NOTE: Before reading this I feel I must make a disclaimer (this comes from my fear of being misunderstood) The following post is a part of my grappling with the mission and nature of the church. I do believe that the church is something that God has put on this earth to be the incarnation of Jesus, meaning it is a divine institution and we get to participate in it. That said, I am working through some cynicism about the way we have chosen to live out that institution. (i.e. denominations, doctrine, etc.) My fear is that we have mistaken the means for the end. In other words, rather than focus on Jesus and the kingdom of God he proclaimed and pointed us to, many have chosen to focus on the church as the end. Currrently, I understand the church to be the means through which the prayer is to be answered "thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." However, right now I am grappling with whether or not we are really being the means to that end or not." Clear as mud? Good. Consider the following and please comment your thoughts or ideas. I would love some good discussion on this.
I invite you to take a look at this post from my good friend, Jim. I think sometimes its easier to see Jesus in real life stories than in the institution of the church. (Which ideally is supposed to be the incarnation of Jesus in the world.) I believe Jim's story is a good illustration of missional - going out into the world and living like Jesus. (I'm not saying this is necessarily Jim's intent, but this is my interpretation of what he's doing.) The sacrificial love Jim is demonstrating will have more impact on those students than any number of talks they would hear at most church youth groups.
This is something I wrestle with as a clergyperson in the western church, more specifically a main-line denomination. I spend a majority of my week preparing for a worship service where Christians gather sing some songs, say some prayers, read Scripture and hear a sermon and hopefully by the power of the Holy Spirit encounter a taste of the living God. Am I helping others to follow Jesus with reckless abandon by living the full lives of selflessness and service that Jesus calls us to? Or am I just helping people to "self-medicate" with their Sunday morning dose of religion that helps them make it through the week, but does not lead to the transformed life to which Jesus calls us? (I hope that no-one from the board of ordained ministry is reading this!) Moreover, am I leading that transformed life as a follower of Jesus or am I "hiding" in my office preparing my sermons, staying safe behind the "title" of pastor?
I guess time will tell. Check back in a year. If the church I am serving is the same or a smaller or bigger version of what it is today, then we'll know the answer. In the mean time - Jim, keep up the amazing work. I admire you and thank you for being Jesus to those kids.