Today I saw and heard the church reaching out for God in a way that has been missing in our congregation for a while, and the sermon inspired this little train of thought that is now heading your way.
We recently had new landscaping done around the church, and, I have to say, it looks dang good. A comment was made about what an impression it made, and while it was genuine, it made me think.
Lately, I have been preaching from my worship pulpit that an attitude of humility and brokenness spurs a lifestyle of action through the power of the Holy Spirit. Tonight, we were reminded that the automatic product of our faith and hope in Christ is the undeniable action of God in our lives. It seems there is a theme going.
What I’ve been praying over the church is this: May we as a church be laying ourselves down so much, giving so much, pouring out all that we have, that we will NEED the pure work of God in our community. May we be so empty that all we can do is depend on Him to fill us.
And so, the more I thought about the comment, the more it made me think. Sure, it looks great, but shouldn’t I, the one who has been preaching all of this, be wanting an Ugly Church?
The Ugly Church, in fact, is exactly what I want.
I told my church family that, more than anything, when I returned home from school on break, I would be hoping for an Ugly Church.
Not hoping in the way most people do today, as if it were a wish, but putting my faith in the words of Christ and His promises: that He works through the empty handed and in power through the faithful.
I hope to come home to a church with well-worn carpet, stained with the hesitant steps of burdened people. I hope for grass that is a little less green and a little more played-in. I hope for dirty little fingerprints on our glass, and crumbs all over the kitchen. I hope for altars with knee marks permanently pressed into them.
Because The Ugly Church is a church that’s being used, a church that is living and breathing, a church that is pushing on to the finish line, a church that embraces the hard questions, and shares both in triumphs and hardships. I hope for a church that’s not getting dressed for it’s own funeral.
I’m sure when we decided to spend money on a tiny bit of landscaping, it wasn’t for selfish reasons: in fact, it was probably with the thought that it would draw others in. But, I guess it needs to be said, and I’m the one to say it: let’s invest in our future! It’s time to start reaching out in faith, laying out all of our resources, whether or not we think it’s worth it.
After all, it’s not ours, is it?
What use is money being hoarded in an account to God?
What use is that money to the hungry, single-parent families in our community?
Knowing the importance of being good stewards of our money is one thing, not using it out of fear or lack of faith is another.
Why are we afraid of giving to families who need it because we aren’t sure of what we’ll get in return? Since when is that the goal?
If our church isn’t being used, what’s the point?
I stand in hope that the faith I see in my church family will grow stronger everyday, until there is no other result but action.
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to him, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (ESV)