Friday, November 30, 2007

Barbarians At The Church Door

"I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am completing what remains of Christ's sufferings for his body, the church. God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his message in all its fullness to you Gentiles. This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to his own holy people. For it has pleased God to tell his people that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. For this is the secret: Christ lives in you, and this is your assurance that you will share in his glory." (Colossians 1:24-27, NLT)
In the Greek the word "Gentile" can be translated as a race of people or nation, but it was also a derogatory term used by Jews that meant foreigners or barbarians. This was the view of most Jews during Jesus' time. They despised the influences of foreigners, the Romans. They viewed the Romans as barbaric, crude, and destructive to their worship and obedience to God. They wanted to kick them out of their country.

How many churches today look at those that are not familiar with church, the un-churched, and treat them like Gentiles? The un-churched are our barbarians, who are rude, vulgar, and so many want to kick them out of the church (or create programming in our church that discourages them from wanting to stick around).

Most churches today are absolutely terrified of letting a little dirt walk in their doors. They want to be safe, secure, and unchallenged. Let's be honest; inviting the barbarians in means more risk and more challenge. But what would happen if we took these barbarians, like Paul did, reached them for Christ and equipped them for ministry?
"So everywhere we go, we tell everyone about Christ. We warn them and teach them with all the wisdom God has given us, for we want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. I work very hard at this, as I depend on Christ's mighty power that works within me." (Colossians 1:28-29, NLT)
Maybe if we, like Paul, would make the purpose of the church to reach today's Gentiles, the un-churched, then we too would experience the same kind of awesome rewards Paul saw happening: spiritual maturity that hungers for more, people constantly devoting themselves to a deep relationship with Christ, church members rising up everywhere to serve and lead, a people who see it as their job to share the Gospel, teach, and instruct others (and not see these solely as the job of the pastor), the motto "to live is to Christ and to die is gain" would be stamped on the heart of our members, challenge and change wouldn't be something we dread but rather it would be something we get excited about (God will be on the brink of doing something awesome and you'll get to participate), etc.

So why do we read so often from Paul, yet so often we do not follow the example he gave us (as God has commanded us to; 1 Corinthians 4:16, 11:1)? People are terrified of change. I've been told that the older a person gets the more terrified of change a person gets. We have to fight this fleshly, sinful fear of change within ourselves and reach the Gentiles of today.

Paul took the very vessel his people hated, Rome, and embraced it as a vessel that could (and did) spread Christianity across a continent. Inviting the barbarians in, and not so they can come to start dressing like us and playing church like us, but genuinely desiring their presence to minister to them, will impact our church, our community, and on to the world.


MilePost13 said...

My friend Vince is blogging a lot about this lately:

MilePost13 said...

have you read, "The Barbarian Way"

TerryKM said...

Yeah a little more than a year ago. Very insightful book. After I re-read what I wrote here I realized how similar some of the concepts are to what Erwin was saying, although I don't recall him using Gentiles like I did. Hopefully I wasn't just rehashing a memory of what I read, although that book very much influenced me.