by Randall Coy
I drove through a neighborhood the other day. It was filled with modest, well-kept ranch homes, manicured lawns, and cul-de-sacs scattered around to slow traffic. It was a nice neighborhood – a very comfortable, traditional neighborhood. Though it was well kept and manicured, I soon realized every single house was the same! It was the same floor plan built dozens of times, but one had some brick at the front door. The floor plan was reversed on the house across the street, and the one down the street had shingle siding in lieu of brick. It was a cookie-cutter neighborhood where the same house is built repeatedly with speed to minimize up front cost to the Developer while maximizing profits at the end. There are literally thousands upon thousands of developed neighborhoods like this around the country. As I drove away disappointed at how the dollar can drive people to do things that are “good enough” rather than “great”, my mind wandered to the Church, how we have historically done things, and how we’re currently doing things. I wonder if, much like this neighborhood I drove through, we have become a cookie-cutter version of what God truly wants us to be?
In Matthew Chapter 22, Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is. Funny, He didn’t recite one or all of the ten given to Moses or state that His people must meet on the Sabbath, sing three songs, give an offering, and listen to 30 minutes of teaching. To break down His answer to the simplest of terms, He answered to first love God, and then to love people. (Matthew 22: 36-40)
When I think about this commandment to love people, I’m always reminded of God’s unquenchable love for us. He loves all of us regardless of our political affiliation, what kind of music we listen to, whether we’re “Dog People” or “Cat People”, or whether we’re Duck Dynasty fans or not. He loves the Sinner and the Saint. He loves us all so much that he sent his own Son to become a sacrifice for all who would believe. That’s an incredible love. Those of you who are parents, do you love me enough to do that? Do you love that person on the other side of the Atlantic enough? It’s a love that my mind can’t quite comprehend, yet that doesn’t make it any less real.
Here’s the beautiful thing: He knows us all individually. He knows our name and the most intimate details of our lives! (Psalms 139:2-4) He knows what in this world gives me joy, and He knows the same about you. If He knows all of that about all of us, He loves us all uniquely. I’m not saying he loves some more than others. He sent His Son for ALL, and loves us all equally, but the way He illustrates and shows His love for me is going to be different than it is for you, which is different from the person across town, which is different from the person across the Atlantic.
It makes sense, right? The Bible refers to Him as the Father over and over equating Him to a parental figure and parental love, which is a concept we can understand. Those of you with children love them all equally, yet differently, don’t you? That is exactly what I’m referring to in speaking of God’s love for us.
Understanding this about God’s love, what would a Church Plant look like if Jesus planted one today in the United States? Would he focus on a brick building with three crosses that face the corner? Would he make sure he followed tradition and kept a typical order of service beginning with music followed by prayer, take an offering, and deliver a 30-minute message?
Would he focus on ministering to that particular community in exactly the way they needed? Would He make sure the building offered the exact amenities needed? Would he focus on meeting them where they are and feeding them uniquely as they require? What if He decided to plant another Church four states away? Would He copy exactly what He did at the first location, or once again focus on meeting them where they are and ministering to them uniquely?
For me, the answer is easy. Look no further than when Jesus went out of His way into a part of town that a man of His heritage would not go, and met a Samaritan woman. (John, Chapter 4) Why did He do this? He went there because that was where SHE WAS, and His love for her was so great that it far outweighed the challenges faced in going there.
So how about it, Church? Are we going where the community is, or sitting back and waiting on the community to come to us? Are we more worried about which three songs will be sung on Sunday, or prayerfully working to ensure that the service on Sunday is exactly what the community needs at that point in time whether there are three songs or not?
The Church is a beautiful mosaic of people and cultures that should be focused on positively impacting the communities they’re in. The Church is not a private club, but an ever-growing family. What would happen if we dropped all of the traditional expectations and truly became God’s hands and feet in our individual cities? What would Church become? What is the unique character of your Church Community and how can God use that for maximum impact? What would it look like to love the inhabitants of your City the way that Jesus loves them? While the order of service on Sunday morning is extremely important and the worship experience is not to be taken lightly, I believe these are questions we should also be prayerfully considering and courageously acting upon. We, you and I, are His hands and feet, and when God moves into the neighborhood, things change.