I have a running joke that goes around in my head that I might as well have been born on the front pew of my home church. I wasn’t, of course, but as a child born into a pastor’s family, it seemed like a likely scenario. Church became home. It was all I really knew for many years. Our entire lives surrounded the overall entity we called church. Marrying a pastor only added to the on-going relationship I had with the church so when I speak, let’s just say–I speak church well.
While the definition of the church in its purest form would be the body of Christ …those who have accepted God’s grace and have chosen to love and follow Jesus Christ, my personal familiarity with the church is mainly in my own home-land of America. In case this becomes a series in long line of confessions …I preface this post with that in mind.
My heart is grieving deeply for the body of Christ — the Church. As the radiant Bride of Christ, the glow seems to be fading. While sitting in a church setting years ago, it was almost as if I sensed the face of the Bridegroom–Jesus–hovering in the back upper corner of the auditorium grieving over His followers — the Church. He longed to be ushered in as the Loving Father and Gentle Shepherd but the atmosphere was unwelcoming to His love and grace.
I’ve reflected a lot on the gatherings of the Church lately. And since our own little church is going through some deep soul searching of who we are and where do we go from here, I thought I’d get a head start on the process.
What’s the purpose? Who’s in charge? Is Jesus welcome? Is the Holy Spirit’s voice recognizable? How do we make decisions on the direction of the church?
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Church — the Body of Christ. These people are my brothers and sisters …my family. But in my many years of observing and participating in church, I’ve just started wondering …and with that wondering, my confessions began to flow.
Have many of the established churches turned believers into house cats?
Have we lured them in with tasty morsels, brought them into the comfy air-conditioned living room, turned on the big screen TV, filled their food and water dishes to overflowing, and provided neatly-contained litter boxes so no one else can see or smell their messes?
Have the over-filled food and water dishes made them so comfortable and fat that they have no need to find food on their own? Or heaven forbid, need to find another “home” when they aren’t getting fed enough?
Have they grown so accustomed to having everything handed to them on a silver spoon that they’ve lost all instinct to be who they were truly created to be? And in lacking their God-given natural instinct of the new nature, have they lost all ability to find their own food? Has the atmosphere been so scripted and created for them that to turn them loose outside the church might be the death of them?
If the opportunity to run free outside presented itself, would they be vulnerable to the brutal attack of the enemy with no weapons of their own in hand? Are they more susceptible to diseases of the heart and soul with the oxygen of the Spirit being cut off at the main line?
Have we opted to brand instead of bond …market instead of living in missional community …entertain instead of engage?
What has happened to us? Where did we ever get the idea to huddle in our cozy corners and never get out of the house? Oh yes, we all know where that subtle idea crept in like a tiny church mouse but alas, we’re so over-fed, we don’t even have the natural instinct to chase that awful mouse out of the house.
While the account of Noah and his family bringing the animals into the ark 2 by 2 is a great picture of Jesus being our refuge and place of salvation, remember they were rescued but they eventually came out of the ark to do life together and tell others for generations to come of God’s redemption.
God have mercy on us all.
But with every confession, there needs to be a resolution.
I try to start with Jesus since He seems to always be a good place to start. How did He respond to those who were following Him? What did He mention as really important things to remember? Did He talk about their clothing choices? Church affiliation or location? Harp on their music?
As best I can tell, He always went right to the heart of the matter and that’s where He hung out the most. (See the first recorded sermon of Jesus –the Sermon on the Mount –that will rock your world! )
Look at what the Church–the body of believers– looked like in the early stages. Learn from their wisdom …when they got it right and when they got it wrong. And since the end of the story sheds a lot of needed light on the subject, go to the book of Revelation and see what God says about the churches. It’s quite a revelation, pardon the pun.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’ve been in church all my life and I love the church–the body of believers. I’m not giving up on it either. I’ve wanted to (that’s another confession for another day) but it’s too important to God’s heart to walk away from it. This is my family but with any normal family there is frustration and dysfunction. Sometimes we just need to start there and admit we need Jesus to give us a visual again of what we’re supposed to look like. And I’m pretty sure it’s not the one that looks an awful lot like a house cat.
Dig into God’s word and learn from the words of Life! Check the mirror and see if you’re reflecting the image of God or an image someone else came up with.
Keep growing on, my friend. We’re not home yet.
P.S. I really do love you!