Monday, July 24, 2017

Chicago: More Than Simply Showing Up

Church. One word with a million different meanings, depending on whom you ask. And thanks to our research, Becky and I have asked what "church" (or ecclesia) means a whole lot.

To some, it's a physical location or a specific event that takes place once every week on Sunday. It's a textbook definition; one where success depends on tithes and attendance, and you can check in and out each week without ever truly realizing why you're actually there. In the areas where Becky and I are from (Alabama and Georgia), church can be that to a lot of people. It's cultural or nominal; everyone just finds time in their schedule to dress semi-nice and sit in rows, sing, and try not to fall asleep for one hour every Sunday. A place you can come and go, shaking hands at the appropriate point of the service and stopping without anyone ever truly knowing your heart, struggles, and prayers. A place where no one really notices if you're not there one week. A place where "accountability" and "life on mission" are bad words...simply because everyone is far too comfortable exactly where they are.

But then, Becky and I ask the same question to the church planters. The college students. The campus ministries. The pastors. The evangelical workers. The people giving all that they have here on this earth so that someone else can know Jesus Christ. To them, church is living. It's active. It's ever-changing. Up here, you're the odd ball out if you go to church on Sunday. Where we grew up, it was the other way around. Many of the churches here are small, but their faith is huge. They eat together, pray together, laugh together, and cry together; they live life-on-life together so much it gets uncomfortable.

Churches as small as the ones we've been going to could be incredibly discouraging, but I've actually found it to be quite inspiring. To all of these people, going to church is so much more than simply showing up. It requires a sacrifice on their part because it's not a cultural event in Chicago, so it's not normal. To them, church is powerful. It's really the only time they get to be around other Christians during their week. They are dedicated to praying, giving, and serving with all that they have to impact each other and the community in which they worship. These Christians care about each other and their neighborhoods, holding each other accountable and actively building relationships and sharing the gospel with those around them. Their faith isn't nominal; it's the 24/7 bold faith that we should all strive to have more of.

Sunday night we went to hear Christine Caine speak, and she said something that really summed up my thoughts on the churches here. Referencing Hebrews 12, she talked about the need for more Christian witnesses in the world, not just Christian spectators. Where I'm from, there's no shortage of the spectators, the people that set aside an hour once a week for their faith but that's about it. Churches everywhere need more witnesses like the people we've met in Chicago; people willing to set aside things of this world for the sake of the gospel. Followers of Jesus Christ need to come to terms with the fact that church is a vital point of growth in their's about more than simply showing up.

Sending Love from Sweet Home Chicago,