Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter Season's Greetings

Do you ever wonder why we only send Season's Greetings at Christmas? I received no valid explanation when I asked that question of others. So, at this Easter Season, I send you Easter Greetings.

It is Good Friday. I just returned from walking through two local malls in a coastal resort city of South Carolina. Both in the malls and driving from where I was staying to them and back, I saw no evidence anywhere of what, or better still, Who gave us cause to celebrate Easter in the first place. Even the billboards in front of churches were low key. There is no doubt that we are moving into a new post-modern era. Christendom as we know it is quickly slipping away in North America. In fact, some call this the post-Christian era. Will Mancini, in his book, Church Unique, even goes so far as to suggest it is anti-Christian. As Christians we have squandered our earthly inheritance just like the prodigal son. Put another way, we have lost our influence. Easter means nothing more than bunnies and chocolate eggs. Even the Easter bonnets have disappeared in many places. Christian parents are struggling to focus their children on its true meaning.

Okay world, we admit it. We have failed. But please don't throw the baby out with the bath water. Yes, we've done a lot of things we should not have, and we've failed to do things we should have done. We've pursued goals and objectives under the banner of the Church that had no place being associated with the Church. We've fought with each other in the Church and left a bad taste in the mouths of those that observed us from outside the church. Even, inside the Church, many who found themselves involved in the differences we never resolved, leaving them as 'unfinished business', were also disillusioned. Yet, to be fair, for many, we have been the means by which they were introduced to the God they sought and shown how to find peace with Him. In the name of Christ, various of our brothers and sisters have done much to help humanity. While I can give you hundreds of names of Christians over the decades that fit this category, I only need to mention one to get my point across -- Mother Teresa. Enough said.

But here's the rub. God does exist even if we don't choose to recognize Him. And furthermore, He has chosen the Church, with all its warts, as His official representative. So if we're not succeeding in our mission, it's not God's fault. It's our fault. He has no other plan to complete His personal mission for the world and He does not intend to go back to the drawing board. Some of us in the Body recognize that. We recognize that we need to change. And we're also doing all we can to change how the world views us. Chances are, however, that most of the world won't notice because we're not using a multi-billion dollar advertising campaign; we're not having major cosmetic surgery performed; we're not even changing many of our administrative leaders. No, instead, we're working as a group, yet very individually, to each become the man or woman we were intended to be. We are doing all we can to learn how we can live and proclaim Christ's gospel "in the world". We know that many of you won't come to the church anymore, so we need to "be the Church" outside the physical church building. In fact, we want as many of you as possible to start thinking of church not as "a place where some people go" but rather for what it was intended to be. We want the Church for you to be "what John, Janice, Tom, and Mary and all those who are truly Christ-followers in deed and in word, are." Not a place, but a group of people who are indeed different because of Christ's love being extended to others through them. When you can recognize that Church, whether you belong to it or not, we'll have achieved our goal. When you have voluntarily chosen to join us in our beliefs because of what you have seen as you observed our lives, then we can rejoice together that the Holy Spirit of God has done HIs work in you.

This small group of Christians, from all denominations and backgrounds, refers to itself as "the missional church". By that we mean that we are less interested in what we can do to reach more people for Christ than how we can be more like Christ in the world. If we stay true to our desire, you'll see many more of us moving away from a goal oriented strategy (i.e. doing things) to one that emphasizes 'being' more like Christ not so much in the church, but "in the world" where the rubber hits the road and where everyone is living life. We believe we will be of more earthly good there.

There is no guarantee that all of you will buy into what we are doing. Unfortunately, there will be many who will continue to ignore what they heard before, and even now, what they may see in the lives of missional Christians. We, for our part, will go on living as we believe we should. We'll leave your relationship with God between the two of you.

As you approach Easter Sunday, you have a choice. You can consider it an old holiday started by a bunch of fanatics that has now turned into just another marketing day for the sake of Wall Street. Or, you can investigate why that single day in history was so pivotal to the world for the last 2000 years and will once again, form the vary foundation on which the entire world and all humanity will be judged by the very God who sent His only Son to die as a sacrifice so that you and I may live forever. Either way, I wish you a Happy Easter!

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