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Entering a Parallel Universe May Result in Death
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Friday, February 8, 2008




                      MAY RESULT IN DEATH


The Holy Bible instructs the body of Christ to:


…not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.  For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness?  And what communion has light with darkness?  And what accord has Christ with Belial?  Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?  And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? ...Therefore, ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord.  Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you’ (2 Corinthians 6:14-17).


Many churches today have taken this command to unnecessary extremes.  Under misguided leaders, some have created parallel universes of “fellowship.”  If we are not careful church risks becoming superficial and irrelevant. 


The problem is that many ministries do the same things that the community at large does and they call it “church.”  Fellowship dinners before bible study during the week is certainly right on time and pastors should be doing all they can to create authentic communities.


However, when this inclination falls into an overemphasis on entertainment with polished music and slick graphic presentations, I wonder if it is all necessary to preach the gospel.  But it has gotten much worse than that.  Churches put on plays, comedy acts and poetry readings.  Often, these events have little or no connection to God.  Gatherings involving secular movies and TV shows are common.  Now, they are hosting easter egg rolls, halloween and super bowl parties, and engaging in significant economic development.


Christians are supposed to “not be conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2).  What does it mean to be in the world but not of the world?  We are supposed to resist the love of material things, but churches are now building shopping malls and public sports facilities under the erroneous premise that doing what everyone else does with their time is fine as long as we do it with members of our church.


Is there any room left for Jesus?


More troubling is the notion that isolating or sanitizing the body of Christ from the rest of the world is a good thing—this takes the command in the quotation that led off this piece too far.  We are all sinners. If churches separate from “them” then there will be very few people available to fellowship.


What Paul meant, I believe, is that we are to keep our distance from those who lead a lifestyle totally committed to sin and evil with no remorse.  It is these people who are labeled “them” and “sinners.”  Yet, we should not forget that there is good and evil in all people.


As we know, Jesus spent plenty of time in the company of sinners.  He said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Mark 2:17).  There is a version of this statement in all three synoptic gospels.


In other words, while we are relaxing and having fun at some church party we could be out helping the poor, volunteering at soup kitchens, mentoring a child, doing errands for the elderly or going on mission trips!  We shall be judged by how we treat strangers not our families or those who we expect to reciprocate our kindness (see Luke 14:11-14).


By spending so much time in fellowship we are, in essence, preaching to the choir.  Don’t get me wrong, if you belong to a great church hanging out with the people there is probably why you joined.  If you are transitioning from a hedonistic lifestyle or are in recovery for substance abuse, overdosing on fellowship is ideal.  And, some churches can afford to have incredible facilities. 


But for those of us who have been walking with the Lord a little longer, we are called to do more; to sacrifice our time to spread the Lord’s gospel.  Don’t lose sight of the mission, the commission.


The body of Christ has been instructed to spread the word and make His name known.  We must help give life to those in darkness.  The timing of His coming back may depend on it.  Failure to follow these instructions saps the spiritual vitality of the body.


Spreading the love elsewhere shouldn’t be an excuse to grow your own church—it’s the whole body that matters.  And, people already in the fellowship who need special attention shouldn’t be neglected either.  Furthermore, I am aware that some ministries who open small businesses have found positive innovative ways to reach people. 


Yet, keeping the focus on Jesus Christ is crucial.


Along this same vein, I recently heard a sermon that finally crystallized for me the meaning of “salt the earth” (pun intended…sorry).  There is a version of this saying in each synoptic gospel.  Salt is love, good works, light and righteousness.  Really, it’s preaching the gospel.  You can’t make your food taste good if you leave salt in its container.  You have to sprinkle it.


By staying inside our churches too much we are keeping the salt inside its container where it does no good.  The good stuff is really outside.  It just needs a sprinkling of salt.  Our lives and our world need the flavor that only the Lord has to offer. 


Will it kill you to miss an event or two?  You may find the process of serving the Lord by serving others outside of the normal structure and fellowship at your church fun. 


So everybody, go salt the earth!    

Related Links and Blogs:

New York Times article "Megachurches Add Local Economy to their Mission" (11/23/07)

Washington Post article, " Worship Goes Big-Screen and Hi-Fi With Direct-Deposit Tithing" (9/25/07)

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