Matthew 16:18 NRSV “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”
I read a book today by David Platt called A Radical Idea. It came as a two part set with the book The Radical Question. I found that I have very little in common with this author theologically. We come from different places have some different interpretations of scripture. Putting that aside I realized that some very good and important points were being made. Points that need discussion and implementation. Points that could save local churches across the country.
We need to realize that churches are not brick and mortar. The church is not a building, no matter how fancy. Jesus tells Peter that he is the rock on which the Church will be built. Peter goes forth, with the other disciples, and witnessed and taught, healed and cared for the people. The church grew and even though the early church faced persecution they continued to proclaim Jesus as Savior. The church had an intensive church growth program. They built buildings, had youth group lock-ins, professional light shows during worship, and nicely manicured lawns. Of course not! They faced persecution unlike we know in the United States. The early church grew because people were passionate about spreading the Gospel message of Jesus Christ particularly to the poor.
Who were the poor? Dr. Doug Meeks, who teaches Wesleyan Theology at Vanderbilt Divinity School, rightly claims that poverty has five aspects: Economic, Cultural, Political, Physical, and Spiritual. The cry of the economically poor is we have no bread. God is the bread and giver of life. The culturally poor cry out, “We have no sense of self, no history, no name.” God knows us each by name and calls us to himself. The politically poor have no power, no voice, and no justice. God is power and is just. The physically poor are sick many with no access to care. God is healing. The spiritually poor cry out, “I have no hope.” God is hope! God is the Good news for the poor, all aspects of poverty. Using this paradigm we see that all people are poor or will suffer with some type of poverty in their lives, even if it is just physical.
Who are the rich? If everyone suffers from poverty who are the rich people that are supposed to care for the poor. We all are rich. We need to stop thinking in strictly earthly terms. Everyone has something to offer to others. That makes them rich. They have an abundance of something that can aid others. My mind instantly goes to the completely destitute people living in garbage dumps and landfills and you may be thinking what they could possibly have that I could need or even want. We don’t know until we talk with them, sharing our stories, listening to theirs. We share in relationship and everyone gains something. That something may not be big or elaborate in earthly terms but it is awesome in spiritual terms.
I saw a picture of a little boy being raised in a landfill. He was being held in his mother’s arms. His eyes were absolutely amazing and both he and his mother were smiling. That is something that everyone can give. A smile, hug, conversation, presence are all invaluable gifts. A woman at my first charge in the United Methodist Church was homebound and was unable to walk. Her ministry was to write uplifting cards to people in her community. She started with civic and church leaders and then went through the phone book. She was sharing all she had to give. She was sharing herself with others in an effort to brighten someone’s day.
The church is not huge fancy buildings, or any building for that matter. The church is not elaborate worship that is professionally choreographed. The church is not programs. David Platt warns against requiring people to participate in the programs of the church. He rightly claims that those programs can draw people away from the ministry they are already doing. The church is people that are willing to sacrifice their all for Jesus and His ministry on earth. The church is the lady writing cards, the conversation about God wherever it takes place, the sharing of a meal and conversation. The church is not a place. It is people all over the world coming together in order to transform the world; lifting everyone up toward their full potential, working and living together, loving and caring for each other in peace and love.
That is this pastor’s opinion. What’s yours?