this blog is part of a synchroblog (people blogging about the same topic at the same time). we heard about it from erin at decompressing faith. here are the details. check out the links below for others writing today & see what they have to say about the same topic. we chose to participate because this is a subject near and dear to our heart.. now we will be honest, we can be people who rant and rave about all the things that are wrong with the church. you all know we are good at that! but the truth is that ranting and raving doesn’t change anything. action does. we couple the refuge’s belief statement with brennan manning’s challenging words, “if you want to know what a person really believes, you need to watch what they do.” when it comes to matters of “church”, actions do speak louder than words. we believe it’s that simple. we believe right now, more than ever, the world is watching. wondering. what kind of people are Christians? how are they best expressing the life of Christ corporately?
what would Jesus do with the church? maybe he has given us a glimpse of what he thought the foundational values would be in his most famous sermon. just think how different “church” would be if we took these words seriously corporately not just individually. here’s our little interpretation of the beatitudes in matthew 5:3-10 for churches.
blessed are those who realize their need for God…
“need me the most.”
we think Jesus hopes that we’d be communities who actually recognized our spiritual poverty & need for him. we have observed in church a reliance not on God but on high-tech power points, slick programs, video clips, fog machines, lights, amazing singers, inspiring sermons, and starbucks coffee. we believe Jesus would unplug church and get back to what is really important—raw interactions with people, stories, questions, tangible life on life that required absolutely nothing more than people & hearts.
blessed are those who mourn…
“let people feel”
what if churches became places people could really feel, mourn, grieve, so that they could be comforted? many think that the church is the last place they can struggle because they’ve encountered people who have questioned their faith, given them trite answers, expected them to get over their pain quickly. the result is always shame and the one place we should be able to be free from shame becomes the greatest source of it. we believe Jesus wants the church to become communities that embrace pain. that allow for grief. that are safe for people to shake their fist at God (we think he can take it) but are surrounded by other people who keep comforting, offering hope, not giving up. this means we have to be willing to let go of our “fix-it” mentality, stay in for the long haul and understand real change takes time and might look different than we think.
blessed are the humble…
“put others first.”
Jesus said that those who are humble will inherit the earth, yet the “church” has tended to have an overconfidence, certainty, exclusivity that reeks of pride & arrogance. we believe Jesus is asking the church to consider some really hard things in this category: apologize for the wrongs we have committed, ways we have offended, hurt & beat up people who read the same verses & feel differently about them. bend our knee publicly. admit our mistakes. open our doors to the outcasts or better yet close our doors and use our money to “go out” instead of expecting everyone to “come in”. if we have a building, let other people use it a lot instead of keeping it locked up 6 days a week (yes, that means people from other denominations, beliefs & ideas). give up meeting for bible study and start actually living out the bible with someone in need that requires us to give up our time, money, pride.
blessed are those who hunger & thirst for justice…
“advocate for all of humanity”
the church has a bad reputation in the media for focusing on two issues—abortion & homosexuality. while this isn’t the place to get into that conversation, we must not ignore that every 16 seconds someone dies of starvation. little boys & girls are being sold into slavery right now. as you’re reading this, families are being drug from their homes and slaughtered. closer to home, that woman you just said hi to in the parking lot is getting beat up by her boyfriend, your co-worker can’t buy groceries for her babies because her power bill is so high. the hispanic or african american or middle eastern guy you know overhears the jokes that everyone at work is always telling. Jesus told us to hunger and thirst for justice & righteousness. maybe it is time to be suspicious of power that masquerades as morality. we have to expand our world, find out what’s happening in other places and make people aware of it so they can make their own decisions on how to respond. help people walk a mile in another man’s shoes. show single parents, the addicted & mentally ill, the outcasts that we give a rip about them. give as much money, airtime and encouragement as we can to local & global organizations that are dedicated to changing life tangibly & practically for those in need.
blessed are the merciful…
“be kind. it’s that simple.”
the church can be mean. ask a woman who’s had an abortion. someone who struggles with homosexuality. the single mom who asked for help with her rent. the person who believes in something different than Jesus and just wanted to have a conversation. the christian who starts to doubt. we believe Jesus is calling the church to be places of mercy. compassion. understanding. that we need to listen better. quit talking so much. hold the space. wow people with our ability to stay in & be present instead of ditch, dismiss, and move on to the next thing. build a reputation for kindness in small wonderful ways that starts to spread.
blessed are the pure in heart…
“freedom is better than slavery to approval & power.”
we believe that many churches are filled with leaders with great hearts who are sincerely trying to do what they think is best. we like to consider ourselves in this category! but we wonder if Jesus is challenging us all to notice how much of what we do is motivated by fear? how much approval are we trying to get? are we measuring success by stories of love and hope and transformation or by attendance, budgets, and adherence to the latest leadership book we just read? we think Jesus wants our hearts to be more pure, to be motivated by the right things, not our preservation or reputations. maybe he would challenge us to give away more than we think we can. to do anything we can to diffuse power. share leadership. ask ourselves hard questions about why we think we have to do certain things. don’t cater to the big givers, the power people, the ones we think are going to give extra bang for our buck. love people freely and help fan their gifts into flame instead of using them to get what we need.
blessed are the peacemakers…
“build bridges not walls.”
let’s face it, the church has a reputation for building walls against “the world”, those who don’t believe the same things we do. to be peacemakers we need to build bridges in our community, make friends with people & churches & organizations that are trying to advocate for the poor, the oppressed, the victimized even if we see God, the world differently. network with other faith communities instead of competing against them. teach and model peace, forgiveness, loving our enemies in tangible ways.
blessed are those who are persecuted…
“get ready for it to get harder.”
really living out the gospel means it is going to hurt. paychecks will be cut, women & those without a voice will get more air time. people will leave, demand that we “give them what they are used to getting.” leadership gurus will tell us we are stupid, that we’re not doing things we must do to build a successful church. hardliners will think we are not focusing enough on making sure everyone knows the truth. we might get in trouble with our denomination, our old friends in ministry, oh all kinds of people who won’t like us changing.
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here’s our bottom line. we don’t really want to do this either. we know this is the hard road and we are human beings guided by a sense of “let’s find the path of least resistence as quickly as we can.” but that was what Jesus was railing against. he told us from the beginning—this is going to be hard, harder than you ever imagined. but if we take his words seriously, then it’s time for the church to quit following the ways of the world—power, success, exclusivity, structures that have to be sustained, techniques-that-win-and-move-us-up-a-notch and start working on downward mobility—diffused, flexible, diverse, power-less, poured out, present, humble. we do not presume to hit this right. we are wrestling with all the same things other churches are wrestling with. but we guess what we’re saying is “Jesus, we’re listening and we’ll try to give it a shot.”
check out what these others have to say about what they think Jesus would do with the church: