• Dawn Lynn Mann

What Does A Real Living Church Look Like?

Updated: Aug 19


I dream of a place where everyone will be welcomed. A time when others will feel they can come home and run to the Father’s arms, no matter what they’ve done or how they feel. A community where belonging is priority and having uninhibited conversations is done under the safety of the love of Christ. No religion, but a place built on love and having a relationship with God and others. Truth is spoken but communicated with love and grace. God’s lovingkindness built on relationships is what draws others in. In this community there will be no fear in revealing your sexual identity or struggles with addictions. This church will aim to change, even if declining membership is the cost. The church I dream of will offer spiritual and therapeutic help. They will be ready for the challenge as a clinic that has radical compassion that only comes from a relationship with Christ.


In Christ there is no condemnation. It’s time to get real with ourselves and ask why Jesus came to live and die for us. He didn’t come to condemn the world, but to save it through Him. Jesus didn’t come for the righteous, but for those who are sick, lost, hurting, broken, the sinners, the outcast, all in need of a Savior. These are the same who Jesus chose as His original 12 disciples and said, “come follow Me.”


I dream of a place where all can be free. Nothing hidden or kept secret with the worries of what others will think. This community will focus on what Jesus thinks, instead of society. Today, even in a church, where it’s meant to be safe to bare our burdens, heart, and soul, there is a deafening silence out of fear and shame. In the church I dream of, nothing will block our fellowship time. You won’t find religious or critical spirits, instead we will be recklessly depending on Him. I thank the Lord for His steadfast love that is everlasting where nothing can ever separate His love. We are building a life upon Christ’s love.


God’s love woo’s us into a relationship with Him, no matter how far off the path we’ve gone. He calls us, but we have free will to follow Him. He does allow us to fall and cry out for help.


I remember where I finally stopped and heard the Lord; arrested with a DUI and sent to jail. I felt all alone, scared and suicidal. I cried out to Him and He sent me someone who went through the same experience and poured His love into me. He showed me I wasn’t alone. If their story would’ve been hidden, I’m not sure my story would’ve had a happy ending. Their story gave me hope and saved my physical life. Once a former addict, victim of abuse, and someone who identified as a gay woman, am now an overcomer in Christ. God not only changed my trajectory on this earth, but also my heart. His redeeming power of love took hold of my heart and now I live for Him daily with a desire to do His will.


Back to the church I envision, it won’t be about what scriptures verses they need to read, but more about having an encounter with God, like I did. I want Jesus to become real so that they will want to pursue Him and then the change will be from the inside out. Once we give our lives to Jesus no one should ever stay the same.


The church today needs to prepare their heart for a deeply rich encounter of God’s love that is filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit changes everything. This full experience with the presence of God is beautiful, glorious, and also can be frightening with His Spirit pouring out. He is the only one who can satisfy the longing of our souls and be forever satisfied in eternal life. If you are looking to build a ministry where those who are hurting will feel welcome, not judged and find healing, you need to start with a foundation that is built on Jesus’s compassion, and love with an element of authentic relationships at its core.


Remember the woman at the well. A Samaritan that others did not associate with because of her adulterous ways and many husbands? Jesus, though He already knew everything she ever did, intentionally walked through Samaria so that He could have an encounter with her. Because of that exchange, she believed and so did many others. They came to know that this man, Jesus really was the Savior of the world. Jesus died on that cross so that we no longer needed to feel unworthy, ostracized, or be treated as outcasts. He welcomed all, no matter their sin or past, with an open invitation and purchased our freedom through His blood, which makes us sons and daughters of the Most High King.


Once a follower of Christ we are to be set apart from the world and not blend in with the culture and the modern church which has taken over society. Think about what kind of people Jesus drew in: the poor, those people of lower class, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, those labeled unworthy by the religious powers, the sick and untouchable, drunkards, prisoners, the sinners. The list goes on, but those people, who I once was and relate to, is a stark contrast to the religious leaders.

Being a leader in God’s world is not about popularity and the praise of others. It is about leaving the shore of comfort and go against the cultural wave of this present world. It is doing what you know is right in your heart and is pleasing and honoring to God. Jesus has radical compassion and love as the Great Shepard for His lost sheep, helpless, harassed, without hope, and in great need. The Shepard’s heart was missing in those religious leaders who ought to have been taking care of the flock, which Jesus purchased with His own blood. Jesus seeks them out and will not lose one of them. The church is a place where the lost, broken, and lonely find love, hope, healing, forgiveness, and freedom.


God’s real love needs to shine brighter in our hearts than what the world thinks love looks like. A call for others to see what is different about the people in this church. Jesus calls us to follow Him as disciples who make other disciples and be radically committed to His unconventional ways. We need to meet people where they are and attract them with what satisfies their appetite; a place to belong. The gay community is resilient because of their strong bond of family, even though some are hidden in fear.


We, as Christians need to bind together in the unity of Spirit with faith expressed in love as a response that Christ first loved us. Everyone wants to be loved and feel like they belong. To love those who we traditionally keep at an arm’s length will take a new level of grace that will be messy, but necessary. We need to be part of the church that is building a bridge that stands on love and truth. Some will be resistant, so you take the church, which we are, wherever they are. It may be outside of a bar, there is still a way to present the gospel that reflects God’s heart so that they will want to come and hear more about the good news of His love and forgiveness.


Remember though, it is not about your church, denomination, or worship style, but about loving God and others. It is also laying yourself aside for the sake of Christ and reaching those who are hurting from the pain of sexual brokenness or suffering in addictions. Jesus wants every person to get their directions, right motives, and love from God. Jesus’ command in the Great Commission is to go make disciples with teaching people to follow and obey Him. This is enabled through receiving the power of the Holy Spirit as a living witness. The Great Commission is fulfilled, not out of the heart of a religious leader, but out of love that comes from the heart of the Good Shepard. To accomplish this, we must love others deeply by living our lives in view of eternity.

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