Monday, November 1, 2010


If I had to sum up the Christian community in modern ages with just one word, it would be this: divisive. Funny, considering that the Christian faith is meant to be the exact opposite of that very word. Yet here we are, brothers and sisters of one faith hurtling stones and ill-tempered words from the safety of four, stone walls. Somewhere, somehow, some of us got to thinking that Christianity is all about what our church believes and practices, or that what happens in our four walls is better than what happens in your four walls. But that attitude is completely missing the purpose: community.

I have been a part of Shoreline Christian Center in Austin, TX since 1994. Prior to this, I lived life on the missions field of Africa and was/am a son to two, full-time head pastors. My dad had both a local church and was also an itinerant (traveling) minister as well. After moving to Austin in 1994 and tentatively being on staff at a church ripped apart by scandal at the top level, my family sought out and found our new home at Shoreline (my parents have since moved on to answer God's call to pastor their own congregation though they remain dear friends with the pastors at Shoreline). Needless to say, I have seen church at and from every single level you can think of: children's leader, youth leader, young adults leader, praise team, and also on various missions and community outreaches. I've seen the mistakes, after all, these churches are being lead by people and not micromanaged by some divine entity teeming with perfection. Conversely, I have also seen a lot of the changed lives, too numerous to count really, so something must be going right.

All the churches I have been to and attended (and I have visited many around the Austin area, as well as across the country during my dad's itinerant dayes) have taught me one thing all churches have in common: people are actively searching for a church where their mind, soul, spirit, and body feel comfortable. Comfortableness is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can give way to complacency if allowed. Still, there is something important that one must be mindful of: the walk of one's faith has never been the church's responsibility. It is, rather, an individual endeavor which churches can only help foster and partner with alongside you. In short, a church's ability to cause a member to grow is entirely limited to the involvement and tenacity of said individual.

Mega-churches get the bad rap of being shallow or "seeker-friendly" these days, but I have seen a lot of great things done with the facilities, resources, and benevolence a large church has access to. In all honesty, a bigger church is easier to lose oneself in. It is much easier to be invisible when you are in a room of 10,000 than a room of 100. Still, it is not the church's responsibility to grab every person they see and demand a progress report on that individual to see where their faith stands and if it is growing. Really, all a mega-church can do is try to employ a staff (both paid and volunteer) large enough to connect with all the people in its church.

If your church, big or small, is going to fail, it will be because it does not offer any viable options for deeper living. To me, the depth of one's faith comes in the form of relationship: with other believers, with non-believers, with the needy, the young, the old, the widowed, the married, everyone and anyone apart of the local and global community. The church service as it stands today is more of a foundation to me, a time to hear an engaging message and experience some good worship, both of which are great on their own. The meat of the church experience in my opinion, however, is going to be what you get involved with outside of your typical 9 a.m. service time. This can be a number of things: small groups where peers discuss the Sunday message, or digging into Scriptures further while strengthening friendships with the center being a desire to grow in one's faith. It can also be involvement in the local homeless/needy person community, being sent on short-term missions trips, attending leadership courses and classes, going to groups that specialize in ministering to specific needs (of which there are so many a church service simply cannot address all of them at one), or serving with another ministry in the church.

My prayer for Austin and other cities all over the country is that our community becomes stronger, that the competitive nature of churches becomes a thing of the past, and we start to grab hands across denominational as well as property lines. There has to come a point when a church organization has to stop saying "what are they doing wrong" and start saying "what can we do right?" Abraham Lincoln once stated that "A house divided against itself cannot stand." We will find ourselves in a faith crisis if we do not all agree upon one mission and one mission alone: be the answer point to the answer to the need of the hearts in our congregation, then send that congregation out into local and global communities to spread the answer.

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