It's popular these days to focus on getting the church "out of the building" to serve others. I'm all for it. Many churches spend too much time cloistered in holy huddle of sorts, off mission, and internally focused. However, there is another way we might be able to accomplish the same goal more effectively. There is another possible explanation for a lack of servanthood, mission-drift, and lack of evangelistic fervor. I wonder if such things aren't first a symptom of an impoverished inner life. In fact, I don't just wonder. I'm convinced.
Those close to Christ will resemble him inevitably over time. At the same time, serving while not close to Christ is a nice thing to do, but little more. This isn't to say that service doesn't have some intrinsic worth. It's also not to say that one doesn't grow closer to Christ by serving. It's to say that serving itself does not a Christian make. Just as God doesn't desire worship offered by those who spurn the basin and the towel, God isn't asking for a generation of Marthas who spurn fellowship with Christ. Following the servant Christ by serving is how disciples live. It must be lived out in that order.
Both Scripture and experience lead me to the conclusion that unless a person or church's inner life is growing and vibrant, the outpouring of that inner life (service, evangelism, generosity, etc.) will be forced or anemic. I've never seen authentic Christian benevolence or Christian evangelism or Christian generosity without an authentic spirituality firmly rooted in Christ. Why? The Holy Spirit's work is what births Christian compassion, generosity, and all the other fruit churches and believers long to see. Nothing else. From cover to cover, Scripture bears witness to the igniting power of God's Spirit to transform the hearts and lives of people.
Prayer, worship, study of the Scripture, Communion help us see the world with the God-lens. Coupled with the God-fire, it drives us to live the God-life characterized by compassion for the poor, burden for the lost, and zeal for the Kingdom.
To that end, NCCC is launching a new series this Sunday entitled, The Motions: Our Relentless Quest for God. It's been a while since I've been this amped up for a series. We're going to explore some of the spiritual disciplines that draw us closer to God and into the world.
Here's a question: In general, would the Kingdom benefit from the church focusing on it's inner life, outer life, or both? What about your congregation specifically?