Church pews are not comfortable for a reason; get out and spread the word
August 11, 2009 · Updated 12:59 AM
Is the church a fortress or a mission outpost? In the American West of the 1800s, forts were built to be places of refuge for fur traders, settlers and explorers alike. They provided a place of shelter and protection. They offered opportunities for trade and socializing. They later became the hubs around which entire towns (and later cities) arose.
We often think of those forts as places where travelers could find safety and protection from the dangers and rigor of the wilderness. Travelers on today’s interstate highways find a sense of that in the rest plazas, truck stops and Motel 6s that line the exit ramps. We don’t drive long distances much anymore but when our kids were small we did. The familiar sign of a cheap motel and the Golden Arches were always a welcome relief; a place to stay, to rest and to refresh before heading out the next day.
Most people think of church as a fortress; a place of escape, safety and protection from all the evils of the world. But that was not really the case with the church we read about in the New Testament. The Book of Acts reminds us that church gatherings in the various cities scattered through Rome’s Empire were not so much fortresses but mission outposts. They were places where believers could come and be refreshed. The compelling of call of Christ to “go into all the world” gave “Followers of the Way” a reason not to let their church become static and steeped in tradition. Christians came together for fellowship, teaching, communion and prayer (Acts 2:42) but they also sensed a keen obligation to be witnesses unto the farthest reaches of the world.
Today, many people think about going to church. Fortress mentality prevails. Church is a place to escape and be safe among people of our “own kind.” Only those who know the secret passwords or who wear the right uniform are really welcome to enter into the carefully guarded gates. We can go to church and feed our souls while the world outside waits and watches.
What if, once again, the church was motivated not to go to church but to be the church in the world? What if the greatest motivation of believers was not to escape the world but to go into the world to shine the light of Jesus and live as the “salt of the earth?” Imagine what the world would be like if church were only considered to be an outpost – a rest along the way, a place to be refreshed and renewed before going back out into the unknown dangers of the world?
The call of Christ is to come to him and to go into the world. Where is God leading you to go and serve? A local food bank? A downtown homeless shelter? A ministry with battered wives? An orphanage in Central America or Africa? Volunteering in a local school? Cleaning up a park or public place? Sharing your faith with your neighbor through words and actions?
Don’t allow yourself to get too comfortable in your church pew. There are vast unclaimed territories where the needs are great and you have something inside you to offer. Will you think of your church as a fortress or an outpost?