What if Church was a Verb?
Sometimes we play church.
Don’t get me wrong. Community worship is so important. It is the time when disciples are nourished. It’s the experience where God draws us together as a community, fills us up, and sends us out to do the work of the disciples. Community worship is vital.
But sometimes we play church. We act as if what we do on Sunday is all there is to discipleship. We come here , get our fix, and do very little else as disciples onthe other days of theweek. We work at the church and think that is our act of disciples. We go to team meetings, choir rehearsals, and prepare meals.
But we are still playing church.
When I say we, I mean myself as much as I mean all of us. I gravitate toward the things that are easier for me in ministry, the things for which I feel particularly gifted by God. I could be about planning worship all day long, I just love it! I can prepare meeting agendas, manage staffing and develop processes to accomlish goals for the church.
But I spend far too little time on being church. I spend too little time in the community with folks outside of the church community. I spend too little effort toward meeting the needs of others outside of our faith community. I do too little reaching out and serving others outside of the church community.
Sometimes we play church.
That’s what the disciples are doing in our scripture lesson today. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, talking about his sacrifice to come. He's explaining the work he’ll do for the sake of others. But the disciples aren’t focused on Jesus' sacrifice and self-giving. While Jesus has been talking sacrifice, they’ve been talking position and power and authority. “Give us a place of honor,” they ask Jesus. "Promise that we’ll sit at your right and at your left.” In other words, let the whole world know how important we are to your ministry, Jesus.
This isn’t the first time they’ve done it. After being on the mountain with Jesus, in that wonderful, spiritual experience, and as they were all coming down the mountain toward Jerusalem, toward Jesus’ sacrifice, the disciples argued about who was the greatest among them.
Both times Jesus gives them the same words of correction: whoever wants to be first should take the last place. The greatest are those who serve others.
I hear Jesus saying to the disciples and to us, “Quit playing church! Be Church!” Turn church into a verb, an action, a life lived for Jesus, a life of being the least so that others can be the most, a life of serving others.
What if Church was a verb? What would it look like?
I’ve been focused on that in these last two months as we have narrowed in on the neighborhood to which we feel God is calling us to relocate. I have been thinking about reaching into northwest Rochester. What are the needs of families? Where are people hurting? What hope do people need? How can we serve the families of northwest Rochester?
If we started being church more intentionally than playing church, it might look like…
- An after school homework help and childcare for the dual income families who are trying to fill that time between when their children get out of school and they get home from work with valuable experiences for their children.
- Budgeting classes to help families whose income to debt ratio is high
- Our older adults adopting grandchildren from the neighborhood who don’t have grandparents near by.
- A safe playground for neighborhood kids and their families to enjoy outdoor play time together.
- Food distribution / food shelf ministries specifically for folks in need in NW Rochester who likely have difficulty getting transportation to the local foodshelf or can't get their at the time it is open. Maybe we can be a satellite location for a food distribution.
- Transportation help for folks with medical appointments
- Child care for sick children whose parents run the risk of loosing their jobs if they can't find child care when they need it. Or child care on nights and weekends for shift working families.
- Welcoming a neighborhood pickup game at a couple basketball hoops on our property where the players know they are welcomed and safe and loved.
The list could go on and on and on.
God invites us to not clamor for the top, but intentionally take the place of last and servant, to be a people who are Church by being unbound and outbound, as the video said: unbound of playing church and outbound in being church. To make church not something we play… but a verb, an action of the people within the community of faith. When we are being church we are changing people’s perception that church is a building that holds people interested in their own survival, by being a people who are interested in the survival of others.
Let’s stop playing church and start being church! Let’s make church not a place or a gathering of people. Let’s make church a people in action.
What if church was a verb…?