I’m glad God called me to be a pastor. I love the church because it is God’s chosen instrument to advance God’s kingdom in the world. Think about it for a minute: our churches are the places where we work so that God’s kingdom will come, “on earth as it is in heaven.” And while I am excited about denominational ministry, ecumenical church work, community-wide initiatives, and other events like these, I believe that ultimately the local church is where the real action is. Every Sunday morning, Wednesday night, and whenever else the local church meets in the presence of God, we have the opportunity to be shaped as disciples of Jesus.
Part of my love for the church includes asking hard questions about the church—how things were decided in the past, how obedient we are being in the present, and what the church will look like in the future. That is what this article is. Hard questions that I think the church needs to be talking about. Questions that ask us if we are being relevant to the issues of the local community and the world. Questions that help us make sure we are serious about the right things. Questions that make us look in the mirror to ask ourselves if we are being obedient to God. These are by no means all of the questions, just a few that are on my radar screen right now.
I must admit that not everyone is as excited about questions like these as I am, but I hope you’ll give them a chance. Furthermore, I’d be delighted to hear your answers to some or all of these questions, and what questions you think need to be on the list. If you’d like to discuss them, send me an email at [email protected]. If you answer enough of the questions, I may even buy you a cup of coffee so we can talk some more!
I. Why is it that more people will attend a little-league ball game than a prayer meeting?
II. What would happen if Christian parents told their kids’ ball coaches that they weren’t going to play on Sunday?
III. Why is it that more Christians will attend a church carry-in meal than a prayer meeting?
IV. Do we have enough corporate prayer in our churches to honestly complain that prayer is not allowed in our schools?
V. What does the church have to offer someone who has learned to live without the church, but maintains a belief in God?
VI. How will the church minister to the increasing number of people whose job requires that they work on Sunday?
VII. If your church building was suddenly gone, would your neighborhood notice?
VIII. What is the church’s response to persons who are willing to resort to verbal or physical violence in an effort to have their way?
IX. Over the past ten years, our country has spent billions of dollars to wage war in Afghanistan and Iraq. If the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks had never happened, would we have been willing to spend the same amount of money to wage peace? Or to improve education? Or on something else?
X. Downtown Roanoke has persons living in new condos in close proximity to homeless persons. Do you consider this a welcome reality about our city?
XI. How do we best minister to the homeless persons in our midst?
XII. Why is the divorce rate higher among Christians than among those who are not Christian?
XIII. Why is Sunday morning still the most segregated time in America?
XIV. Is there a way the church can welcome homosexual persons into their midst without splitting the church?
XV. How much do you know about the vote taking place in southern Sudan, and how our Christian brothers and sisters there are living?
XVI. How much do you know about the persecution Iraqi Christians are currently experiencing?
XVII. What gets you excited about your church?
XVIII. How can you get someone else excited about that?
XIX. What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?
XX. If you aren’t comfortable with some of the answers you have to these questions, what needs to change?
Tim Harvey is the senior pastor at Central Church of the Brethren in Roanoke. Visit them on the web at: www.centralbrethren.org