“Thou shalt not steal.” Yes, I know that it’s one of the Ten Commandments, but I’m stealing an idea and I’m confessing my sin up front. It’s just too good not to expound on and the guy I’m stealing it from probably stole it, also. After all, when was the last time that anyone had a truly original idea?
So here it is…are we so comfortable in our churches today that we put our car keys and pocketbooks down on the chairs to reserve our seats and then walk away from them to chat with our cliques? Would we do this at the movie theater or a restaurant? Heck, I hide my keys when I go to my in-laws for lunch:) I think our churches have become too safe…like country clubs. Is this what Jesus had in mind, for churches to become the last place we would expect to find desperate, lost, lonely, down and out slightly dangerous people who may be tempted to separate us from our valuables? I think the answer to this question can be found in Matthew 9:12-13, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” I think God created the Church as a hospital for the spiritually sick; a place for lost, broken souls to find healing and salvation, not a place for us to catch up on our fantasy football teams and the latest box office smash while marking “go to church” off our lists. Ok, maybe we do more than that; maybe I’m being too cynical. Maybe we do sing the songs, listen to the sermons, get a little “feel good” or possibly some conviction about this or that, but what are we doing about any of it? Are we playing church rather than being the Church? I think if we are being the Church as God intended, the Church would be a magnet for the lost and churches would be the most dynamic, fastest growing organisms on the planet. But they wouldn’t be a comfortable, safe cozy place.
I think Elevation Church (www.ElevationChurch.org) has done a great job of being the Church to the city of Charlotte and surrounding areas. They feed the hungry; house, educate and support single high school teen mothers; support ministries that are active in the inner city to provide education and housing to homeless children; etc, etc, etc. In fact, go to www.elevationchurch.org/outreach/partners and see for yourself all that the church is doing. The church has donated more than $2 million in cash to local charities, most of that in the past 18 months, according to an article in the Charlotte Business Journal dated Monday, September 27, 2010 (www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/stories/2010/09/27/focus15.html).
Back in February, Elevation sponsored Love Week (no, not a kinky, hippy thing) in which church members donated over 10,000 man hours in service to the community in one week. Read more about it at www.elevationchurch.org/loveweek. All of this giving, serving and volunteering is terrific, but the most important thing Elevation Church is doing is preaching the Gospel in its purest, rawest, most unapologetic form I’ve ever seen in my brief 43 years. It is in your face and stepping on your toes, old school, Southern fried, make Grandpa proud preaching. It comes wrapped in fancy high tech lights, sound and media and Pastor Steven Furtick is known to wear orange high top Converse tennis shoes, but the messages are dead-on straight from the Bible and they are reaching people, lots of people and changing their lives for Jesus Christ. Born just over 4 years ago, several thousand people have been saved at Elevation and over 6000 attend weekly. For the Easter 2010 service, over 11,000 people packed the Time Warner Arena. The Charlotte Bobcats wish they could say the same. Many of the saved were once drug addicts, suicide survivors, alcoholics, rape victims and divorcees. Probably the same types of people Jesus liked to hang out with at Matthew’s party. See Matthews 9:10-11, www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%209:10-11&version=NIV. Now these folks love God and are loving and serving others. I think that this is what God intended when He created the Church, a place where people come to be the Church, not play church and definitely a place where you wouldn’t leave your purse sitting around.