Prepare to be surprised.
I love church.
I know, you can see it in all my writings can’t you? It’s the obvious and overwhelming theme of all I write.
But I do, I really and truly love it. While most people will, and should, read the above sentence as sarcasm, with the utmost seriousness, my love of church is one of the driving factors behind why I write. It actually is an overwhelming underlying theme of my writing.
And from time to time I think it’s good to step back and remind people of that. The same thing happens in my work. I work supporting and building community. There are a lot of parallels to church.
And if you work with my for any length of time you’d get the sense I find it all awful. People suck, they make everything hard, the system is broken, and it all just seems kind of hopeless. From time to time I forget that not everyone sees things how I do. Not everyone understands the starting point. Not everyone is using the same lens as me.
Community is my passion. I want it in my life and in the lives of the people I work with so bad I will do anything I can to breakdown, change, or better the things that hold it back. And so I work really hard identifying the barriers, struggling through them, trying to find solutions and ways to make community better, easier, more inclusive.
But it all sounds like I hate it if I don’t come back and openly share the why. If I don’t share the motive, the driving force and how I’m so committed and determined to make community possible. If all you hear is what I’m working on and my feelings about the issue it’s easy to think I hate community work. I need to remind myself why I dig up all the bad, why I search out the inefficiencies, why I reflect and push for change.
Because it could all be so grand. It’s good now, but if we made these changes, what could our lives be like.
I see church in the same way.
With limitless potential to heal, love, support, and bring about the redemption that Jesus has started.
I don’t write what I do so that we can all agree how horrible church is. I write what I write so we can all agree that we have work to do to take this wonderful community we have and make it more like the community Christ has called us to build.
But I do struggle to see the end from time to time. And so I work out those struggles here. I get angry and upset and grieve what I see, because it seems to me too often we want church and not Christ. Too often we want the bible and not the Jesus it shows. Too often we want power not submission. Too often we want holiness rather than grace.
And that’s the problem I have with so much of what I see as “Christian.” The churches, the Facebook posts, the blogs, the music, the Christian media, etc. It’s all really good things wrapped up in really good intentions that we then take and abuse people with. So rarely intentionally, but still with such a frequency we can’t ignore it. The noble, standing for truth, at the cost of the people we are hoping will hear our truth. Somehow hoping our holiness will show a gospel worth living out. That the condemnation we share and aggressive defence of our way will allow people to see the beauty of Christ.
And this isn’t the foolishness of the cross. This isn’t a choice to not get caught up in worldly things. It’s not that what we share can’t be heard by the world.
This is us becoming the world. Worrying about defending God and his truth, because it won’t stand on its own. It’s us creating division not unity. A table for the perfect few not the least of these.
This is what our standing up for truth becomes in far too many situations. Another reason to keep people out. Another opportunity to make sure people know they aren’t good enough. Another chance to show that our God of love is actually just something nice we say, because when push comes to shove it’s shape up or get out. Grace is only for those who deserve it. Sing this ways, marginalize the right people, and hide your fears and doubts because this place is for the healthy not the sick.
I love the church, I really do.
But much like I needed to, I think the church needs to reflect and see it’s brokenness before we can move forward in what God has for us. It needs a consistent and ruthless self-reflection to see the plank in its eye before we go out and tell the world about their speck.
It wasn’t until my own brokenness became glaringly obvious that Jesus took hold.
And Jesus won’t take hold of our churches until we decide to see what we really are.
Not a moral authority making everyone aware of their failings, but broken, damaged, and struggling in a broken, damaged, and struggling world. A place where they too fit, some for the first time, because this is the place for those who don’t fit. This is the place to come and be broken. And not the church broken, the real broken. Messy, ugly and everywhere. Not the well put together type of broken that shows just enough of our awareness of sin. But the type that comes with nothing left, exposed and truly vulnerable, and hopes someone can understand what it’s like to be at the end. A place that knows there are at times no answers. A place that understands this pain can’t just be taken away with hope and desire. A place that affirms life is hard and values the honest expression of that struggle.
And these places need to be filled with people that know relationships not cute quotes and well rehearsed bible verses will bring healing. Filled with people that want to sit with each other in the depths not yell down into them from some sanctified perch. Filled with people open and vulnerable enough to not have answers and to sit in the darkness and silence over and over and over again.
It’s our brokenness and our love in that brokenness that will show them Christ, not some sort of artificial holiness. It’s our choice to love from our poverty, deficiencies, brokenness, with what little we have left, that will show them Christ. It’s when we show our humanity that Christ can come through. Our doubts and fears and pain along with our joys and excitement that bind us together in an authentic community.
In this beautiful balance of authentic joy and pain, raw emotion shared in relationship, and a community that supports it all we find a Christ like church.
Church is people and we know that.
But people are so much more than we let them be at church for so many reasons. In so many ways, we miss spaces and affirmation of parts that make people more like Christ.
And so I write. I write because I love church. I write because I love the people in my life that need church. I write because I need church.
Just thought you should know.