Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Church

I have often questioned the purpose of church membership. Is it biblical? Is it necessary? Having been a part of a good number of failing--and often brutal--church situations in the course of my young life, I have grown quite skeptical of the institution that is supposed to unify the Bride of Christ. I have always thought it looked more like a custody battle than a functioning marriage. Why would I want to be a part of something like that? Why would I make myself accountable to an entity that I feel has it less together than I do? I mean, at least I know I am messed up! For that purpose I have never willingly joined a church until this past summer. Apart from the fact that I could not allow my parents to join before me the church they had been going to for a matter of months and I for 4 years, it had simply taken me that long to sit back and make some needed observations before I took the step of membership:

1) There are no perfect churches. I hated that statement for ever so long because I knew that deep down. But it took time for me to realize that the church is made up of people--fallible, opinionated, often undependable people. And to think that God realized that when He made the church His primary means for the propagation of the gospel! I had to see and experience that for myself. To watch those in leadership wrestle with what is good, true, and right, making tough decisions and only occasionally seeing the fruit of well invested endeavors. People are messy. The church is made up of people. The church is messy.

2) Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously. While the charge given to believers before Christ's ascension back to Heaven is one that is to be taken with no little amount of trepidation and a great deal of diligence, it is at the same time not a charge that carries with it 14 points that are the letter of the law. The simplicity of Christ's last words often baffle us into an unneeded attempt to clarify and adhere strictly and literally. Just as the dying wish of a loved one or the parting words of a far away friend leave us eager and willing to jump to the task they request as a sign of your resolute dedication and love, we are often over eager to get to the task of the Christ's charge before we look at the purpose of it. Christ simply wanted us to work out our faith in the ordinary affairs of life, being deliberate to apply the gospel to every area, from washing dishes to counseling friends, from planting gardens to writing books, raising children to preaching sermons. Though it is a seeming paradox, we are to constantly be living in light of the fact that "to whom much is given much is required", and yet not to so overannalyze that fact that we are so heavenly minded we do the earth absolutely no good, thus taking ourselves too seriously. Be yourself in light of who you are in Christ.

3) The church is the only perpetually defeated thing that has always survived its conquerors. Despite the problems, despite the people, despite the continual onslaught from within and without, the church is still the church. So basically it really does not matter what I think about church membership or what I think about the role the church is to play in God's plan for the gospel, because the church has out lived the expectations of those who have gone before, it will out live my own expectations, and will continue on past those who come after. Obviously God is so all-fire determined to work with people, despite how I feel to the contrary. Stop trying to psycho-analyze the problems of "them" and take a look at those within.

The past few years I have heard repeatedly the statement "the church is God's plan A and there is no plan B". While I still find myself on occasion responding with a non-verbal "prove it", I think that I am a lot closer to understanding why. Unfortunately I am not called to be an island unto myself in my little ivory tower, however much I would wish otherwise, nor is anyone else called to that. God has left us on earth to fulfill that last wish: to do all things in His Name, including working with imperfect people. Because if that can happen, however inharmoniously at times, there is really no stopping that perpetually defeated thing, that limp-along institution known effectually as the church.

1 comment:

bonnie said...

YOu sound like Donald Miller in Blue Like Jazz! We, too, are wrestling with the same dilemna! ANd the same conclusions! Good writing!

Bonnie