Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Local Church as a Fire Station

A lighthouse, that shines out their light for ships to navigate by.

A hospital, where the sick may come to get well.

A home, where the "family" lives and grows together in harmony.

I've heard many analogies used before to describe the local church and it's function in the kingdom of God. On the one hand, they were accurate to the description of the local church's function they were trying to offer at the time; on the other hand, the analogies proved lacking because they offered a less complete picture of the church's role in the world. No analogy can truly cover every aspect of the local church's importance and function in God's plan of redemption for the world, but some analogies can be more accurate and comprehensive than others.

I believe seeing the local church as a fire station is a better analogy than others I have heard.

Consider the nature of a fire station in a community...

It's the gathering place where first responders (firefighter and EMT) collect together for training and for their efforts to be coordinated. As a natural byproduct of "congregating" together, they develop a sense of camaraderie. Spending so much time together with common training and purpose, having shared experiences and struggles will do that. At the station personnel are issued uniforms to show the community who they are and to enjoy common identity. They keep watch together, remaining alert for when the "call" sends them out to bring rescue (i.e. salvation) to those in peril.

At the station they all recognize they are under authority and are part of a dept, a crew, a team. They wouldn't think of going about their roles alone. After all, no one ever thinks they can just one day "decide" to be a firefighter or EMT, and then start riding around their town by themselves with a garden hose or medical kit in the trunk of their car. They recognize that they must enter into the dept, submit to its authority structures, assimilate into the culture and mission of the dept, then be authorized and "called" to ride out.

Each station has about four, five or six apparatus to convey the crew to the call. Fire departments know that better to have stations planted strategically throughout the town than one massive one in the center of town. This cuts down on response time to the emergency scene, and also enables each station to interact more directly with the community in which they're situated. NO one would ever consider having one huge mega-station downtown, with twenty-seven pumper engines and ladder trucks, thirty-two ambulances, five rescue vehicles and three large rehab RVs. That would be just silly, taking a "Walmart" approach to fire station planning. Such a silly idea would never be considered.

For all the personnel, the camaraderie, the sense of community, the training, the fellowship, the shared identity, the authority structure, the uniforms, apparatus and equipment all find their fulfillment when the alarm tone sounds and they are "called" out into the emergency. In the end, it's all about the surrounding community that they're going to ride out to the rescue. If they can't respond when the community calls, all the other things they enjoy are for naught. They find their fulfillment, for everything they do, in riding out to the call. Ask any firefighter and, if they're honest, they'll confess to you there's nothing like the adrenalin of riding on the engine with lights and sirens blaring.  There's a life INSIDE the station, to be sure; but it's completed by the calling OUTSIDE the station.

The duties outside the station need everything that happens inside the station in order for those responding to the call to do so with excellence and teamwork. The activity inside the station yearns for the calls outside the station for their training and existence to find fulfillment. Both need each other. No one joins a fire dept just to hang out at the station anymore than someone thinks to be a first responder without assimilating into the dept at the station.

The local church is so, So, SO much like a fire station. Hopefully the parallels have been obvious between the life of a Christian and that of firefighter/EMT. INSIDE the local church/"station," we gather and enjoy the Lord and each other, worshiping together and finding our meaning and shared identity in Christ, being nourished by the Sacraments and receiving instruction from the Word of God. OUTSIDE the local church/"station," we find fulfillment through obeying the Great Commission, participating in the Mission of God to "rescue" the lost and bring redemption to the world. Christians that don't leave church each week eager to share Christ and bless those outside are like dept members that never want to go on a call (if such dept members actually exists anywhere). People claiming to be "Christian" but shun the local church are like someone that wants to wear the dept uniform, but won't go down to the local station and apply.

GOSH! The parallels could go on and on! Every Christian is a missionary to the community in like manner that every dept member wants to go on calls. Every local church is a "station" for gathering in believers and equipping them to be sent out. The discussion could go on, but I must conclude this post. A book could easily ensue.

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