BE the Church

We are just days from Christmas and I watched one of our favorite movies, “The Nativity Story,” with my family last night. It has become a yearly tradition, and every year I cry in the moment that Jesus emerges from Mary’s womb while light from Heaven fills the cave. Joseph’s eyes nearly pop out of his head in wonder when he lifts the wet, naked baby up as an offering back to the source of that very light. My goodness, the theology of that moment is just so rich.

Jesus: Fully God and fully Man. The Son of God, yet God incarnate. The Word made flesh which dwelt among us.

We are free from the power of sin because the God of all Creation came down in the form of a wet, naked baby who grew up to live the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died. On the third day He rose from the dead, proving that He is the Son of God and offering the free gift of salvation to ANYONE who repents and believes in Him.

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matt. 28:19-20

I’m afraid we have a hard time with this, when push comes to shove. As a nation, we have spent way too long sitting in pews, lamenting the state of the culture and praying God would bring people into the Church.

But Jesus NEVER told us to invite lost people to church.

Look for it. Try to find it in the Bible. He established the Church. He loves the Church. (I love the Church!) But the Church is NOT a building! It is a body of Believers who come together to be equipped to live out the Gospel, live in community with one another and engage in corporate worship as a family.

Those who don’t believe, though? What about them? What about the ones who have been wounded by the Church? The ones that are sure they won’t be welcome? (Because, if we are honest, they too often aren’t) Well, when I read the Great Commission, Jesus says to “GO and make disciples of all nations.”

Go, not sit back and wait for them to come.

Go, meaning TO THEM. To their neighborhood. On their streets. To the seedy motels full of pimps and the crime-ridden streets where kids kick around deflated balls while the drunk staggers out of the bar. To the country club full of those who don’t think they need God and to the prisons where the condemned live out their days, forgotten.

Go. Wherever He calls, whatever it takes. With eyes wide open and prayed up, we are to go and love like Jesus. There is no place for prejudice or judgment in the life of a missionary.

For a long time, I didn’t realize I was called to be a missionary. But I am, and you are. We are called to be the light of Christ shining in the darkness. For, you see, the stories are true. Jesus came and lived and died and rose again. All of history revolves around HIS story. Do we believe it? Really? Do we believe the Gospel deep within our bones? Do we believe that Christmas Day was the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham? Do we believe that there is no life, no joy, no hope apart from full surrender to Jesus Christ?

Then that makes us missionaries. Christ is our message and love is our method. Offering hope to at-risk kids, discipling young men and women who struggle to believe a Heavenly Father is a good idea when their earthly fathers failed them so, and just being willing to do whatever God asks in order to reach the world (which includes everyone from the Country Club to the ‘hood) is what He asks us to do.

And that is why I write stories like Paper Dolls. If we see past the outward behaviors, the addictions, abuse and hopelessness that define too many lives, then we can look at the lost with eyes of compassion. Eyes of love. Everyone has a back story. Everyone has a reason they struggle as they do. Does that make sin ok? Of course not. But it’s not my job to fix their sin problem. It is my job to offer them the hope of Jesus, who will most certainly fix their sin problem. It may not look like we think it should and it may not happen on the timeline we would approve, but if we are faithful with our part of the story we can be sure He will be faithful with His.

And the beautiful thing? He doesn’t NEED us! He chooses to use us…we GET to be part of his redemption story…because He loves us and knows what joy awaits when we see someone released from bondage and walking in freedom!

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of playing church.

Let’s BE the church.


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