Is your congregation Vibrant? What would be some of the marks of a Vibrant Congregation?
Certainly it is a community of Jesus that lives out of God’s love and desire for us and our desire for God’s glory. Certainly it is a community of Jesus that lives as a community, the body of Christ pushing aside the hyper-individualism of our day. Certainly it is a community that is shaped by a primary allegiance to the kingdom of God.
But what does it look like to do life? What are the day to day patterns of this community? What are the priorities of this community?
Reflecting on the priorities of this community brings us to a rich and wonderful biblical word “shalom”.
- Shalom is often translated as ‘peace’, but it is deeper than that.
- Shalom is about having a restored relationship with our Creator, human flourishing, being at peace with ourselves, a flourishing creation, and justice.
- Shalom speaks to relational wholeness in families, between genders, and between ethnic groups.
- Shalom speaks of healing the rift between nations and beating our swords into plowshares.
- Shalom is about leaders and nations that end oppression and the lift up the poor.
And shalom is unmistakably beautiful.
(Thanks to Eric Jacobsen and Lisa Sharon Harper and their writings for elements of this definition.)
When a church lives out the good news of Jesus and his shalom they discover life as a vibrant congregation. When the church lives for Jesus and his shalom we rejoice the city (see Proverbs 11.10) and people are drawn to God. We see this reflected in one the most power evangelistic moments in the church: Acts 2. This was a community of shalom and people were drawn to God and to the community so that the Lord added daily to their number those who were being saved.
One of the most powerful ways we reach people in our world both as a community of Jesus and as we live our lives in every sphere of the world is by being people of shalom. This reality reminds me of words from the book Selling out the Church and the church’s fear of being “strange.” We read,
“...the real problem is not with the strangeness of the church; people show themselves willing to wrestle with strangeness all of the time. The real problem is that unbelievers have so few reasons to endure the church’s strangeness. People are usually led to endure their first uncomfortable trips to the opera or hockey game because they know people who can’t imagine what their lives would be like without them. They go to see what all the fuss is about. But for the average unbeliever in this country, there is no fuss to wonder about. They live, work and play alongside Christians everyday and see virtually no difference that any of it makes. So why endure strangeness when it is so obvious that none of it makes the least bit of difference to how people live... Since the church so rarely lives differently from the world...it is hard to justify designing worship services, for instance, that seem strange to unbelievers when nothing we do the rest of the week seems the least bit strange to them.” (Selling out the Church)
But if we truly live out being a good new community of Jesus and his shalom then people will put up with the strangeness to see “what all the fuss is about.”
When you look at your congregation, what’s one piece of God’s vision of shalom that you could pursue to become an even greater vibrant congregation?
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