The following post is from Rich Havard, a student a McAfee School of Theology. Rich volunteers with Trey and Jen Lyon, CBF field personnel in Atlanta. You can read more about Trey and Jen’s ministry in this month’s edition of the fellowship! magazine. This blog concludes a week-long series on the Lyon’s ministry in Atlanta. Read part 1 here and part 2 here.
From college students and seminarians to Marcus Mumford and seasoned pastors, the refrain goes something like this, “The church is too messed up. It fights over things that don’t matter. It excludes my friends. It cares more about building bigger sanctuaries than the Kingdom of God. The church doesn’t look anything like Jesus.”
Many followers of Christ no longer wish to be part of the church. They want to quit going and quit investing. They’d be content with talking and tweeting and blogging about how bad the church is.
I’ll be the first to admit that the church has more than a few flaws. Her past and present reveal much damage done in the name of Christ. And, as a young minister, I ofter worry about the future of the church.
Experiences in a few different faith communities over the past several years, however, prove to me that the popular sentiments about the church don’t have to be true.
Park Avenue Baptist in Atlanta’s Grant Park neighborhood often reminds me that the church can be Christ’s presence on earth. It can stand for justice. It can love the unlovable. It can build communities with deep relationships. The church can look a lot like Jesus.
At Park Avenue…
I watch Chris, Randall, Matthew, Darius and a host of other teenage boys in our youth group strive to overcome huge life hurdles and become what society says they can’t. They refuse to be another statistic, and our faith community works with them to reach their goals.
I watch associate pastor Henra Chennault provide meals, coach basketball, give rides, lead Bible studies, and do much more for many middle-school and high-school boys in our neighborhood. God calls him to invest his life into these young men, and Henra listens.
I watch Jen and Trey Lyon, CBF field personnel, develop fresh ways of creating systemic change in our community and ministering with our neighbors. They long for Grant Park to look more like the Kingdom of God.
I watch Park Avenue’s entire diverse community gather each week to worship and grow together. We wrestle with our faith. We build deep relationships. We work to dismantle socio-economic and racial boundaries. We praise God, respond to the Spirit’s movement, and encourage one another to be more like Jesus. We do none of these things perfectly, but we’re trying to be faithful. At Park Avenue, I remember that the church can look a lot like Jesus.
May we, young Fellow Baptists truly believe that the church can look a lot like Jesus. May we quit backing away from the church and dive deeper. May we stop complaining and start creating. May we let go of pessimism and hold onto hope.
Bravo for Park Avenue Baptist. I’ve had the honor of being a part of two congregations in the past few years that look a lot like Jesus – Lake Shore Baptist in Waco, Texas and Royal Lane Baptist in Dallas, Texas. I couldn’t agree more. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and go about the business of being Christ to each other and to those outside the doors of our churches. It’s time to stop excluding and get about the business of including.