Monday, July 13, 2009

Total Church -as stolen from Heather Hendricks

I have mentioned earlier that I have started reading the book "Total Church." Since I have so little time to sit and read (or maybe just so many other things that I put more priority on than reading), I am still only half-way done.

I love it.

It is getting me pumped up.

I'd love to write a post on it, but since Heather has already done it, I am stealing her post on it from her blog.




Has made me think.

I made it as far as chapter two, had to pause, and pretty much rethink my entire existence.

I needed a nap and a snack to proceed.

Our pastor, Allen Duty has asked the body of NL to read this book together.
He's talking about each chapter on NL's blog. So far, our elders (Allen and Jason) have written about Chapters One, Two, Three and Four.

I wanted to share how this book has personally made me think.

To sum it up, in the first chapter, the authors point out that as Americans, when asked the question, "Who are you?" think of our identity in very individualistic terms.

Who am I?
I'm Heather. I'm a wife. I'm a mother. I love to write, cook, eat Butter Crunch ice cream. I day dream about being a hip hop dancer who also speaks several foreign languages. I'm a type A personality.
That's who I am.

Even in terms of our salvation, we've managed to take something like the gospel, the story of God's desire to rescue MANKIND, His love for the WORLD, and we've made it all about us.

God died for ME.

If I was the only person alive, Jesus would have gone to the cross...just for me.Yes...God does love me.

Thankfully, He has extended an invitation offering me an intimate and personal relationship with Him.
It's good to know God loves me. That's true. It's right. I'm just saying, it's easy, with our bent towards isolation and individualism in our country to forget that the Bible is a story about how God chose a be His very own. We forget that the letters in the NT were written to CHURCHES. I read them as if I just picked them up out of my own personal mail box though God's Word was written just for me, and emailed to Instead of asking, "What does this passage say to us, as God's people," I am guilty of only asking myself what God is saying to me.In reality...we are the people of God.

We're the church.

We're family.

God speaks to me, but He speaks to me within the context of speaking to His people.

This was a big deal for me to sit and think about because, if this foundational truth is even the slightest bit "off" in my mind, then that affects a lot of other things about the way I live my life.For example...If I think of myself as an individual, or our life as the Hendricks just in terms of my family, then here is what the authors of Total Church point out...

"The prevailing view of life today is that of an individual standing on his or her own, heroically juggling various responsibilities - family, friendships, career, leisure, chores, decisions and money. We could also add social responsibilities like political activities, campaigning organizations, community groups and school associations. From time to time, the pressures overwhelm us, and we drop one or more of the balls. All too often church becomes one of the balls. We juggle our responsibilities for church (measured predominantly by attendance at meetings) just as we juggle our responsibilities for work or leisure." can become something we do instead of who we are. This is what happens when we see ourselves at the center of our individual or one family juggling all the responsibilities of life. Church is a ball in the air, just like boy scouts, or ballet.What would happen if we shifted our thinking, and instead of our family or ourselves being the center of our life, the church took that spot?"

This blew my mind. It might be basic for you...but it literally shook me.

I'm not first and foremost, wife, cleaner, cooker.

I'm Heather...part of the family of God...part of the church...part of a community of believers, a GROUP of people God wants to use to proclaim the gospel.

Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good."

Paul emphasizes here, and in many other places, that Christ wants to create a people, not merely isolated individuals who believe in him...We are not saved individually and then choose to join the church as if it were some club or support group. Christ died for his people, and we are saved when by faith we become part of the people for whom Christ died.

The authors of Total Church say it like this..."Church is not another ball for me to juggle but that which defines who I am and gives Christlike shape to my life."

They throw this thought out there..."[At] the Crowded House (their church) we expect one another to make decisions with regard to the implications for the church and to make significant decisions in consultation with the church."

They use this example that made my head spin: In one of their community groups, a couple was about to have twins. What would be normal would be for that couple to access their lives, on their own, and decide how to keep all the balls of life in the air with such a huge, new, big thing (like twins) coming into their lives. The church ball would some times get dropped. That's what it looks like to live like individuals (or individual families). When the couple didn't show up to church consistently, or had to drop out of certain things, or couldn't make it to small group bible study for awhile, in most churches, everyone would just say, "Yep...they have a lot going on right now. This is understandable. THEY just had TWINS!" The couple, for the most part is on their own, to try and keep all the balls of life in the air. The couple had twins...the community did not.If the community of believers is central, instead of the individual family, then living life as a community may look something more like this...the community had twins, not just the couple.A community of believers gets together and says, "So and so is about to have twins. What changes do we ALL need to make in our lives and in our homes so that we take into consideration this new thing going on in our church family?" Maybe my kids don't need to be in as many activities this semester so we can help this couple out. Maybe we need to move the night our small group meets. Maybe we need to move the time. Maybe one of the college students should move in with them for a semester."

See...mind boggling. Basically, this book is helping me see myself first and foremost as God's this thing together, and from that point, looking at our individual lives and asking ourselves how the decisions we are making will not just affect our family, or ourselves, but how will they affect who we really are...a community of believers? How will these decisions our family is making (about our jobs, our calendars, our schedule, our priorities, our time, etc) affect our new purpose as God's people, "Going and making disciples of all men, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything scripture commands?"

What would it look like for me to make decisions "with regard for my church community" as Total Church suggests? This took some thinking for me. I'll admit...when I think of the church, I am less likely to think of a community of people and more likely to think of programs. Don't get me wrong. In my thought process, I do eventually get to community...but first and foremost, when I think of church, I think of all the things it takes to make a church "run effectively." When I feel "good" about my contribution to the church, I am guilty of basing those feelings on whether or not I'm "doing enough" in the programs. Am I serving on enough ministry teams? I'm not saying programs in a church are bad. But I am saying, that's how my mind is guilty of working. I feel like a crappy church member when I'm not performing well in the programs. Programs can be great, but I need to remind myself that Christ didn't die for programs. Christ laid his life down for the church...for people. If your mind is a little like mine, then it would seem like I'm saying make the church...the building and all its programs the center of your life. That's not what I'm saying. That's not what Total Church is saying. Program like things can still be important, but I'm not suggesting making church programs and meetings the center of existence. When thinking about the church being at the center of our life...being the way we identify ourselves, I'm not saying that this means start identifying myself by how well I'm performing within the programs of a church.

Like I've said...I've done that before. I've been the most involved church member, served my guts out, and yet at the same time, lived a very selfish, isolated life, never truly connecting with anyone, or letting anyone truly know me.

I felt good. I felt like I was performing well...but I wasn't loving people, or letting people know and love me.

Looking back on that time, I don't even remember myself as being a person...I was a machine...not vulnerable, honest...not a real person. People didn't really know me, and I had no interest in really knowing others. I look back and remember what a weirdo I was. I've been guilty of seeing church as something I do...a place where I serve, instead of the church being first and foremost who I am. I want to see the church, first and foremost as people...not programs. one get their church panties in a wad. I'm not saying programs are necessarily bad. I'm just saying, I put way too much importance on "being involved in programs" instead of seeing the church as people to know, love, and do life with.

When I think about our life as an individual family, I want to begin asking myself, "How am I loving these people God has connected us with? How am I serving them...not just in a building...but in their real, every day lives? How am I sharing with them? How am I adjusting our schedule to intimately know others, have them in our home, do life with them? How are we as a community of believers, intimately connected with one another, being salt and light to the people around us? How am I making adjustments in our schedule, in our home to love people living in other homes?

"In Christ we who are many form one body and each member belongs to all the others (Romans 12:5).

How am I living like I belong to all the "others" Christ has saved?

Is church something I do, or who I am?

When I think of the church, do I think of people, people who I belong to, and who belong to me, or do I think of programs?

Is church just another ball I juggle...or is it who we are?

Do I feel "good" about myself and my church life by how well I'm performing within programs, or how well I'm living out the things Acts and other parts of scripture say are important for the church...sharing my time...the gospel?


Anonymous said...

Hi Becca,
Just an FYI:
My co-workers follow your blog too. One has even started her own blog & ref. yours as one she follows!!
Ever thought about writing books?


Lawson said...

Good stuff. Thanks for the recommendation.