You and Your Church – Dispensing God’s Grace?
In his latest book, Vanishing Grace: Whatever Happened to the Good News, author Philip Yancey recounts his experience of visiting twenty-four Christian congregations in his small town to observe both how well he would fit in as a visitor and how each church saw themselves in the effort to bring God’s Kingdom into existence here on earth.
He says that it typically took only minutes to sense the tone and spirit (he calls is “aliveness”) of the church. “Were people conversing in the foyer? Did I hear the sound of laughter? The aliveness had little to do with theology. In two of the most conservative churches members slumped in their seats and glumly went through the motions … . A very liberal church – it had rewritten hymns and even the Lord’s Prayer to make them politically correct – showed the most energy in community and global outreach programs.”
On the first issue (welcoming “guests”) I hope that we have trained our people to welcome visitors without making them feeling as if they are intruders. Make sure your facility is attractive (clean and neat). Make sure everyone is greeted (it doesn’t always happen where I visit).
On the second issue (how churches see themselves as participants in God’s work in the world), I remind you that God has given churches the responsibility to dispense His grace. In his paraphrase of Paul’s charge to the Philippians, Eugene Peterson writes: “Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God.” (2:15-16)
Why the Lord would ever give over to us the task of bringing His Kingdom into existence is a little like asking why a Fortune 500 company would turn over its operations to a gang of six – year olds. Why? Don’t know. But, He gave us His Spirit so we could be like Him in this world. We may feel inadequate (which we are in ourselves), but God uses the talent pool available (that’s us!).
Maybe some of the questions we should ask are: Did I do anything today to bring pleasure to God? Did I do anything to dispense God’s grace? Am I giving my best?