What’s your vision of a perfect local church? Do you have, or could you easily develop a specific vision for your ideal church’s architecture, it’s membership requirements, the worship style, community life, and all that. Does any of what you’re thinking about look like the local church you may be attending right now?
I think we’ve all got an idea of what our ‘dream church’ looks like – even it’s just a vague impression with a few thoughts. There’s a good chance that your local church doesn’t tick all the boxes on your dream church list. In fact, your church probably does some things that are uncomfortable for you, they may even be people in it who you find a little ‘awkward’.
The Christian life – especially when it comes to being part of a local church community – can be full of discomfort and awkwardness, but God can and will use these challenges to help us get to know Him better.
Rather than attempting to find our dream church, I think we should embrace the uncomfortable and challenging parts of the Christian life – a life that by default means we are connected to others, and people can be awkward and in some cases downright peculiar. Maybe that’s because of something they do, or perhaps it’s a challenge they present to us by them just being them. This can be a good thing, however, and even though we might feel uncomfortable, ultimately it may help bring about maturity in us.
1 Peter 2:4-5, 9
4 So keep coming to Him who is the Living Stone – though He was rejected and discarded by men but chosen by God and is priceless in God’s sight.
5 Come and be His “living stones” who are continually being assembled into a sanctuary for God. For now you serve as holy priests, offering up spiritual sacrifices that He readily accepts through Jesus Christ.
9 But you are God’s chosen treasure – priests who are kings, a spiritual “nation” set apart as God’s devoted ones. He called you out of darkness to experience His marvellous light, and now He claims you as His very own. He did this so that you would broadcast His glorious wonders throughout the world.
The verses presented here are from a letter by Peter, and Peter is someone whom we can all have some sympathy with. Out of all the disciples, he seems to be the one that runs through the whole spectrum of human emotion, prone to making bad decisions and mistakes, but coming out the other side as one of the few who truly “knew” Jesus and the forgiveness offered to all of us.
Seriously, if you don’t know him, let me tell you that he denied Jesus a few times, in some circumstances he might be described as cowardly, but in other instances, very brave. He also had some anger issues and was quite impulsive. He attempted acts of faith, yet a number of times they ended in failure. And Jesus told him off a bunch of times.
Yet, here we have a guy who helped form much of the early Church, performed some miracles, and gave what might be the second best sermon in the Bible (after Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount) which Peter delivered on the day of Pentecost. A day that’s described by many as the birth of the Church. Jesus ultimately called him, His ‘rock’ someone who had resilience and stability. There is hope for us all!
Peter is writing to various churches that are experiencing different forms of persecution, and in these passages, he’s sharing what it really means to be the chosen people of God.
Just like Jesus was “the living Stone – rejected and discarded by humans but chosen by God and priceless”, Christians are called to be “living stones” that are “continually being assembled into a sanctuary for God. For now you serve as holy priests, offering up spiritual sacrifices that he readily accepts through Jesus Christ.”
(I love that idea that we are being continually assembled into a place that God can inhabit, like some kind of Heavenly Ikea, we are a flat-pack sanctuary! But just like Earthly Ikea flat-packs – we’re actually pretty easy to assemble, it’s just when we try to rush ahead or don’t read the instructions we can get confused and build something that’s not really what God intended.)
Peter is presenting an image of a community that’s focused entirely on Jesus. It’s a community that puts aside personal preferences, arguments, and comfort zones for the sake of becoming “living stones,” a house and a street of these houses – this community – where Holy Spirit can dwell and move amongst.
The entire purpose of this community, described as a holy or spiritual nation, is to “call people out of darkness to experience his marvellous light.” We are a people that God, “claims as his very own.” He did this, the Bible says “so that we would broadcast His glorious wonders throughout the world.”
It’s all about knowing God and worshipping Him as King. This is contradictory to a consumerist approach to the Christian community, which places our personal desires, for what we think the Church should be like, on the throne and tempts us to walk away from communities that don’t meet all our standards.
The reality, of course, is that the “dream church” we might long for and desire is a myth. It doesn’t exist. The reign of King Jesus, however, is real and eternal, and becoming “living stones” that are acceptable to God should be our ultimate aim.
*This series of blog posts are based on a sermon series delieverd by me at Freedom Church in March 2018. In turn, this series is based on a book: Uncomfortable by Brett McCracken. You can view part #1 of the sermon series below: