Your townsfolk may have given your church a nickname which could tell how they perceive you.

3 01 2013

This excerpt from THE AMAZING POTENTIAL OF ONE SURRENDERED CHURCH (p.63) helps us gain the right reputation in our city.

If a group of people blends in with those around them, there is no need to give them a name. Only distinct or peculiar behavior calls for some handy way to identify a group. This is especially true when society gives the name, as opposed to the group naming itself.

So it was with the Antioch church. Something about their group behavior necessitated a new name. The citizens felt the need for an easier handle than, say, The-new-group-that-meets-in-Flavian-Hall, or Those-folks-who-sing-and-pray-every-evening.

Onlookers pondered the matter and arrived at the best nick-name possible, “Christians.” The Antioch believers could not have chosen a better name if they had hired a consultant. Though the name may have been given as an insult, it was in fact the highest compliment possible, for it revealed the fact that the behavior of the band of believers reflected the Person whose life, death and resurrection motivated all of their activities. They talked and sang about Christ, they rehearsed and lived out the teachings of Christ. In Christ they were new creatures, and it is evident they told the local townspeople all about Him.

No matter what identity we grant ourselves in our church documents and mission statements, our townsfolk will give our churches nicknames that work best for them. They might call us “The hand-raisers” or “The country-club church” or “The senior center.” We would not expect the world to seek a complimentary name for the church, but it should be our goal to so reflect Christ and His love (not only among ourselves but to the world) that they would concede us nicknames like “Good folks” or “Truth seekers” or even “Followers of Christ.” What a compliment to be called “The group that tutors kids” or “That church that includes any culture.”

All of this assumes that the world knows we exist, not just because we may have a church building but because they encounter us and the Jesus-life within. Jesus didn’t pray that the Church would be extracted from the world to live in cloisters of faith. Instead, He sent us into the world in the same way He had been sent (John 17:15-18). We are to live out His truth and love in full view of a watching world, so that some might see it and desire Christ too.

But this is hazardous duty. Knowing this, Jesus prayed, “I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15). He prayed against the Church being swallowed up by the world, which is always the propensity when the Church wanes in its intensity for the Christ-life within, and when the Church forgets to clearly define the world so as to remain distinct.

When it becomes unfashionable to preach and teach so as to draw distinctions between the Church and the world—something that seems to happen at regular intervals—the Church will not resonate with Jesus’ words, “they are not of the world” (John 17:16). Once the Church begins to ask, “What world?” the world will soon ask “What Church?”

The Antioch brethren point the way. We must live with such a focus on the person of Christ, that the community around us will ascribe us the correct identity. Jesus will be the culprit behind our irrepressible love

Try this exercise: Contact people who know of your church or fellowship, but do not belong to it. Ask them what reputation your group has in the community. Ask them to tell you honestly if people give your church any nicknames. Discuss why you are perceived that way.


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