Three Metaphors for a Missional Church, Part 3: Terminal
Our God is a blessing God. In fact, the first action that God did after creating human beings was to bless them (Gen 1:28). That should say something about the nature of our God! Consistently, Christians experience the various blessings of God, such as salvation in Christ, a loving family in his church, and physical provisions. A critical question that Christians (especially in North America) should ask as they notice the multiple blessings of God in their life is why? Why has God blessed me? Why has he blessed the congregation that I attend? Is it because I have been particularly righteous? Is it because our church has been faithful? Or is it for another reason?
In Gen 12, God promises to Abraham that he will bless him. The most concentrated use of the word “blessing” in the Old Testament is found in Gen 12:1-3. God promises to bless Abraham with land, a people, a great name, and a special relationship. But why? Is there something special about Abraham? Is he especially righteous and faithful and so God rewards him? Certainly he was a man of great faith, but he had his foibles as well. Why does God choose to bless Abraham? The answer is found at the end of verse 3: God blesses Abraham so that through him all the peoples on earth will be blessed. Abraham was not simply the destination of God’s blessing, but he was to connect the blessing of God to the rest of world.
The church exists for the same reason. As God pours out his blessings to his beloved people, certainly a key part of that is because God loves his people and wants to bless them. But there is another reason: God desires for us to connect the blessing of God to the rest of the world. As Reggie McNeal points out in his book Missional Renaissance the church is to be like an airport terminal.
Airport terminals are not destinations. No one stays in an airport overnight, if they can help it. The seats are hard, the lights don’t go off, and the Public Service Announcements keep repeating. The reason for this is that this is not what airports were designed for. Airports are not vacation destinations. They connect us to the destination. The church is not designed to simply be the destination of God’s blessing but to connect God’s blessing to the rest of the world.
This really is a dramatic paradigm shift. Most of the time, churches assume that whatever spiritual or physical blessings they accumulate, they are meant for themselves. So most of the buildings, vehicles, and salaries are spent on resources that primarily bless ourselves. But is this simply a case of trapping blessings in the terminal? Shouldn’t the church be passing on blessings to the rest of the world? Most of our church bulletins and announcements are filled with ways that we are blessing one another. If we are faithful to Gen 12, shouldn’t the church also be celebrating ways in which we are blessing the world?
The problem with this perspective is it causes us to put self below others. That is not easy. This realization hit home with me a few years ago when our church had just renovated our fellowship hall. There were new ceiling tiles, carpet on the walls, and a refurbished floor. That summer, we started a ministry that allowed neighborhood children to come and eat free lunch. We had around 25-30 children and their parents filling our fellowship hall, eating and playing. As they played, they got a little rowdy. Balls were bouncing high, threatening those new ceiling tiles. There was a part of me that wanted to tell the children, “Stop! Don’t you realize that this fellowship hall just got remodeled? Don’t mess it up!” But then I caught myself. What was the purpose of redoing our fellowship hall? Was it just for us? Or was it for the neighborhood as well? I should have been thanking God that neighborhood children were experiencing the blessings we have received too. After all, that is what a missional church is: a terminal that brings the blessings of God to rest of the world.