I haven't done a Friday Five in a while. The prompt(s) come from here and this Friday's is:
Please pardon me for talking about church in the summer when many of you may be on vacation. However, the church we are talking about today is the one you dream of. I've been thinking about this because I miss pastoring and preaching, because I am sending in resumes, and because...well...jut because. So have some fun with this. Tell us five things that the perfect church would have, be, do...whatever.
We can dream, right?
So, my initial reaction is that there is no such thing as the perfect church on this side of Christ's return. As we strive for wholeness in and as the Body of Christ, we also struggle with the realities of our humanness, the fallen world and the forces that oppose God and God's kingdom (see Satan).
However, I am also in a transitional call and my congregation could and should ask me what I would like to see in a church, so having given this some thought and prayer- here goes:
A congregation working toward wholeness in Christ and acknowledging the on-going work of sanctification by the Spirit would:
1) Have more than one kind of service on a semi-regular basis. I don't like segregation of services or music. I think as a congregation we are called to embrace similar visions and understandings of Christ and of the people's work in liturgy. That being said, most people are spiritually fed by different things. Some people like world praise music, some people never want to hear a drum or see a dancer, some people want to feel free to lift their hands, other people would prefer not have clapping. We can't always accommodate everyone, but an occasional service outside of the "regular" worship could open the doors to people within and without the congregation who seek a different kind of spiritual nourishment now and then.
2) Embraces and encourages children to participate and be seen in church life- from worship to Sunday School to church projects. Jesus said, "Let the children come to me." I love to see churches where all children are encouraged to do all kinds of things. Too young to offer the cup- carry a pick up tray. A child who can't be seen over the podium or pulpit, but who speaks and reads well can still lead the Psalm with a hand-held microphone. The more involved children are at a young age, the more likely they will be to be involved after confirmation (which is NOT the end of church). I know kids are very busy these days, but we either say to them that they are important and church participation is too (by creating opportunities for them in the church)... or we keep lamenting the absence of young people in our congregations.
3) Does not think the pastor does everything. Said church also doesn't let the pastor do everything. The Spirit longs and strives to use everyone. In the perfecting church, there is shared empowerment, encouragement and mutual support for ministry.
4) Has at least two regular adult education offerings, one of which might be taught by the Pastor. I LOVE to teach about the Bible, but the pastor's Bible class doesn't have to be the only educational option. And I'm not the only one who has Biblical insights. And there are well-written books, discipleship studies, hands-on group lessons and all kinds of other things that incorporate Biblical messages and can and should be explored for the growth and life of the church. A perfecting church also exhibits excitement about the Bible, Biblical teaching and discussion! :)
5) Exhibits forgiveness. Church people can really hurt one another, intentionally and unintentionally. A church that is growing can only begin to experience fullness by letting go of the binding pain of the past. I realize it doesn't mean that people forget what happened, but grudge holding doesn't move anyone forward.
Again, I would say that there is no perfect church on this side of the resurrection, but we are called to acknowledge and believe in the eternal and constant work of Christ in and through us- bringing His perfection into fruition through the Church on earth.