A little while ago at a church leaders forum I was running I had the privilege of listening to Kevin Popeley from Goldhill Baptist Church. I was really challenged by something he said: “at our church we want the Christians to have a different kind of DNA. “ When I asked what he meant he replied: “there are two kinds of DNA, two kinds of core values that Christians hold. Christians in one kind of church say “I do everything I need to do and want to do for my work and my leisure during the week. Then I add up my remaining time and see I can allocate three hours to church – one service and a housegroup.” He called this “Church as filler-activity.”
“But” he went on, “we want every member of our church to have a fundamentally different DNA. We want our core values to be that we are here on this planet, and that our church is founded by Christ, in order to impact the world with the gospel of grace.”
Do you see the difference that makes? The first person says “I will see if I have any time left for gospel impact after I have done everything else.” They prioritise the other things in life and wait until those are done to see if they are able to participate in the mission of the church. The second person says “Impacting the world with the gospel is the very reason for my life.” They prioritise that and arrange all their other commitments around it.
Radical, Dangerous People
That second person is the radical, dangerous, person. Nothing is going to stop them. They are going to change the world and let nothing hinder the gospel. They are going to put up with hardship and scorn and embarrassment for telling people the good news. They are going to utilise all their resources for this, rather than just seeing what is left after they have done everything else they want to do.
That is deeply challenging to me. I think it should be deeply challenging to all of us. It leads to the key question “is the extension of the kingdom of God, the spread of the gospel of Christ at the very heart of who I am? And who we are as a church?”
Let me ask you individually: which one are you? Which is your DNA? Honestly? Because lets not fool ourselves. If it is the first but we want it to be the second then that’s great. We can go forward. But if it’s the first and we really really want to keep it that way then we can talk all we like about being ambassadors for Christ but it will remain just slogan for us. We won’t change our lives, we won’t change our church life to reflect the reality of ambassadorship if to do so would challenge us.
To be very simplistic there are two kinds of church DNA to go with two kinds of discipleship DNA. One kind of church says "our church is to meet our own internal spiritual needs. We employ someone to meet our needs. We don't expect to have to get involved ourselves. We go to receive rather than minister." The other types says "we are here to impact the planet with the gospel of the glory of the grace of God. We are here to reach the world. We are not passive receivers but active ministers."
The question for me is how do we envision churches to be the second? Because it is hard to go from the first to the second without major spiritual breakthroughs, repentance and culture change. But the only thing needed to go from the second to the first is drift.
Adapted from a sermon on 1 Corinthians 9 here