Bloated Church

By February 19, 2017Every Member Mission

If you played a sport in high school, you probably remember pasta feeds. They were the greatest. After the last practice of the week and the day before a game, a few parents would bring a SUV-load of spaghetti or lasagna along with garlic bread and Caesar salad covered with soggy croutons. It was a true carbo-load that supposedly gave us energy for the game the following day. But mainly it was just the most delicious thing in the world after many hours of grueling practice. Plus, it helped further bond the team.

But imagine with me: what if the pasta feed was before practice every day? Or right before a game? You would feel like garbage, right? You would probably just want to sit out, or maybe you’d choose to skip the meal and risk being a little hungry and weak. I think this is a fitting analogy for what we’ve done in church with the relationship between the word of God and the mission of God. We’ve reversed the rhythm. We’re bloated.

When you think of your comGroup, what do you think of? You probably think of a Bible study, right? What if that was a bit like thinking of your football team primarily as a pasta feed? What if we have the home base all wrong? What if the home base of a comGroup was not studying but serving together where we live, work, and play? This idea has been convicting me deeply of late not only as the overseer of comGroups at VCC, but as a comGroup leader myself. So often we think of the ministry of the word in both formal (Sunday AM) and less formal (comGroups) settings as the fuel for our mission. And it is that. We will very quickly become weak and ineffective if we are wrung dry spiritually as we serve. As Pastor Sid said once to me, we are not in the world for Christ; we are in Christ for the world. However, that also means that feasting on Christ in worship and prayer is primarily the goal of faith, not just the starting point. The feast is the reward of practice.

We recently finished a ten-week study through Paul’s letter to Philippians called The Bonds of Fellowship. The main idea was that the gospel binds us together and that any other bond will ultimately fail us. But this includes the fact that it is the service of the gospel, i.e. our mission to embody and advance it, that binds us. It is the same way that a football team is bonded by their hours on the field or partners on the force are bonded by their sacrificial service of the community. Sure, the meals they share together bond them further, but that is not the main thing. As Pastor Jake put it, how awkward would it be to tell two cops that they had to spend their first year focusing on becoming friends, and then they could serve together? That would be totally backwards! But that’s precisely what we do when we expect that our comGroup will just magically start serving together one day. And ironically, comGroups are often too busy when actual opportunities to serve the marginalized spring up. We’re “too full.” We’re bloated.

So what can you do? Perhaps you are a leader and your group is so set in its ways that needs a total overhaul in order to shift the mindset. Perhaps you need to branch out and start a new comGroup? Maybe the primary thing you do as a comGroup, for example, is spend the night at the Livermore Homeless Refuge. Every member commits to at least once a month but someone is there every time it is open, sharing meals and listening to stories. You still meet together to listen to God’s word and share the fruit that has come from this ministry, but that’s not primarily what you exist to do. Or maybe you change your meeting place to an inexpensive restaurant downtown and dedicate your group to serving the staff that serves you. You pray for them, form relationships with them, and buy the meal for the college student or single parent in your group. Or maybe you simply shift the way you pray for and speak about your comGroup when you are gathering to reflect that you are there to learn how to obey Jesus in the workplace and in the home where he has placed you to serve.

Let’s not be a bloated church. Let’s be a hungry church. Don’t just hear the word. Do it. comGroups, reverse your rhythms.

Dane Olney

Author Dane Olney

Dane Olney is joyfully married to his high school sweetheart Brittany and they have a son named Levi. He is the Discipleship Pastor of VCC and is pursuing an MDiv in Christian Ethics from Fuller Theological Seminary.

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