We are Grace Church - Part 3 - "The Square"
THREE ESSENTIAL SPHERES OF THE CHURCH - "THE SQUARE"
Over the course of the last two posts, I have been seeking to outline what it means to be the church. Specifically, what does it mean to be Grace Church? Thus far, we have unpacked the spheres of Pulpit and Table. The goal of this series is to refresh our perspective and settle our expectations on what it means to be the church during 2020, possibly some of 2021. Today, we finish this blog series by outlining what it means to live in the sphere of The Square.
When we talk about the “The Square”, the reference point is our activity in the marketplace of life. How are we to live in the public sector or civic realm whether that is our jobs, school, sports or neighborhoods. This sphere will be the most diverse for all of us because it looks so differently for each of us. We all have unique talents, vocations, interests and peculiarities that God will use for His Kingdom purposes.
To live in the Square is to live wisely as positive and servant oriented citizens in our community spaces. Of course, there will be clear areas within society that the Christian either (1) will not be able to participate or (2) wisdom will call him or her to limit their participation. If our participation in the public sector requires immoral behavior, inscrutable activity or requires us to disobey what God clearly commands, then believers are warned off of such activity. In other areas, the Christian will be free to participate in innumerable aspects of civic life in our communities with great liberty.
The best example I have from my own life is my family’s love for the soccer community. All three of our boys play Club Soccer. With this comes many demands, both good and bad. The good is found in building relationships with many unchurched people as well as teaching our boys courage, confidence, commitment, fair play, sportsmanship and as well as identifying positive and reputable leadership for their lives. There is plenty of bad as well. Parents can live vicariously through their children and make them their idols. Sports can also be so competitive that it produces arrogance and pride draining the humility of both parent and child. I share this because all activity in the “Square” requires wisdom, humility, patience and fair handedness.
What is most important in the Square is to remember our primary goal. That goal is to make much of Jesus. Our unique giftings and interest may serve us well but those giftings, interests and expertise are not the Gospel of Jesus. They do not save! They serve to connect us with people who need Christ. The danger that arises for many Christians is confusing deeply held personal convictions, expertise and interests with heavenly commands and convictions thus making them binding on all people. Considering soccer again, I think sports are a great and valuable experience and I believe most teenagers would benefit from participating in them. Yet, I should not seek to bind the consciences of other families who may not feel the same way about sports. That would be foolish and lacking love and humility. The same is true in every other area of life. When our political, cultural and ideological convictions get confused with the Gospel. Our personal convictions and interests do not entitle us to disregard others with differing convictions on biblical non-binding issues.
As we live in “The Square”, we must remember what is truly at stake. The church and all her parts is called to pursue the centrality of Christ in all things. We need to be careful not to co-opt the Gospel with side issues. Our convictions and interests are certainly good gifts God uses in our lives. They enrich us personally and they broaden our scope of connection with others outside of the church. But let's not create confusion over the church's mission by demanding allegiance to our pet cultural dogma and veil the gospel of grace in the process! Our cultural dogma is not the Gospel. We dare not leave the impression that what it means to be a Christian is determined by where we stand on on which side of the culture wars we stand.
Growing up in an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist background, the impression was left on me that what made a Christian is someone who doesn’t drink, smoke or chew and who went to church on Sundays and dressed well doing it. I had reduced being a Christian to doing good things and avoiding bad things. I also learned that being a Christian was about choosing the right side of the culture wars. After all, isn't the church called to fight the culture wars? Actually...no! That is not the mission of the church. We are indeed engaged in battle but ours is a more invisible than visible. We engage in this war subversively by loving God, loving our neighbor and making disciples in the everyday stuff of life.
Friends, fighting culture wars is not the Gospel! Indeed, there is a need for Christians to think well about culture, politics and such but there is a lot of room at the foot of the cross when Christians arrive at differing conclusions liberty issues. And yes, there is much liberty here. Why? Because the Gospel is good news for sinners! We all belong to the same tribe called sinners in the end.
To conclude, as we live in these three spheres as a rightly ordered church, it should produce a sense of joy for God’s people. It produces unity for God’s people as we keep the “main thing the main thing.” It is easy to descend into the negativity and distrust of our world. It is easy to allow that negatively and distrust infiltrate the church. It is easy to critique every decision that is made by our leaders. Indeed leaders everywhere, including the church, seem to live in the spotlight right now. Yet many, dare I say most, of the decisions made by these leaders are not meant to hurt or control us but help us maintain some level of normality during these days of Covid-19. It's fine if you disagree with me on this. I respect your decision to disagree with me. Some leaders have and will continue to get it wrong. For leaders in the church, including Grace Church, grace abounds!
Let’s be honest, none of us likes where we are...NONE OF US! We would like to fast forward a year from now, would we not? I get it because I’m there too! But we can’t put our heads in the sand in the moment and pretend that none of this exists or doesn't really matter. We cannot point to reductionistic and anecdotal reasoning why the otherside (whomever that may be for you) has it all wrong. We need supernatural patience and humility. Why? Because our God is the God over all time and circumstances and we are not! It would be unfaithful to disregard His wisdom for placing us in this situation here and now. 2020 has a purpose and we will likely not know why for a long time. I can say this much.
Until God chooses to allow to know his purpose in 2020, let's do what we know we should do. Love God. Love Neighbor. Make Disciples. Let's commit to the the 3 spheres of The Pulpit, Table and Square. As far as i know, 2020 is simply about shining the light of Christ where ever we go as we do!
We are Grace Church! Stay the course. Be flexible. Be Steady. Be creative. Be all of this for the glory of Jesus!