The church is an ever-changing organism. Through different seasons and climates it grows and fluctuates or shrinks back to its original mass. It sustains and maintains or it adapts to culture and adopts new methods. With a system that is constantly evolving, what things need to remain stable?
What do we cling to when external factors begin disrupting the internal health of the organization? More importantly, is what we’re clinging to enough to bring us out of the shift and into the next gear for the church?
Here are three individual aspects of our walk that when worked together and in progression, paves the growth track for a new person coming to faith. They have been often misconstrued to stand on their own, but individually it’s not enough.
- Just believe
Has anyone ever said this to you? I can remember being younger and going through trials. When I would approach well-meaning people looking for advice, these two words were the best they could do. It not only left me frustrated but I felt ill-equipped. Believe me, I was believing as hard as I could internally.
The weight of the effectiveness of the church cannot rely simply on this attribute. Believing is important and necessary don’t get me wrong. However there are thousands of churches that have people “just believing” inside of them. More often than not, their communities don’t know/care that they exist and the last “new here” they had was when the pulpit changed pastors because there is no emphasis on the invite. Looking at the early church, they did more than just believe.
- Just Belong
We’ve seen more than ever in the past year how important community is. Our physical, mental and emotional health depend on it. This is also the lifeblood to our spiritual health. A sense of belonging is engrained in the make-up of who we are as people. We yearn to know that we are loved and that we have a place.
That being said, it’s not enough on its own. It’s easy to fill seats and greet people next to you during the handshake portion of the service, maybe join a routine connect group and share some cold cuts. Fact is, without some deeper roots it will only take a small disagreement or a better option to drive you away looking for another pack. There is strength in community, healing in belonging but it must be accompanied by more.
- Just Behave
Come on, if you didn’t hear this from a parent in your childhood then you never really pushed the limits. There was an expectation in public that you would be proper, managed and neat. Especially in church. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this. However, the church is known for pointing out the ones who don’t act in order. The danger with this personally is that it forces us to believe that we can’t be real with God. That he has some expectation or standard we need to meet in order to gain his love. I know people who have behaved well their entire lives. Primped by their principles but people don’t want to be around them. There’s no belonging because no one can meet the bar they’ve set. They believe more in their standards than their Saviour.
For an effective church, we cannot cling to these alone but we must cling to them all. We need to understand that believing is an initial step into a relationship with God. We desperately need to surround ourselves and find belonging with other believers for the health and encouragement of our faith. The truest form of how we see ourselves in God’s eyes will give us the filter of how we treat others. We are called to love our neighbours. Even those that disagree with us. The effective church is a community of people who have a healthy balance of all three of these attributes. The early church knew this and gained ground because of it. Believing is not enough. Belonging is not enough and behaving is not enough, but when done together we create a place of refuge for the most vulnerable and broken.