Friday, October 11, 2013

Keeping Up Appearances

Struggle: What do you see when you look at this picture? What caught your attention?

Scripture Truth: “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Truth Encounter: What did you see when you looked at this picture? Did you see the sunset, church, flags, prayer bench, power lines, or any of this? Actually, this unaltered/unedited photo was shared on my Facebook. Different comments were made, but it was not the image alone the caught my attention. 

As I viewed this picture I was reminded of how we often view churches. I have often passed a church or saw a photo and said, “What a beautiful church!” But is it? Our statements are usually based on whether it is the largest structure in the area, or if the location is right, meaning, on the right side of the tracks, where no one or anything would distract from it’s (the building’s) beauty. We identify it by its carpet, padded pews, lighting. Sometimes we identify it with how spotless it is, as though no one “lives” there. Other times the church is identified by the style of music, it the choir is big, or the worship team is loud, how the members dress, or how the pastor delivers the message. I call all these outward appearances, power lines. Do these power lines indicate the true heartbeat of the church?

A building may be structurally beautiful, or there may be some things that are not so aesthetic but, just as with the Christian's life, their true identity is based on the condition of the heart and not the way things appear to be. 

How do you determine the heart condition of a church? Scripture tells us, “By their fruit you shall know them.” Because the Church is the ‘body of Christ,” she too should be producing fruit. The answers to these questions will help you know if in reality, a church is beautiful in God’s eyes.

  • Is the churches vision based on Matthew 28:19-20; sharing the    gospel with the lost, baptizing them, and teaching them to be obedient to God Word?
  • Are they reaching the lost, saving them, and discipling them?
  • Are the members interested in conforming their mind, to that of Jesus Christ, which is our daily commitment? 
  •  Has this body of believers set themselves apart from the world so that they are NOT engaging in the sinful activities the world promotes, and accepting the corrupt mind the outside world has so embraced?
  • Do the members as well as community have good things to say about the unity among its members?
  • Is the church active in the community, supporting other churches to meet the ministry and evangelistic, and spiritual needs of the community instead of being self-serving?
If you were able to respond with yes to these questions, about a given local church, then, it is a beautiful Church. This does not mean that a body of believers should neglect the appearance but appearance should not take priority over its vision and mission. A  church should be the lighthouse that dispels the spiritual darkness in the community that surrounds her.

Churches have all the potential by the powers given to them by Jesus Christ to be a lighthouse in the community but are plateaued or dying, because they have focused to long on the power lines. Gospel doctrine makes it clear that we must live in this world to achieve our eternal destination. When tried and tested we must be found worthy of a greater kingdom. The Church is called to be the salt of the earth, and the light of the world.

Let’s go back to the picture. I did notice the power lines at first but then if you look closely the bottom one intersects the steeple and flags, reminding us of the very reason we call this place... "church." Just saying, look beyond the power lines. If a church is fulfilling her mission she is the temple of God, and you could say that where she resides is Holy Ground… and she will be the “light” in the community. How does your church look?

Prayer: Father help me as a member of a local church to look beyond the power lines and focus on the heart of the church. May we have your heart, thus enabling us to be a "light" to our community. In Jesus name, Amen.