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OTHER VOICES: John Mark Hicks

Some voices stir us to action. Some voices soothe us and comfort us. Other voices provoke us to think – and for some, this really does provoke them. One of the traits of the false prophets in Israel was that they said, “Peace! Peace!” – when there was no peace. The people preferred to hear that message than to confront how they had disappointed God and moved away from him.

John Mark Hicks is a man who provokes us to think. He takes familiar subjects and makes us look at them with fresh eyes. Three of his books deal with the Lord’s Supper, with Baptism, and with the Church. All are familiar subjects. Yet, he provokes us to think about what the Scripture really says about them. Granted, to some this is anathama. But before you dismiss what he says, you need to do two things: (1) understand what he is saying and (2) compare it carefully with the Scripture.

What he says is rooted in the Word of God. What he does with all of these subjects is to lead us deeper into them than we like to go. We do not like to go that deep because it challenges us to become real in our service to God instead of just going through the right motions.

Here is a sample of his blog. Read it and be challenged by it. You can see it here. His website is johnmarkhicks.wordpress.com/

The Church Has Left the Building

I like the idea.  It is a wonderful point to emphasize.

The church must not see itself as bounded by or confided by the four walls of its building. We have always known that the church is not the building but somehow we have tended to think or at least act as though the Sunday morning assembly is the center of Christian faith and practice.

While I think the assembly has tremendous sacramental importance and is transformative (as Gathered People seeks to demonstrate), it is just as important (perhaps more important given the traditions that have encrusted the assembly) to emphasize the significance of “leaving the building.” Spirituality is lived out 24/7 rather than one or two hours a week.

But I think there is a deeper problem here.  In fact, the church leaves the building every Sunday. They don’t stay inside–they go home as families, they go to work, they go play. The church is on the go. The church has already left the building.

The problem is, it seems to me, that when the church leaves the bulding we have a tendency to compartmentalize our lives. When the church leaves the building, we leave “church” behind in the building. We go to “work” and our careers become an insulated dimension often devoid of spirituality.  We go to “play” and our recreation becomes an isolated reality disconnected from our spirituality.  We go “home” and our families become a separate entity detached from “church.”

But we are still “church” even when we are with our families, at work or at play.  And, I think, we are often “being church” in those contexts except we sometimes don’t have a sufficient understanding of “spirituality” or “practicing the kingdom of God” to appreciate how deeply connected we already are to those environs as church.

For example, most Christians are invovled in kingdom-building in their careers and they perhaps don’t even realize it. Teachers in the public schools (not just “Christian” schools) are doing the  kingdom work of equipping young people for productive future lives; health-care workers are doing the kingdom work of healing and caregiving; lawyers (we hope) are doing the kingdom work of justice; etc., etc., etc.

This is where we need a deeper theology of vocation.  Our identity is that we are the image of God and our vocation is to participate in the mission of God. Our careers should express our vocation; our “work” life serves the kingdom of God, the mission of God. Can we identify how our career–our jobs–participate in the mission of God? When we do, we are partly on our way to recognizing, at least in part, how the church has already left the building as church.

Yes, let us emphasize the fact that the church must leave the building. Let us challenge and call “church-goers” to also be the church in every aspect of their lives.  At the same time, let us recognize that many are actually being the church in their work, famlies and recreation as they “practice the kingdom of God” in every aspect of their lives.

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