We go to great lengths to make sure the church looks good. While no one else is looking we make sure that when others see the church, they see something that’s nice, well maintained, clean, and orderly. It’s no different from our own homes, if you have family coming over soon for a Christmas celebration, you’re likely already working hard on that to-do-list. Knocking out projects, decorating the house, cleaning, and making sure the areas that others will see look just right. We know no one will be in our bedroom, closets or that basement storage room so all the unsightly things get piled there. We’d be so embarrassed if others saw our mess.
Back to the church….I’m not making an argument that we shouldn’t clean and maintain the building….this actually has nothing to do with the building. It has nothing to do with the great job the men and women who work behind the scenes to prep our building for events and Worship. It doesn’t even have anything to do with reverence in worship. It has everything to do with what the church actually is….the people. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not encouraging you to come in your Sunday “Worst”; this has little to do with how you dress, how you groom yourselves or anything else like that.
In Sunday School, we’ve just started back on our study of Acts. When I study Scripture, my mind tends to wander towards imagining what things were really like, the perspective of those at that time. For me in Acts, the question I think through is what it would have been like to be a part of the early church. Based on the way things happened…and happened quickly…I have to imagine that the early church was a complete and total mess. Can you imagine what the early church was like in the weeks and months following the addition of 3000 in Acts 2:47….the continued addition of people daily as mentioned in Acts 2:47…the 5000 added in Acts 4:4…the multitudes added in Acts 5:12. Can you imagine the mess that the early church was? I’m not talking organizationally….although that was lacking as well considering as we see in Acts 14:23, Paul and Barnabas were appointing elders in every church.
Think about this for a minute…while we are new creations in Christ when we start our relationship with Christ….that doesn’t mean all of the sudden we’re sin free does it? We continue to work through our salvation day by day…sometimes taking big steps forward….sometimes small steps. So what I’m getting at is the early church had to be full of people who were recent converts or new creations as well as those they knew that through the spread of the gospel were there to see what was going on. You’re talking about people who by in large probably didn’t know the right way to act in church….probably didn’t know the right way to respond to teaching…..probably didn’t know how to respect the elders of the church….probably didn’t say all the right things or avoid using all the “bad words”. It just had to be a mess. When you think about it, even those that the Spirit was putting in positions of leadership within the body were relatively new believers. If we have no better example, consider Peter. He spent roughly 3 years with Christ…then when Jesus was to be crucified….Peter in all of his spiritual maturity was denying Christ…..and post resurrection, it’s only a short time before Christ set Peter on the path to be one of the most important leaders in the early church.
Here’s what I’m getting at…I think we may have a picture of the church as properly functioning when the people come, they dress the right way, they behave the right way, they respect everyone, and are all growing in their relationship with Christ just like we are. While that’s a nice idea, I think that might be more our spiritual immaturity coming out than our maturity. The church should be a mess. It should be in a constant state of transition as new believers come in, lost people are present seeking answers from God and people are working out their salvation.
If our Sunday School groups, our Worship services, our Bible Studies, and Events look like your clean house right before the relatives comes over….I think we’re missing something. Where’s the clutter? Where’s the mess? Where is the genuineness of our lives being a mess? Where are the new believers? Where are the lost?
As we approach 2018, how about we mess up the place? Please don’t spill your coffee on the carpet…but how about you and I grow in spiritual maturity by making the church a mess, instead of trying to cultivate a clean environment that appeals to our own selfishness, let’s mess up the place and engage new believers, share the gospel with the lost and bring the seekers into the church. Let’s channel our inner early church, the Holy Spirit, and make a mess as big as Christmas morning!