I have blogged previously about the importance of balance in our relationships as a Christian. Balance in our relationship with God; with fellow believers – building community; and with the hurting world around us. This follows the model of Jesus.
I now want to explore what this mean for us as a church.
- Easier said than done!
It is so much easier to focus on 2 rather than 3. How do we even know whether we are balanced?
Two people can look at the same church and conclude it is unbalanced, but disagree about what the imbalance is!
We need to hear from God and each other! Individuals can have different perspectives, depending on their personality, history and maybe even prejudice.
I am increasingly convinced of the importance of seeking to be balanced focused on God; building authentic, loving, caring community, together being Christ on earth; focusing on the world around us, seeking God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.
But how! Here are some thoughts on how we can seek to check our balance in an objective way.
- Prayer life of the church.
If you look at Paul’s prayers, as recorded in his letters, you find a significant emphasis on thanking God – 40% of his prayers. He thanks God for the churches, what is happening outside the church and even for God himself.
There are other prayers just praising God, others praying for the church and still others for God’s impact of the world.
Overall what hits me is that Paul’s prayers are “balanced” including
- adoration and worship;
- prayer for ourselves;
- prayer for others.
A way to check on the balance of any church is to look at their prayer life. How balanced is it?
We believe that God speaks today. The gifts of the Spirit, including prophecy, did not cease with the coming of the NT but continue today.
Over time you would expect to have prophecies that give us insights into the character of God, insights into what God is doing within Hope Church and within individuals within Hope Church, and what God is doing outside the church – in Luton, nation, nations.
I come to this conclusion through reading the writings of the prophets included in my Bible, they had these 3 focuses.
Paul encourages us to eagerly desire the spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. We need to do so, we also need to eagerly desire the rounded, full gift of prophecy. We need to contemplate God, in all his richness and fullness. What characteristic does he want emphasised today?
The Bible is full of prophecies of what God is doing in the nations, to encourage prayer but also because he is God of the whole earth, not just Israel, not just the church. People believed in regional gods. We can get into same trap, thinking God is only interested in our church! Prophecy should challenge this.
Additionally, we obviously need to hear what God is saying to the church and individuals within it.
Prophecy is therefore another way of checking for balance.
- Other areas?
We need to preach about God – who he is; what he has done. Preach about his church, his glorious bride, what He wants us to be individually and corporately. Preach about the world – what he is doing, what he wants us to do.
We should expect small groups to have a balance, staffing and finances generally to have a balance.
- Some final thoughts on a focus on the hurting world around us!
It should be wider than just evangelism. If our focus is only on evangelism it can actually be a subtle way of just focusing on ourselves, we just want to grow our church! It doesn’t counter act the tendency to think that it is all about us.
Authentic focus on the hurting world around us is being interested in things outside our own church. Seeking to bring change to our town, our nation, the nations.
We are trying to do this as a church. Working with other churches around the world, praying for world events, seeking the good of our nation and town as well as being involved in helping people discover the truth about Jesus.
However, I finish where I started. It is one thing to have a desire to be balanced, it is another to achieve it. That is the journey we are on.
– based on his sermon from 31st January 2016
Tony Thompson is the leader of Hope Church Luton. He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.