What would church be like if all we ever did was “go to church”?
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was issuing a manifesto for what his followers were to be and do. To sum up this job description, he used an interesting word picture:
“You are the salt of the earth…
… You are the light of the world…”
Think about this for a second. Jesus is explaining two functions which exist within a context: salt does something, light does something, and they are both to be done for the sake of the world. Salt exists for use in something not of itself; it brings out flavours and preserves. Light is the byproduct of itself; it illuminates and warms. These functions sound a lot like something the Church is to do. It was said by William Temple that “The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.” The Church has the responsibility to exist for whatever is outside of it, and it is to go there to meet the need it finds upon arriving.
That could be poverty, pain, abuse,or loss.
It could be the excessive, lonely, depressed, or confused.
It might be white or brown, man or woman, child, teen or adult.
This means that those who follow Jesus aren’t to just be good at going to church, but they’re to be good at being in the world too. Just as salt isn’t much use if it stays in the shaker, and light isn’t any good at illuminating if it gets covered over, so Christ-followers aren’t fully alive if all we do is stay good church-attenders. We are to exist for the sake of the world, and that means getting spent on it.
Spending ourselves on the world takes a lot:
It takes risky sacrifice and radical generosity.
It takes mucking in and rolling-up-the-sleeves just as much as it takes talking and planning.
It takes the adventure of entrepreneurism as much as it takes good ol’ fashioned service.
It takes using our abilities and gifts and other times it takes depending on God for the gifts only He can give.
It takes all of us, and it takes all of us again and again and again…
But what a cause to spend ourselves on: a broken and hurting world that needs to experience the flavours and illumination of the Kingdom of God. This can be as close as a neighbour, the local school or a prison, and it can be as far away as another country and culture all together.
Planting a church means joining in the missional activity of the Kingdom of God; a broken world, restored and renewed, becoming fully alive. The Kingdom of God extends further when another group of people set up shop in a community, find the need, and start to get to work meeting that need – whatever the sacrifice and cost that may be involved – all in the name of the risen Christ.