There is a great scene in one of my favorite movies, The Three Amigos, where the heroes are riding on horses across a parched desert. The three movie-star turned defenders of justice stop in the blazing sun in order to find refreshment from their supplies. Dying of thirst, Lucky Day (Steve Martin) takes out his water bottle, tilts it back, and starts to cry as only a small drop of water slowly falls into his mouth. Ned Nederlander (Martin Short) takes out his water bottle next. But when Ned tilts back, a clump of sand pours out of his bottle and fills his mouth. Dejected and weak, both Lucky and Ned turn to Dusty Bottoms (Chevy Chase). As his desperate friends look on, Dusty takes out his bottle and gulps an abundance of cold refreshing water, spilling much of it out of the side of his mouth in the process. When he’s done, he tosses the bottle over his shoulder. The rest of the water in the bottle, certainly enough to have quenched the thirst of both of his friends, spreads out, wasted, on the cracked dry ground. Adding insult to his insensitivity, Dusty blissfully takes out some balm and tabs it on his lips with the tip of his pinky finger.
That scene does not help us define church, except to tell us what it is not! Church is not individualistic, it is not inconsiderate; it is not irrelevant; it is not inefficient; and it is not insufficient.
My current working definition of church is a community that practices life to the fullest by following Jesus and sharing him with others. Unpacking this statement means:
- A COMMUNITY- I am not alone and neither are you. God is with us. And we are with us.
- THAT PRACTICES LIFE… We take the time to live every day. We are missional, not complacent in acting out the life that God intends for us.
- TO THE FULLEST… The life God intends for us is not an empty or shallow experience. The God-life is an abundant life.
- BY FOLLOWING JESUS… This is the key. Being a Jesus Follower. We are to be who he says, go where he is, and do what he does. There is no other way to truly find community or to truly practice life or to discover life’s fullness.
- AND SHARING HIM WITH OTHERS… We do not own our relationship with Jesus. Jesus is not ours to keep. He keeps us, yes! But we give our relationship with Jesus away. Freely. Continually. Unsparingly. Our relationship with Jesus is an unending wellspring whereby others are to be refreshed.
Jesus focused and Jesus led, the church reveals Jesus to neighbors through the way it cares and loves and speaks and acts with others. The church is Jesus’ hands and feet on this earth.