked me what the difference is between a civic organization and a church. There are some significant differences. One is the mission: what our message is and who we serve. Sometimes cultural measurements and goals are substituted for the Biblical ones. That is why it is important to remind folks both in and outside the church what we are all about.
1. The mission is to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the world.
We are to baptize and teach, worship and preach, and care for others through outreach. Notice that there is nothing in this mission that speaks about growing the church membership, increasing the offerings or pointing to ourselves to show the world what we have done.
2. Share and understand the message.
The message is the good news about God’s grace in Jesus Christ. This is the love and forgiveness that is given to us by God through His Son.
This is a message for all people. It is a message that is proclaimed in both word and deed. A message that is uniquely God given and Spirit driven. This message, this Good News and Gospel, is more than a written page. It is more than a law to be obeyed or a doctrine to be adhered to. The message is a proclamation to the world of what God’s kingdom is really about and how God invites us all to be part of it.
3. Who we serve is first and foremost God. We do this all in the name of Jesus Christ.
The how of it is in our actions of mercy, forgiveness and justice to others. We are servants of God by serving our neighbor in Jesus’ name. The light of God’s Holy Spirit shines brightest when we do acts of kindness, love and compassion.
In comparing the church to other human institutions is that, like them, we mess up. Yes, we make mistakes. We sin. The difference should be that we openly admit these sins and not try to cover them up. Pastors are far from perfect. The church is full of hypocrites and sinners and, yet, God still loves us and forgives us.
We are all called to be different in our behavior. We are not expected to be perfect. We should readily admit our absolute need of forgiveness. And because we are forgiven by God through Christ, we should pass that on to others. Another thing the church should be is more forgiving than any other human institution. Sometimes we fall terribly short of this, but God still loves and forgives us. But that does not let us off the hook. In fact, it calls upon the church to step up its game in a manner that tells all the world that we are sinners that need forgiveness. Isn’t that what saints are, forgiven sinners? May we never forget that!