Love God and love your neighbor. Those were Jesus’ commandments in Luke 12. Reflect God’s love and reflect our neighborhood that’s the strategy for our congregation to live out Jesus’ commands in these surroundings.
What surroundings are those? Well, we’re not talking about the streets and houses around us; we already covered that when we talked about transforming community. Think of it more in cultural terms. Families are mobile, and people literally find themselves alone without a support system. Declines in the frequency and longevity of marriage deprive children of a safety net and result in them feeling “orphaned.” Employment cycles are short; more people work at home – peer relationships are harder to come by. Social ills (a softer term for teen gangs, drug use or one of any number of addictions) become a substitute for authentic, caring relationships in the home or in a community.
What does a church look like that is reflecting God’s love and reflecting its neighborhood in these surroundings? Four understandings help guide our thinking and actions in living this strategy out here at Trinity Galewood.
- Church is not about doing but being, not people going to church but people following Jesus. (1 Corinthians 6:19 – your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you … you are not your own.) His tug on us to follow him permeates every area of our life, not just times of public worship.
- Church is not an event for God, but a family coming together to celebrate God. (1 Corinthians 12:27 – you are the body of Christ and each one is a part.) It’s not about you; church is about Be so bold as to truly welcome someone into the church family by welcoming them into your life.
- Church is a reflection of the whole kingdom of God―not just one part of it but all nations, tribes and peoples. (Mark 11:17 – my house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations.) If God’s kingdom in heaven is beautiful with diversity, then we know it pleases him for us to be intentionally diverse in how we come together as churches here on earth. When we fail to do this, it’s ourselves who are losing out.
- Church is more about relationships than traditions. (Matthew 5:23 – if you are offering your gift at the altar and remember someone has something against you, go and ask forgiveness.) Transformed churches don’t fight over maintaining icons and especially not over personal preference. Transformed churches do need to get upset, however, about the stuff that really matters. We need to care deeply about how we treat others in the family and how we treat those who are not in the family yet.
This loving God and loving our neighbor, reflecting God’s love and reflecting our neighborhood, is filled with tension, both for our congregation and for each of us as individuals. Being the church is not just about us loving God; it really is about us loving our neighbor, too. And when anything involves us, it’s easy to get so caught up in the “us” part that we forget about God and our neighbor as well.
Together we’re discovering what it means to reflect our neighborhood and reflect God’s love here on the corner of Narraganset and Wabansia on Chicago’s west side. Don’t be afraid to ask the questions and to embrace the challenge: Where do you need to stretch yourself? Where is God stretching you? Not so that any of us fall off the edge, but so that each of us individually and all of us together as a church, as confident children of God, look, live, and love more like Jesus.