BE the Church

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I learn a lot while flying on an airplane. Last time I flew, this post happened: HERE.

Photo Credit: Creation Swap user Suaz Carranz

Last time, I sat beside a couple of ladies that brought along hard-boiled eggs.

This time, I’m not sure it was any better. Here’s what I would’ve tweeted if I had had internet capabilities:

  • Gosh, I love kids, but seriously? Do you really need to scream the whole flight? And I know that you, mom, are trying to help, but yelling louder than the screams isn’t helping.
  • Did that guy in front of me just exhaust that whole bottle of Germ-x? Is he drinking it? I’m pretty sure my nose is now germ-free. And on fire.
  • I think the person behind me has passed enough gas to fuel the plane. This is bad…and I can’t go anywhere.
  • Truth: Snores are much louder on a plane. Something gets amplified when you’re that high in the air.
  • I got in “trouble” on the plane because I didn’t listen to the pilot when he said to put away all electronic devices. Apparently, a Kindle can take down a plane.

But I sat beside a couple of single parents and had a great time hearing a bit of their story and understanding who they are. We struck up a conversation about parenting, and they both have 16-year-old daughters. They were throwing ideas around for their daughters’ upcoming birthday parties, and I quickly felt out of my league. Partly because I have a 3-year-old son. Partly because they think much more extravagantly for birthdays than I do. I can get my son a $.99 matchbox car and he’s thrilled.

I also felt like a great parent after hearing their birthday suggestions. There were three that rose to the top.

Top 3 Birthday Suggestions from 10,000 feet

  • You could take your daughter to this make-up artist I know. She charges $400/hour, but it’s worth it. I go there every once in a while…
  • You could send them with their friends to Dallas. Dallas is a fun city, right?
  • You could send your daughter to Las Vegas for the weekend. I’m sure she’d love that. Oh, wait…do you think she should have adult supervision?…

It was at that point that I really started feeling like, though I often feel clueless as a parent, I am a pretty awesome dad. And I was reminded that common sense isn’t common.

Inevitably, all of my conversations on a plane end up coming back to a conversation about God. This one was no different. Both of these single parents grew up in church, but were burned for various reasons. I asked

Are you and God on speaking terms?

They were. But they wanted nothing to do with a local church. Nothing. “I like your God, but not the whole religion thing.”

So I got the chance to advocate for a ‘better’ Church. And I took the opportunity to show them that there are churches in America that aren’t burning people. Churches that are making a difference in their communities. Churches that are speaking Truth and hope and grace and mercy. Churches that are based not on maintaining programs, but investing in people. Churches where it’s safe to explore faith. Churches where you’re encouraged to come as you are.

As I’m sharing this truth with my two new friends, I was struck by the fact that everywhere I go, I’m a living, breathing, talking billboard for the Church. And if we (the Church) are ever going to overcome the perception that we’re just a group of judgmental, self-serving, stingy bigots it’s got to start with me.

You may not think of yourself this way, but you are, too. The conversations you have paint a picture for others.

Can we start painting a better picture? One that looks a little more like our Savior?

My new picture will look like this:

Be generous.

Be loving.

Be full of grace.

Be full of mercy.

Be the Church. 

*Photo credit: Creation Swap User Suaz Carranz


Christ follower, husband, father, writer, small groups pastor at Saddleback Community Church. Communications director for the Small Group Network.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Kyle

    How about this one too: be perfect, from Matthew 5:48? But
    you’re right, be the church is the highest of all since the church is the Body
    of Christ, the Bride of Christ, the Warrior of God, the One New Man, the
    Masterpiece of God, the House of the Living God, the Kingdom of God.

    I’m glad more and more Christians are starting to have this consideration.
    Since we are the church, why does our living not show forth the church?

    But one cannot just decide to start being (living out the reality of) the
    church. The church is intimately related to the living Person of Christ. So to
    live out the church, the fullness of the One who fills all in all, we must
    first be filled with the unsearchable riches of Christ that initially came to
    us through the gospel (Eph 3:8). One practical way to do this is to live a life
    of calling on the Lord to enjoy these riches (Romans 10:12). Only by
    progressively enjoying the riches of Christ can we become His fulness. Just
    like if you want to express the riches and benefits of a certain diet you must
    eat the food prescribed by it!

    In this light John 6:57 is most instructive- “As the living Father has
    sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me shall also live
    because of Me.” The first half of this verse shows the reality in Jesus-
    the actual unseen condition of His life as described in the four gospels (Eph
    4:21). Jesus wasn’t merely feeding the poor, helping the helpless, and healing
    the sick. To reduce the significance of His life and ministry to humanitarian
    terms is dangerous. He was a man living God.  The second half of John 6:57
    describes the reality of the Body of Christ. This also is not merely a life of
    moral superiority, virtue in the midst of depravity, or  outward good
    works. The church is not out to be the top social work group. To focus on that
    is to mistake the forest for the trees.

    Sure there are outward visible actions but they stem from our abiding in Christ (john 15:5), being found in Christ (Phil 3:9), and living Christ (Phil 1:21).

    • Ben Reed

      Yep, good stuff, Kyle. I like to try to live in the tension/balance of Matthew 22:36-40:

      “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”