One of my favorite things about Mars Hill (my church) is the teaching of the Word. I truly believe that God has blessed our community with one of the best teachers I can think of. The depths that are dug and the passion that is put into the proclamation of the Word are unlike any other I’ve been apart of. I say this to say, this can be one of our greatest strengths as well as one of our greatest weaknesses.
It’s easy for the guys on our staff to assume that people are hearing the Word on Sundays and doing it during the week. This is the idea of the “gathered church and the scattered church.” Yesterday, Jack (our teaching Pastor) taught one of the greatest messages I think I’ve heard from him. In Revelation 17 we see John’s vision of the Prostitute and the Beast. If you really want to get the details of this passage then go to pomh.org and listen to it… but here’s what I got from it…
Over the centuries, the church has prostituted herself out to the world. We have tried so hard to stay true to God’s word and yet gain political power at the same time… it simply can’t happen. The result is what you see today. We have accepted so much into the church that is so contradictory to the scriptures that, if we don’t change course, we’ll never recognize Jesus when he returns. We see denominations of churches allowing and endorsing things that I think most of us would have never dreamed. It’s because we have become hearers and not doers.
So many churches have created a culture that is based around the guy in the pulpit, or the building, or the music, or whatever earthly treasure we can think of and not around what the scriptures tell us. James so clearly warns us to not just hear the word but DO it. This happens in the confines of community.
I truly believe that the proclamation of the word is an important part of the church. The proclamation bring conviction. This conviction should then be brought into a community where the people of that community begin to live out their convictions. So many of us walk into our corporate gatherings, sit for an hour, critique the service and talk about what we would have done better, grab our free cup of coffee (but upset because the right flavor creamer isn’t available), then go about our life during the week completely disconnected from the rest of the church body. We must stop living like this!
Over the last three years we have been pushing community groups at Mars Hill. We haven’t had a whole lot of success. There are many different factors contributing to it (southern culture, adequate staff, church culture, etc.). I think the biggest factor, however, is that most of us assume that the depth of knowledge and level of teaching we are getting on Sundays is enough to get us through until next Sunday. We couldn’t be more wrong. This isn’t faith.
James reminds us that if our faith is not producing good works, then it isn’t faith at all. Our love for Jesus will be evident in the way we live our lives… the way we live with one another. Throughout scripture, Christians are called to love, encourage, and rebuke one another. We’re called to bear one another’s burdens, pray for one another, and mourn with one another. God intended us to show himself to the world through us.
When we rely too heavily on the Sunday message, rather than hearing on Sunday and doing Monday – Saturday, we neglect to preach the gospel to the world around us. We must be able to count on one another, counsel one another, and hold one another accountable. The church has lacked this attitude over the last centuries and we’ve lost the simplicity of church. Hear the word, then do what you hear. Be led by the Spirit to do good works that God has predestined for the church to do. It was his intention all along to use his people to accomplish his plan.
May we be a generation that changes the course of church history. May we bring back the simplicity of church, hearing the word and living it out. May we truly get back to this idea of “being the church” as we learn how to love one another and live in community with one another. May we find ourselves connected to a community of believers throughout the week, come together and worship, and go out and preach the gospel to the nations. May we do this to the glory of the heavenly father rather than to our own glory or the glory of other men.