This September, my wife and I will lead our congregation's fall camp session. The theme as I have received it is "The Church," which does not seem overly exciting upon first hearing. But we will not discuss church as a flat subject; as something about which we already know all there is to know. Oh no; there will be plenty of twists and turns.
We will have four sessions, the last of which will be the camp's Sunday sermon. The topics will be these:
What is the Church? In this session we are going to gently pull back our standard answer and look beneath it to see that the church is simply the latest incarnation of the People of God. While God's plan was a mystery to Man, and the church is a central aspect of that mystery, the church itself remains as a link in the chain that God has used to bless creation from the beginning. We are not unique in the sense that our mission, our calling is the same as has been that of the People of God from the beginning.
Who is the Church? Here we are going to expand our understanding of who is in the church, or more appropriately, who might be said to be a follower of God even if they are not "officially" members of a church. We will spend some time in the first three chapters of John to get a better handle on what constitutes a God-follower. Maybe there are many more people in "the church" than we sometimes think there may be. If so, how does that affect my relationship to them?
Why the Church? What is the point of having a church anyway? In this session we will see that the purpose of the church is not significantly different than what has been the purpose of God's people through history. We are not a church for our own good, but rather we are the People of God for the purpose of extending God's reign in the world today, and for blessing the world as God would have it blessed through us. In this session we will also explore the idea that a blessing, once given, cannot be taken back. This session will explore how we bless others and will be conducted in separate men's and women's breakout groups.
Where Do I Fit In? Congregations hire Involvement Ministers so that their members can be assimilated and set to work in the church's ministries. We often hear of Christians figuring out what their gifts are and being placed in those spots within a congregation. We do this so often that many times new Christians, or even those who are simply new to a congregation ask "What can I do; where do I fit?" as though they are disoriented unless someone gives them a job to do. This seems to ask the wrong question. The point is not that need to fit into the kingdom; we are the kingdom. We need not fit, but rather simply be who we are called to be. See someone that needs a cup of water? Give it to them. Eventually, you will find yourself "fitting" just fine.
So those are the four sessions. The intent for this weekend is to do our part in tearing down the separation between being a God-follower and being a church member or a Christian in some technical sense. We will broaden our view of who we are, of who the church is, and of what our calling actually is in this place called Earth.
It should be fun; I'm looking forward to it.