Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Being the Spleen

This morning I woke up with a thought in my head. Warning...it takes awhile for my thoughts to get to a point, but it's been a good while since I rambled on about the church, right? In my experience, it seems there is a trend among churches to become less "denominational." I mean, most new churches don't seem to say outright what their denomination is or sometimes they are independent and not a part of a denomination at all...interdenominational...non-denominational...etc. I would say that Christians in my generation also seems to identify themselves less with a denomination, even if they attend a church with a certain denomination in its name. This is just pure observation. I don't know if there's a study out there that backs it up with fact or not.

So my thought was, what will churches look like in 50 years? Someday will we look around and So and So Baptist Church, So and So Methodist Church, So and So Assembly of God will be a thing of the past? Is this a conscience effort to try to find more common ground among the Church as a whole? Or is it just a "cool" trend? Is it a way to try to reach out to those who might find negative connotation in certain names? Is it MORE or LESS confusing to a person who has no idea what churches are to begin with? I don't know.

I do know our church chose the name HealingPointe Community Church because we wanted to communicate to others that 1. We are a church. 2. We exist in a community and want to be a part of it. 3. We are a place where healing can take place in someone's life (and everyone needs SOME kind of healing, whether you are a Christian already or not). We're affiliated with the Churches of God, which is a pretty small mid-west denomination that's into planting churches such as ours. If you go to our website, you can find out all kinds of important stuff like our core values 'n' stuff. I especially like the mission we've adopted: A family of believers learning how to follow Jesus.

But sometimes it's still hard to have a clear picture of what God has for a church to be...and what it is NOT to be. We've been struggling a little bit through that process. When we began as a church, it's so hard not to go crazy and try to do EVERYTHING and in the process kind of lose sight of the ONE thing. So with moving to a cleaner, brighter, more visible, more expensive space last summer...and then having several people leave in the fall...and no one new sticking around...and going into survival mode...and really just drawing close to God and each other during the past few months...we've emerged as a church that is much clearer on its function within the Body of Christ in Terre Haute, Indiana.

1. We are not the cool place to be, as much as visions of lasers and stadiums dance in our heads some days. We're kind of just regular people. Some of us are rather nerdy. (Ahem.) We're a small and comfortable place to be. If God wants to make us a big and comfortable place to be someday, great. If not, that's great, too.

2. We flat out love God and love Jesus.

3. We don't shy away from applying the hard stuff in the Bible to our lives. And even the basic principles in the Bible are hard stuff sometimes. You have to do that to grow. We may not grow big in number, but we'd better be growing spiritually!

4. We're still figuring out how to love people...and we've got a lot to offer them! I know I just said we're regular people, but regular people have some super amazing gifts, talents and skills around HealingPointe. We've got people who can cook and build and work with kids and sing and act and speak and host and write and compute and ride motorcycles and more. (Yes, riding a motorcycle counts as a skill to me.) One couple started a puppet ministry with our older kids recently. We've started to venture into drama little by little. And boy, can our guys build walls...

5. We are exponential in impact when we partner with churches who are already doing good stuff. While we're a pretty special little Body of Christ, the churches in our area are coming together to do some powerful things. Putting doctrinal differences and traditions aside to work together is NOT EASY. But when our pastor goes and meets with other pastors to plan community projects...when our people learn about prayer and worship at IHOP...when some of us go on our Emmaus Walks in a couple of weeks...when we go and play with the kids at the youth center...we put Jesus center stage instead of our agenda. He is the only one deserving of center stage.

So with all of that clarified, it has become clear to our church that it's time to start looking for a new place to meet. Yeah, we've moved a lot. First the mobile church at the Girl Scout building. Then the old building next to Rick's BBQ. Now the storefronts behind the mall. But we want to spend more $$ on people and ministry and less on rent to be faithful to the vision that is our church. There's a couple of possibilities so far, so pray that we just follow after God on this one and we will know the right place at the right time.

We were checking out a place a couple of weeks ago...and jokingly I referred to us as "The Spleen of Terre Haute" in the Body of Christ. You know, kind of small and a little weird and no one really knows what it does. So I looked it up. If I understand correctly, the spleen removes old blood cells from the body and produces and stores white blood cells, that help the body to fight infection. It's a part of the immune system. Here's some interesting stuff from E-how about the good ol' spleen:
"An individual can survive without their spleen. If the spleen is severely damaged, it can be removed surgically with a procedure called a splenectomy. The majority of the functions of the spleen are taken over by the liver after a splenectomy. Once the spleen is removed, however, an individual does have an increased susceptibility to infections due to the loss of immune function that the liver is unable to compensate for."

Okay, stretch with me a little bit and let me apply this spiritually to our church. It's not a perfect analogy, but it's a little ironic about the immune system vs. HealingPointe's name, right? If HealingPointe produces healthy disciples that work along other Christians in the body and help keep them from "infection," that's a pretty important job. It's not glamorous. You can't see it on the outside. The body can even live without it. But if HealingPointe were to be cut out of the body...no other church could do the specific job that God has set before us. The body would be prone to an infection that could damage it and even destroy it. And the reverse is true. If we think we can survive without the rest of the body, we are sadly mistaken.

"Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." (Romans 12:4-5)

So you think my pastor will let us change our name to HealingSpleen Community Church? Terre Haute First Spleen of God? Spleen-dor of Christ Church? Ok, I'll stop now.


katdish said...

Spleen-dor of Christ Church - tell your pastor I'll start working on the artwork immediately!

Seriously, that was a really great analogy. I do think churches are trying to move away from being identified with a denomination. I've heard people in ministry joke that the Baptists are trying to act like non-denoms and the non-denoms are trying to act like Baptists. There are some fairly significant theological differences between certain denominations, but at the center of all (except health and wealth) is Christ.

For the record, we are an independent, non-denominational, restoration movement church. Print THAT on a church banner!

Helen said...

Good job describing your Church's role in the body of Christ.
But your description of skills makes me want to list mine.
1. I can pat my head and rub my tummy at the same time.
2. I can touch my nose with my tongue.
3. I can make lists.

Annie K said...

Don't forget to put Pointe somewhere in the title.

You are right Beth, I think some churches are so concerned with being different that they forget the real deal - which I think is loving God and loving others.

I can make spleen shirts if you want?

sherri said...


I like the analogy here.

Don't know if the name will catch on, but the idea is great.

Chris for Connected at the Crossroads said...

I love it! I love everything you write! I truly believe that it's not only thought-provoking but inspired. I will be praying for your decision. Love you guys!

Rob said...

Echoing katdish, my particular denomination (Missouri Synod Lutheran) is fighting a low-grade civil war over this. Many churches are trying to be all growthy and de-emphasize the things that make them Lutheran, and the others are becoming crusty and excluding anything that even hints at messing with formal liturgy (there are a few exceptions). I find myself straddling the two and not fully happy in either. Sigh.

Find what God wants the Church to do. Go do it. If more members will help that mission, God will send them if it is His Will.