Monday, June 20, 2011
Is it possible???
I've been having deep, deep thoughts whilst hanging the washing out.
This is just a series of questions for reflection.
Is it possible to love the institution of the church too much?
Is it possible to be so caught up with what we do to make our church, church, that we actually engage in an act of idolatry by exalting the church to a place above that which it was intended to have?
"I love my church" something I know I have said in the past - a statement that can be difficult to interpret - "I love my fellow called out, chosen ones" - "I love the ones who stand alongside me, marked as different in the community they find themselves" would be more theologically accurate but do we sometimes mean: "I love the experience I have being part of my church"?
There is no doubt that belonging, making "church happen" is incredibly fulfiling - I know this for myself! - but is there not even the tiny potential that worshipping this fact can creep in?
And it is also incredibly possible that we fall in love more with the feeling that comes with being part of the church more than passionately loving the one who is the Head of the church; who loved not his own life but gave it away for those who had no hope of fullness of life.
And for me that is the difficult walk. To know that when guitars cease playing, when shouts of joy tail off, when the last person has been prayed for, outside the doors of our experience of church there are broken, broken people who are loved by no-one. People so low in depression they don't know whether to keep on breathing tonight. Children who are routinely abused. Business people with loads of money but an empty ache.
In the potential that there undoubtedly is for "glam and show" at conferences and churches today, are we growing disciples who have at the absolute front of their thoughts every night and day, burning love for the Father and a heart for the lost? Every extra day before the point that Jesus returns is an opportunity for more and more people to hear about him. He's longing for people to come to love him (1 Tim 2:4). Maybe some people might not have thought of that.
As a wise man once said: the flow of the river of God is out - to love your experience of church but be unanchored in the community outside the church is not the Jesus way.
The most worrying trend that I have ever observed is Christians caught in the ghetto of lunch/coffee/nights out with Christians/meetings all the time/Christian-church stuff all the time (even if its under the guise of "we're doing it for the people not in our church") - well, get living life with the people not in the church! Join a club, volunteer at the local hospice, be a Brownie leader, start a book group with people from work, get a part-time job pulling pints - oh, and read David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyon's book: UNchristian........
I can write about this because I have recognised the pull of loving the experience of church too much in my own life. Back in University days one of our wise friends decreed that the 30 or so of us who were studying there should all only get together on Wednesdays for lunch instead of being in and out of each other's flats/social calendars all the time - he said: hang out with your class ALL THE TIME apart from Wednesday lunchtime. We met to eat and spent 2 to 3 hours worshippng and praying for our classmates each and every Wednesday. We didn't see each other again apart from on a Sunday. That was a 1980s missional community (except we didn't call it as such). I remember it was really hard because I loved the warmth and ease of being part of such a vibrant, worshipful, on fire church. But we grew deeper and faster and saw huge inroads in our influence in our classes and faculties.
Hey, heavy thoughts but on a sabbaticalling time you get to see a few churches and these have been my thoughts from some travelling about just now. Hope they are helpful questions, not meant to be condemning ones, just my honest reflections.