Believing in Church

I’m not sure that I do, anymore.

Oh, I still believe in God and His Son Jesus and their Holy Spirit.

And I believe that our Savior died and lived again and sent His Spirit to establish a church — a gathering of people dedicated to living a life that echoes His, does good in the world, ministers to others, lives in constant prayer and worship and service to Him and the Father through Him and by the power of that Spirit.

What I’m uncertain that I believe in is the church as it is.

Riddled with division.

Torn by power struggles.

Wounded by selfishness.

Weakened by faithlessness.

Prostituted to worldly enterprises and politics.

Unprincipled, powerless, poor, sick and dying.

And totally unable to see itself in this condition.

How can a church repent when she cannot see herself in need? How can she return to the husband of her youth when she cannot leave behind her paramours in business and government? How can she be one bride when her personality has been shattered across denominations and conferences and names and opinions and creeds and committees and factions and races?

So many times she lives in grandiose luxury cathedrals in the middle of neighborhoods plagued by poverty and squalor — and does nothing.

Would her Champion do nothing?

Too often her spokespersons preach gospels of wealth and acquisition and greed through code words like “blessing” and “favor” and “grace.”

Would her King show such favoritism?

Constantly the cries of her scattered consciousness of “I am the one true church” fall on deaf ears and her (frequently) self-serving “good” works are unseen by eyes turned away by her hypocrisy.

Would her Lord be so duplicitous?

Yet she squanders her resources to grow and “reach the lost” with bigger and better and more; with programs and ministries and Sunday shows; with worship bands and laser lighting and smoke machines and big-screen visuals; with campaigns and revivals and marches and protests.

Is that how her Christ won the hearts of people seeking a better life?

Only Matthew’s gospel quotes Him as mentioning the church, and only three times. And all three times, it’s in the context of how faith affects action.

Do the spokespersons for His bride teach this anymore?

Because that’s pretty much all He taught. How He lived. How He died. How He lived again.

He believed He could live a life that served others and therefore pleased His Father, and death could not stop Him.

He believed that the faith of Peter would survive His death, and death could not stop the church that would be founded on such faith. (Matthew 16:18)

He believed that faith acting in love was the way that people in His church could successfully deal with problems among themselves. (Matthew 18:15)

He believed that even if that initially failed, that those whose intransigence separated them from that church could still be drawn back to it by love and faith. (Matthew 18:17)

What you believe affects the way you act toward others.

In spite of our fallibility and failure and selfishness, it is possible to live that kind of life and be a part of that community of faith and love.

He is actually not quoted as saying anything about meeting together or when or how often or what is required when that happens or who is allowed to lead or read or speak. I think He assumed it would happen as people drawn together by love and faith.

So He made a dying request, as He asked His closest friends to remember Him at the table of His bread and wine: Be one. Even as He and the Father are One. Love each other to the point you would lay down your lives for each other.

Then He went to the cross and laid down His life for them, for us, for all. He went to the tomb and laid to rest His mortality and all the wrongs and injustices that could ever be done. He went to His Father’s side to prepare a place for those who wanted to live in love forever.

And He must look at us and wonder how His shattered, scattered, schizoid bride could live with herself together in one place.

Surely He still weeps.

That’s what I’m having trouble believing in. What it’s difficult for me to remain a part of.

Because I see friends and others largely living the kind of life that loves and serves others, though they have either no real knowledge of Him, or judge Him by His bride, or simply feel they have no need for ritual or creed or the kind of exclusion they have felt because they are not part of the fellowship.

Does the One who died to save all draw the line that excludes them?

Does He not know how they’ve been treated; seen how His bride has treated others — judging and belittling and mocking and rejecting them, all the while proclaiming their “love” for them?

I can’t help but think that’s not the kind of life He bought for her with His very own.

I haven’t really been to church in a while. I miss it. I miss the fellowship, the breaking of bread, the instruction, the prayers. I miss the songs that should flow from all grateful hearts. I know I’m not perfect; that none of us is perfect; that we could all be better.

But I just feel there’s got to be something more. More than one holy day per week. More than one hour of worship while gathered. More than one voice teaching or preaching or praying or reading. More than opinions that divide rather than love and grace and humility and faith which unites.

I still, perhaps foolishly, believe that the church can be one.

She can find her path, her love, her mission for others; herself.

But that journey is long, and difficult.

And I’m not at all sure that’s the direction she’s going.

One thought on “Believing in Church

  1. Small group of maybe a dozen likeminded people. No money. No titles. No paid clergy. No service by guilt. No expensive buildings. No massive organizations. Just be the Church to each other and to other people you run into. The big edifice and huge crowd model does not work. Bust it up and let’s get moving again.

    I’m also convinced the most needed ministry today is to set up a card table in a public space with a sign that reads, “I will listen to your story, and after 15 minutes, we will pray to God together about what He will do about it.” Christians will change the world if we do this. I am fully convinced.

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