The Church You've Always Wanted is a wonderful book. It paints a hopeful picture of a church where disciples of Jesus grow in spiritual strength and maturity through life-giving relationships with God and the Body of Christ represented by the church. In such a safe pasture, we find rest, fulfillment in ministry, overwhelming joy in the love of Jesus and confidence in entrusting your spiritual life to those who minister in this type of church.
How do we find a safe pasture? Part One of this Book explains that we need to search for a church that focuses on the basics of being children of God - to worship, pray and care for one another. The church must draw its essence from the righteousness and holiness of God and reflect God's glory. The church should attempt to meet the real needs of its people - not simply felt or perceived needs. Wagner identifies our ultimate real need: to know and honor God and obey him by bearing spiritual fruit. When this need is met, the church becomes a haven of safety and significance - a safe pasture.
What happens in safe pasture? Wagner writes in Part Two that a safe pasture helps its lambs to rest and be renewed and energized, and creates a pervading sense of joy among its flock. It helps those who are bloodied and battered by life. Compassion, gentleness, kindness, humility and patience are the earmarks of this flock. The church takes seriously God's instructions for us to love one another. It also helps people step out of the shadows and into the life of the church. The focus is more than merely sin management. Its goal is a deeper, more fulfilling relationship with God that brings about a transformed heart. The ultimate purpose of it all is to cultivate a humble dependency on God. Such a safe pasture cannot help but irresistibly attract wandering sheep. As we love one another and display the work of God in our lives, outsiders will want to join.
Finally, the Book describes how to create safe pasture. The church must have a God-centered emphasis of getting closer to Him and others in the Body of Christ. It also must focus on the real Jesus - the One who suffered and endured the cross for each of us. The church as a whole should take up the Cross and walk with Jesus. Safe pasture captures all of life, including the difficult and painful. It also celebrates God in authentic worship and helps us make deep connections with God and His people. It further leads people to maturity in Christ.
Who wants safe pasture? Need help finding it? Read Wagner's Book and start your journey.