It will come as no surprise to anyone that I often talk about the church. I love to brag on my church. I love what God is doing in His church. In my life, I’ve probably heard a hundred sermons or teachings on the church and I have probably given a dozen more of my own. In virtually every one of these talks, I usually make the same point; in simple terms, the church is not a building: it is the people of God.

It may seem like I’m making an obvious point that most people would concede. So right about now you may be thinking of clicking on the blog article that Roy posted several days ago. But hold on for a second, because what I’ve just said has profound implications for our actual understanding and practice of church today.

Let me start with a question. Where do people get their opinion(s) about church and about Christianity today? Most people are willing to discuss religion, Jesus, and the Church. They are especially open to talk about their views and beliefs. And when you talk to people you discover they have wide and varied opinions of church.

I believe it is is important for us as Christians to understand people’s perceptions and to listen to what people identify as barriers to putting faith in Jesus and becoming part of a church community.  We need to remember that many people missed out on church 101 and may feel over their heads when trying out church for the first time. Some people see the church as hypocritical, judgmental and negative. Others believe the Church is an organized religion with a political agenda. Still others see church as dominated by males who oppress females and homophobic. Finally others see the church as arrogant, believing their religion is the only right one.

The question is where do people get those ideas? They get them from a variety of places. They may get them from a past experience of church. It may have been from a funeral or a wedding, or it may simply have been a bad experience and negative memories that formed their opinion of church. They also get their ideas on church from our culture. There are hundreds of perceptions of Christianity in pop culture that can potentially shape the expectations of Christians and non-Christians alike. Unfortunately, it seems that often these images are negative.

In the same vein people get their ideas of the church from the news. Much of the time, what people get from the news isn’t all that positive. The media are generally not inclined to report on the good things that churches do, but church scandals tend to make headlines because they draw viewers and sell advertising. Especially when it comes to stories about extremists such as Jim Jones or David Koresh, who espouse Christianity.

 It’s also common for people to see the church as something like a hospital that it offers healing to those who are physically or spiritually sick. But when the end result is they are not healed or they don’t get the right answers to prayer, they wonder if they want to continue going to this “hospital.”

There are other ways, but you get the idea.

The bigger question is where should people get their ideas on the church.  The obvious answer is from each of us who make up the church. Even though we are not perfect and may occasionally stumble, people who love and walk with God are still the best advertisement for Christianity. God will use us if we are willing to be used.

I have learned that all the well-designed programs and environments in the world can’t do anything if the Northstar family never said to themselves, “I want to be a part of that.” From our inception to Bold Love, I have learned, that if you have God-sized dreams and share those dreams with our members and regular attenders, they will latch onto it and unite behind the vision. I have seen God repair broken lives as He builds Northstar into a humble yet warrior-like group of Christ followers yearning to do His bidding. We know we don’t have it all together or have all the answers. We are just people who are not perfect but are being transformed by the grace of God and are simply helping each other do life better. I thank God for a church body that gets charged up and has helped our dreams go viral since 1998.  It is hard not to be infected by the excitement. We are as a staff and I am as lead pastor.

Our vision is clear. It’s a challenging and exciting picture of the future of Panama City and all over the world as we believe it can and must be. Our vision is not a fleeting dream or open-ended wish. It’s a very big vision of how we believe God wants to mature and use Northstar Church to seek all who need Jesus and together become his fully devoted followers. It’s not about simply counting success by larger worship attendance, but by reaching new people who don’t already know Jesus.

In the next blog post, I will discuss how each of us who attend Northstar can help overcome people’s perceptions about church and Christianity.

OK, now you can click on Roy’s post.