orangepipsOver the next few months (and years) it is my hope that our church here in Twerton will learn to ‘be church’ in a completely new way. Instead of organising ourselves around our services and programmes we want to see what happens when we see ourselves primarily as people engaged on a mission.

A few weeks ago now I was reflecting about church and had an image in my mind of an orange. All my life I have been involved in church life trying to make it as juicy as possible – helping to make the worship relevant or contemporary, being involved in social programs, modernising our buildings, updating our use of technology, learning about leading services and preaching, trying to run vibrant house groups. It has been a good journey and I know that God has blessed many of our efforts and ideas. At times we have felt inspired.

The aim of all this commitment and endeavour has been to help make the inside of the orange (the church) as juicy as possible, as attractive as possible, as meaningful as possible and our hope has been that in doing so we would attract more people to join us on the inside of the orange, form a living relationship with God/Jesus and join church. We have prayed about this, sung about this and worked for this with all our effort.

All this has placed me right at the centre of the orange (the church) and I have been ordained as one of it’s ‘ministers’ or ‘priests’ and now, with responsibility for my own ‘church’ I have set about trying to make this particular orange as juicy as it can be here in Twerton.

This has been good and important. And not wanting to devalue any of this effort, or anyone else’s commitment, I now believe that God is wanting us to completely rethink what it means to be the church.

For years ‘church’ has been a building, a service, a program provider or an institution. From here on we need to see it as a people on a mission. For years ‘church’ has been something we went to, attended or helped to make. From now on we need to see it as something we belong to and participate in. The change is from seeing church as a club to seeing it as a team. Just as a football club is something people organise, watch, contribute to and maintain and a football team is something you belong to and participate in, we need to see church as a team where everyone is involved in working towards a goal.

What we need to do is turn this orange inside out. For years the juice has been kept and maintained on the inside of our church buildings, our church services and our church programs. From now on we need to open up the orange and get the juice on the outside – into people’s lives, our workplaces and our neighbourhoods.

This is a completely new way of seeing church and will require us to give up our old ideas and practices and systems. ‘Minister’ will no longer be a title given to just one or two but instead owned by everyone. ‘Disciple’ will no longer be something the super keen sign up for but will be the normal Christian life. ‘Worship’ will no longer be something we go to for an hour but a life lived in adoration to God and in response to his love. ‘Mission’ will no longer be something cringey that only the bravest and craziest of us do but the very foundation of our community life together.

And it is to this mission that we will begin to invite others to join us in. It is to this life that we will now invite people to commit to. It is to this ‘order’ that we will invite people to shape their life around. Instead of asking people to come to church we will be asking if they want to participate in the life we are living, centred on Jesus, focused on blessing our neighbourhood, and oriented around seeing the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.

It is time to get the juice out, to step outside our church buildings and structures and services and to give ourselves away to people in need around us. And by our love for one another, for our neighbours and for our God perhaps at last many will again know us to be ‘Jesus’ disciples’ rather than just people ‘who go to church’.

Undoubtedly it will mean a few of the things we currently cherish will fall away or be less highly prioritised. So be it. May God help us as we start to peel away the orange skin and open ourselves to the reality of people’s life, letting go of our desire to be a church on that meets together and becoming a church that meets the needs of others.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for there is the kingdom of heaven.