A VISION OF THE CHURCH
By DANNY MINTON
I grew up under a dark “cloud.” It hung over me for much of my life and every so often floats back over, although there are more times of sunshine than I had in the past. You see, I belong to a congregation of people who call themselves “The Church of Christ.” The cloud? Well, growing up I would hear over and over that “The Church of Christ” think they are the only ones going to heaven! Chances are all who read this have heard it. Maybe you remember or know someone who goes by this statement. Maybe you remember a joke about the belief. Some “Churches of Christ” have even taken the “of Christ” off their name because of the stigma that still hangs on in places.
There are men and women who call themselves Christians who meet under all sorts of names; Church of Christ, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, etc. We all read the same Bible and yet interpret some things differently. Most of the differences come much like the Pharisees of the New Testament who set up their traditions as scripture. We all want to be right in how we read the Word of God. We all love the Lord and Savior.
I believe in what I teach about salvation and what Jesus expects of us. I do believe that one must be a part of “Christ’s church.” I don’t want to be so arrogant that I think that I’m right on everything and others are wrong. I’m not that smart, and I know people who are much smarter than I am who disagree over how to interpret what God expects of us all. Judgment belongs in the hands of God, not mine or yours. Even Jesus, when approached by James and John with a request to sit on his right and left in heaven, believed that that decision was in God’s hands, not his.
Not long ago something happened at our building that would have been unthinkable when and where I grew up. Around a hundred men and women from our congregation and two Baptist congregations gathered together to pray over a situation that loomed over us all. In that room, we were one in going before the father. Not long afterward we met at one of the Baptist buildings, singing, praising and praying together.
I recently asked our leaders to give me their dreams for the church. I listed ten that I would like to take place. I’d like to share them. They are simple, the basis for all of us no matter where you worship on Sunday morning.
My dream is to grow a congregation that mimics the savior.
A “church” who sees people through the eyes of Jesus with love and compassion instead of criticism and mistrust. (Mt. 8:3)
A “church” who wants to discover their individual gifts and to truly work and use their gift. A church who refuses to be “pew-packers” thinking that the hour or so on a Sunday morning is their commitment to Christ. (1 Cor. 7:7)
A “church” who speaks to each other with love, refusing to backbite and gossip about not only those within the church family but those outside the walls. (1 Cor. 13)
A “church” who is prepared to take the gospel to anyone and everyone. A church where every person can give an answer for what they believe. (Acts 1:8)
A “church” not afraid of the world, but ready and willing to stand up for the “truth” no matter the consequences. (Hebrews 11:32-40)
A “church” who lives and focus’ on the two greatest commandments and not only able to quote them. (Mt. 22:37-40)
A “church” whose lives are transformed into what God expects of us. (Rom. 12:2)
A “church” who is not afraid to be different than the world if it means to be like Jesus. (1 Peter 1:14-16)
A “church” who lives the words of Joshua, “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)
A “church” who respects and values the Word of God over the traditions we have always been taught. People who respect the Word. (Neh. 8:5)
One survey I came across reported that only about 30 percent of the population of this country who call themselves “Christian” worship God on any given Sunday. Close to 37 percent say they do, but many, as the survey pointed out, refuse to be truthful when it comes to how religious they view themselves. That number is expected to fall over the years. Why? Part of the problem may be us, the believers of today. When the world doesn’t see Christianity any different than they see the world they live in, then why tie yourself to something that adds nothing to your life?
One of my favorite shows growing up was “Superman.” The excitement would come when he went into the storeroom or nearby phone booth (little buildings used before cellphones) and changed from Clark Kent to the invincible “Man of Steel.” No kid wanted to be like Clark Kent, but we all wanted to be like the one he transformed into being, Superman!
Paul tells us as Christians to “not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” It is only with this transformation in our lives that we can truly make a difference in the world around us.
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ