If you live in the United States, one of the questions you’re likely to hear at a dinner party is, “Where do you go to church?” Going to church has been part of American culture for a long time — especially in the South. In fact, people sometimes use it as shorthand to describe their association with organized Christianity. “I go to church” or “I don’t go to church” are ways of explaining whether or not a person is into faith, because the assumption is that church is a place where people go.
However, the phrase “going to church” is actually a misnomer. No one can “go to church” because the Church is not a place. The Church is people. The New Testament talks about the Church as the people of God. That means the Church is not a place where we go but instead is a kind of community we are. The Church has its character because it does things, and what the Church does speaks to what it is.
This definition begs another question: What kind of things do our churches do? When we act in our world, are we doing things that God cares about? Are we joining God in putting the broken things back together? Are we making our public life look like God looks? or are we up to other things?
Love (v.) — a profound affection put into action
Have you ever had one of those emails sitting in your inbox that you just keep putting off? Do you know the one I mean? Chances are it involves something that makes you tired, addresses a conflict, or is basically just going to drain energy from you. And so you wait. Sometimes for weeks. Because when it comes to engaging with draining and difficult relationships, it is not easy put yourself out there.
However, when you read about the life and ministry of Jesus, a strange pattern emerges. Quite unlike that email in our inbox…
Jesus seems to move toward the “unfun” and difficult people. Time and again we see Him honing in on and making a beeline for the hardest folks to get along with.
These are not only some of the most difficult people of His day, but they also include the very folks who end up putting Him to death. Why is this? Is Jesus’ intent to set some impossible standard that His followers can never hope to achieve? Not even remotely. Jesus is simply doing what He said He would do: showing us what God is really like.
For almost two thousand years, the witness of the Church has been that Jesus is the full, total, and complete image of God. What God is like is what Jesus is like, and what Jesus is like is what God is like. This means that it is in the deepest parts of God’s nature to move toward challenging and unlovable people, not away from them. For God, there is never a lingering message in the inbox. He is always ready to reply and hit send.
All this begs the question: What about us? How do we deal with the problematic and unlovable people in our lives? Do we wait for them to come to us to have a relationship, or do we, like our God, go to them? When we love others like this, how might it change them? or how might it change us? Furthermore, who are the hardest people for us to love, and what does it mean that God loves them anyway?
Watch the Video Session 1 of Jesus Prom
Watch the session 1 video clip, using the space below to take notes.
Things I have learned:
Points I disagreed with:
I was surprised by:
- Having watched the video, finish this sentence:
“After watching the video, one question I now have is…”
- In the video, Jon emphasizes that Jesus “had to go to Samaria.” What does it mean to you that Jesus had to go there?
- Jon says that the most difficult people to love are often the ones who don’t understand love. Do you think this is true? In your opinion, what makes someone truly difficult to love?
- Jon tells a story about his church serving a buffet lunch to the patrons and dancers of a local strip club. Was this story interesting, challenging, or offensive to you, and why?
- Do you think that the ministry in the strip club is valuable only if people there come to Jon’s church? Why or why not?
- What does Deanna’s story have to say about God’s love?
- How would your church respond if someone like Deanna was part of your community?
* * *
The Church is not a place, but people! How are you being the Church to others in your area of influence? Come share your answers on our blog! We would love to hear from you!