Published on Fuller Seminary’s Burner Blog for Pastors and Leaders.
Read the Article here
by Marcus J. Carlson
A Parable for the Church
The other day I found myself reflection on the Parable of the house built on sand found in Matthew 7:24-27. I have thought about and reflected on this parable many times over the years, but something struck me this time that I have missed in the past. I have focused on this story Jesus tells on an individual level, mainly my own faith and the faith of others. I have at times thought about it in relation to my marriage and family, but mostly in relationship to hearing the words of Jesus and obeying them in my own life.
Last week as I was thinking about this parable, I found myself thinking about the church today, particularly in the United States. I have recently transitioned to a new church and into the lead pastor role for the first time. This has created additional reflection for me, which has been good but at times overwhelming. I tend to naturally reflect on the big picture challenges and opportunities the church is facing today and then reflect on them in my own context. Sometimes this happens in the reverse order. I think so many churches today are suffering from an identity crisis. It is not clear what our churches are built on in many cases. It could be tradition, denomination, comfort, attraction, habit, entertainment and much more. The irony is that while we criticize culture for its lack of focus on God, I think the church has also lost focus to the point where if we are honest with ourselves, many of our churches are built on sand and no longer the rock.
In our quest for relevance, comfort or growth and in the midst of our fear of change, death, and loss, I think it has become easy for the church to look at the waves instead of the rock. If I am honest, as much as I like to say that the churches I have worked for and lead have focused on Jesus, it has been more lip service than it has a reality. One church was built on attraction, another on buildings, another on the staff’s personality, another on a fear of conflict, yet another on a fear of dying, one based on comfort and counseling and the list goes on. I am guilty of losing sight of what matters in my own life, family and church. We are often so busy responding to what is happening in and around our churches that we do not even notice how the loss of focus has become a foundation of sand. The challenge I have been wrestling relates to shifting the church from sand back to the rock. Change is hard and so often our habits dictate our ministry instead of our call. It is hard not to react to what happens inside of our churches and in the culture that surrounds us, but in the end, I think it may all be wind and waves.