I was having coffee with an associate pastor of a large urban congregation. In the course of our conversation he remarked that “I sometimes feel like we are producing a religious product for sophisticated consumers.”  That made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.  “Producing a product for consumers”- is this what I have been doing with my life for the last 30 years?  Everything in me screamed “no!”  But if not this, then what exactly is the goal of all those programs, sermons, classes, Sunday school lessons, mission trips, meetings, etc., etc., etc.?  To put a finer point on it, what do we really want to see happen to people and through them as a result of being part of a church?

After I lived with this question for a while what emerged for me was the phrase “conformed to the image of Christ.” (Rom. 8:29)  The fruit of a faithful church is people being conformed, even better transformed, into being like Jesus.  And transformed people can transform communities.  And transformed communities can transform the world. Further, this kind of transformation is not something that church leaders can engineer and manage like another program.  When it begins to happen, the Holy Spirit will be managing and transforming us instead.

What we can do is to ask different questions, such as “What does God want us to be doing now?” instead of “what can we do with the money we have in the bank?”  We can reorder our common life to create more spaces where people might experience God.  We can reclaim prayer as the foundational activity of the church, an earth-shaking activity because it unleashes God’s power.  We can repent of being religious consumers and pray to be transformed more and more into a community on a mission with God.  When it happens it’s a miracle!

This is what I want to spend whatever time I have left doing.  I think this is what the crazy times we live in call for.  For me, this is what it’s all for.

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