When my friend Chong began reflecting on what an ideal church would look like, he took inspiration from Disability Concerns tagline: Everybody belongs; everybody serves. In addition, he added three more marks of an ideal church: everybody discerns; everybody leads; everybody witnesses. It's a beautiful vision. Here are excerpts:
"This does not mean that everybody gets what they want. It’s not a pandering to all whims and fancy to make everyone feel happy and comfortable. I don’t think making people happy and comfortable is the goal or aim of God’s church. I believe God’s community is about transformation of both the members and of the world outside the community. Such transformations would almost certainly require going – literally and metaphorically – into uncomfortable zones and would require change, sometimes painfully so. Rather, to me, belonging is fundamentally about being able to receive from and to contribute to the community in equitable ways – not identical ways – as anyone else in the community."
"This is an extension of the concept of belonging. Everyone, again that means everyone, not just those who are qualified, or those who are official members, or those who are old enough, or those of a particular gender, or ethnicity, or ability – everyone is encouraged to find a way to serve through their passions and their gifts. And this encouragement will almost inevitably require the space for experimentation. A person might have to try out different forms of service before landing on one that fits well with one’s passions and gifts." Chong also tells a delightful story of the inclusion of his young daughter who has Down syndrome in a church's worship band.
"The Scriptures gives us a map of reality, of our ethical and spiritual reality as human beings, and we need to discern the best way to navigate, with the aid of this map, our messy world and lives. But this discernment should not be done alone but the aid of a community – other friends, at least – we can find the best paths to travel together."
"As a corollary of everybody serves, everybody also is allowed to lead. Leadership, to me, is one form of service to the community. The leader is also a servant of the community, and seeks the community’s good, not one’s own. Again, as with service, everyone leads at their own ability and ways."
"Finally, this marks my ideal church as a missional church. It is not a church that simply looks after itself – in fact, it is already implied earlier above that service includes not only service within the community but also service to those outside the community. The community does not exist for its own sake, it exists for the sake of the world, for this is God’s mission – to reconcile and redeem all things – and hence, the church’s mission." (Excerpted from Five Marks of an Ideal Church by Shaio Chong.)
What are marks of your ideal church?