Churches that Enjoy God
from Enjoying God
by Josh Hunt
I rejoiced with those who said to me,
"Let us go to the house of the Lord."
In the New Testament, the Christian life is inextricably tied to church life. Christianity is always lived out in relationship. Enjoying God is never discovered alone; it is always enjoyed in the context of a group. Friends enjoy God together. There is not much joy in being alone.
"When a joy is shared it is doubled; when a sorrow is shared it is halved." It is true of marriage and it is true of church. I dream of a generation of churches committed to the vision of teaching people to enjoy God.
Churches that enjoy God are growing churches. Not in the traditional sense of being church-growth churches, but they are growing. Where there is food, the people gather. They are not anti-church-growth. They are not anti anything. They just enjoy God and enjoy being together, and people join them because people like to go to church where people like to go to church. They are not on anyone's church growth program. Like the animals in the animal kingdom, these churches are all very different. Each one is unique.
We live in a world starved for joy. They are looking for joy in every garbage can and junk heap in the city. Like the people where I grew up (the Philippines) who live on the city's trash heap, scrapping to find something to eat, or something of value to sell. Our world is desperate for joy.
People today are going from bar to bar, lover to lover, deal to deal, job to job, toy to toy, looking for real joy. And when they find it, they are like the lepers at the siege of Samaria (2 Kings 6:24ff).(1) They say to each other, (2 Kings 7:9) "We're not doing right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves." The city was surrounded and trapped within its own walls like a caged bird.
The situation was so desperate that two women agreed to eat their own children, one on one day and the other the next. We know about this because one of them reneged on the second day and refused to give up her child after she had helped eat the other mother's child. It was horrible.
The lepers knew their situation was hopeless. So in a last ditch effort they decided to throw caution to the wind and give themselves up to Ben-Hadad, king of Aram. The worst he could do was kill them, and they were about to die anyway.
But to their surprise the enemy camp had been completely vacated. God had caused the enemy to hear the sound of chariots and horses. They fled quickly and left everything behind.
The lepers initial reaction was to hoard the loot. They ran here and there hiding what they could. But then they suddenly realized there was more here than they could possibly use in a lifetime. And the size of the stockpile motivated them to tell.
People who enjoy God are like this. They know the size of the stockpile. They, like those lepers, know the desperation of their situation. They know they were hopeless without Christ. But, having thrown themselves on the mercy of God, they have found Him to have more mercy than they could use up in a thousand lifetimes. And the size of the stockpile compels them to tell. No wonder these churches are growing.
Churches where people enjoy God are marked by other things. They like to eat together. They often have pot luck dinners and Wednesday night suppers and go out after church for ice cream. Janitors, if they have a choice, would rather work for churches that do not enjoy God. These churches tend to stay around long after the service is over, while the janitor waits to turn out the lights. Before church they are very noisy. They are not reverent churches, as we normally think of reverence as a synonym for quiet.
I don't know why, but churches that enjoy God tend to have lots of kids. They have noisy hallways and overcrowded nurseries. Churches that enjoy God don't tend to be very tidy.
Churches that enjoy God tend to attract the broken people of society. The ones that no one else will love, these people will love. Shattered lives are welcome and find help.
Churches that enjoy God like to sing. They like loud, raucous music. They also like soft, melodious music. The truth is they just like to sing. Their tastes in music are, of course, very different from each other.
Churches that enjoy God don't get upset when the worship service goes long. They love to sit under the word of God and drink it all in. They tend to like messages with strong Biblical content. They really get into their services.
Churches that enjoy God tend to take care of their pastors. They are gratefully appreciative and try to do all they can to show it. They don't tend to be the kind of churches that nit-pick their leadership. They hardly ever have a forced termination. They don't think, "Pastor, do you really have to go to this conference, it is awfully expensive." Rather, they think, "What can we do for you, pastor? We so love and appreciate your ministry."
Churches that enjoy God not only give to their staff, they give to anyone and anything. They are hardly ever under budget, and give to a wide variety of missions and benevolent causes. More importantly, they give to each other. When one has a need, they are there to help. They pass around hand-me down children's clothes and loan books and help each other when the have a big project at home like painting or putting in a sprinkler system. The wives exchange recipes with each other. Their phone books are scribbled over with the names of their brothers and sisters. They don't use measure service on their phones; it is cheaper to get the flat monthly rate.
Churches that enjoy God tend to use what they have. They are good stewards. They use their buildings for lots of things. There are always cars in the parking lot. They have lots of services. Other churches tend to think, "We can't have that group down there in the Family Life Center playing volleyball. . . do you know how much electricity that uses? Have you seen our electric bill?"
Churches that enjoy God enjoy telling and retelling the faith stories that they have experienced, both as individuals and in their shared life together. These stores are not a distant memory. God has done something recently. They don't talk so much about church and programs and committees; they talk about enjoying God.
On the other hand, they are not big on long-term history. Telling faith stories is not a function of the historical committee, it is a matter of their life together. Overall, they are more future oriented than past oriented. But their optimism about the future is based on God's working with them in the past.
Churches that enjoy God get their direction from God. They are not disloyal to the denomination of which they are a part, but they are not slaves to it. This tends to make them stick out a bit. Sometimes they are ostracized by their denominations. It is mostly jealousy. They just smile and return love for scorn.
There is no one program or publishing house or missions agency that they cater to. They are each a unique combination of ministries. They are organized in a wide variety of ways. They are members of all denominations. They have personalities of their own.
No one person controls these churches. Christ is in practice the head.
I want to be a part of a church like that. The world is waiting for thousands of churches like that. God can take the world for himself with churches like that.
1. I want to give credit to Bill Hybels, for his insight into this story, which I heard on a Seeds tape.