I love church.
My writings and rantings on my blog would lead many to wonder, but I do really and truly love it.
I talk often about the issues and seem to shine a light on all the ugliness of church. I draw out the issues and want to talk about them over and over and over. It all sounds like I hate church, especially when you don’t know why I do it.
I do it because I see the church 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 church we have and make it more like the community Christ called us to build. Because I see a church we so desperately need, I can’t help but push for it to be realized.
Change is hard. Reflection is hard. Seeing our own flaws is hard.
But a Christ-like church is worth it. That is an end worth fighting for.
I do struggle to see the end from time to time though. 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 for 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 way, marginalize the right people, and hide all 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.
Church does not exist to be a moral authority making everyone aware of their failings; it is broken, damaged, and struggling in a broken, damaged, and struggling world. 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. 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 will bring healing–not cute quotes and well rehearsed bible verses. 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 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 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.
Phil tries to balance life with his wife, 3 young kids, church, and working to build community with a small charity in Cambridge. He writes, questions, doubts and struggles through what parts are about following Jesus and what parts aren’t. You can find more from him on twitter @loveservegrow or https://lovegrowserve.wordpress.com/