Yesterday my friend Jeff Cherry gave some insights regarding celebrity pastors. It was an intriguing article as many, including myself, have various opinions surrounding these idols of Christian culture. (I say idols in a non-worshipping sense.) As I read Jeff’s words regarding the men and women who are placed on pedestals and how often we elevate their teaching I remembered how beautiful the local church is.
Celebrity pastors and mega-churches can be wonderful tools that God uses for his glory and his kingdom. This is a fairly obvious assertion looking at the numbers of people who come to faith because of the ministries of these organizations and individuals. They serve a purpose. When I look to learn from people in ministry it is often these individuals that I gain insight from; they serve as an ideal of a particular form of ministry. But we should not neglect to look at the beauty of the local church.
As I write this I smile because of how much I love the local church. What a beautiful mess the local church is. Groups of people who come together to bring honor and glory to God and who strive to be the church in their local context. If mega-churches and celebrity pastors are the Broadway of church ministry and production then the local church is the school play. I don’t say this as an insult but as a complement.
I love going to see shows with my wife at the 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle. There is something breathtaking about being in that room with its beautiful architecture and intricate detail. The performances are perfection. It is a unique experience that I enjoy much like when I have the opportunity to visit some of the larger mega-churches around and/or am at an event where an especially gifted communicator shares a message. On the other end I love watching school plays with children. The simplicity of the decor, the eager and excited parents with camcorders waiting to catch their child’s debut, the unpolished and often erratic performances of children who are deathly nervous. The school play is an all around different experience equally unique and equally important. In the local church we may not find the most polished speakers, developed programming, or all-out production but we find the purity of a school play. People eager to be a part of something bigger than themselves, bigger than they even understand. A community of broken, messy people who make mistakes but are willing to risk everything to be a part of a ministry in their community.
There is beauty in the mistakes. My favorite part of ministry is when I get to see one of my students step up to lead in an area new and somewhat foreign to them. A student who is playing in the adult worship services for the first time. If they miss a note what does it matter they are being utilized and serving their church. That is beautiful! Or the youth leader who is given the opportunity to speak in front of teens for the first time: their voice quivers, they message is a little choppy, and they speak fast but the point remains the same. There is beauty in the local church.
Much like the school play the local church shows the beauty of growing, developing, and in some ways unaware people who are given an opportunity to serve God.