"We don't care and we don't care that we don't care"
I love the Church, but I know that she is sick.
As an image, the Church (universal body of followers of Jesus) has taken some serious blows. The image has been distorted by her actions and contorted by the very people who help to define her reality: the people of the church. This is not new, after all, the institution of the church has been involved in some of the most heinous crimes (think crusades, inquisitions, persecutions, torture, slavery, war, racism, sexism, etc) beginning in the middle ages and persisting today. Yet, the Church, at times and in diverse places, has also shown her beauty through providing amazing acts of love and mercy (think humanitarian care, peacemaking, developing hospitals, educational systems, missions outposts,etc).
If you study history, you will find that God does not allow His bride to go off track too long. Renewal movements, revitalization movements, and powerful reforming movements continue to bring the Church into alignment with its purpose and mission. Prophetic movements speak the truth in love to the powers that be, including the institution known as the church.
I believe that we are in the midst of a movement where God is again dealing with His Church. All over the world, the Church is growing and lives are changed. However, in the United States, the Church has lost the influence in which it generally had. I believe that that which hinders us is within. I want to list several things that God is bringing to light that must be addressed.
1. We want Jesus as savior, but not Jesus as Lord. A savior simply rescues us from our problems, while a Lord leads and guides us. We want superman to come and save, but not to wear out his welcome. The conservative evangelical movement which has dominanted the Christian imagination and publishing houses for the past 50 years, has emphasized the saving acts of Jesus sometimes against the responsibility to be disciples of Jesus where we are actually supposed to follow and adhere to the teachings of Jesus. The book of James says succinctly, "faith without works is dead". Jesus asked his followers of the first century, "Why do you call me Lord and not do what I say?" (Lk 6:46). Its the difference between being prepared for death, but not learning to live. The classic affirmation of the church is "Jesus is Lord".
2. We want communion, but not community. The Bible makes it clear that if we want to have communion with God, we will have community with one another (I John 1:7). Community is the serious business of connecting with one another in deeper, lasting, and more meaningful ways. It is through community that we experiencing believing, bonding, and blessings. The idea of coming to a worship service and being an anonymous consumer of religious goods is a sad shadow of what God desires of His people. Spiritual maturity comes only in the midst of community.
3. We practice divorce and neglect devotion. The divorce rate in the Church is similar to that of the community at large. Divorce is not sin, but is always the result of sin when understanding it from a Biblical perspective. I tread lightly, because I know that historically, the Bible has been used to keep women in abusive relationships and interpreted to keep men from being accountable in those very relationships. However, God states that he hates divorce (Mal 2:16). This puts divorce in the same ethical categories as lying, violence, robbery, idolatry, etc. The crisis caused by divorce within the body of Christ must be dealt with. We must take the covenant of marriage much more seriously, teach people to enter into it much more discerningly, and provide environmnent of reconciliation and restoration when people wound each other. Its not enough to teach people how to "not divorce" but we must teach, model, and practice how to love one another.
4. Somehow, we have placed righteousness and justice opposite one another. God describes himself as both righteous and just. In contemporary circles, we have defined righteousness to speak about our own piety, while we have seen justice as something retributive, typically in the sphere of government. Yet, our mission is to demonstrate righteousness through seeking justice and peace (shalom) in our local and global context. Being in a right relationship with God individually, does not allow me to ignore what is happening in the world. In fact, being in a right relationshipwith God prepares, equips, and leads me into communities that were designed to engage the world in the power and love of God.
I believe that God is working on each of thses blemishes to present to himself a bride that is without "stain or blemish" (Ephesians 5:27). Communities of people centered around the Lordship of Jesus, Community with one another, devotion in family, and justice through righteousness. Thats the kind of community that is what ML King Jr. called the "beloved community". That's the kind of community that gives us a glimpse of the beauty of Jesus' beautiful bride.
God bless you today,
Pastor M Traylor