“Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27
Upon the day of our Lord’s death it is good to reflect upon the nature of church and the point of sacrifice.
Further it may be time to consider that perhaps the barbs we, as Christians, have been throwing at the institutional church should be turned back upon ourselves.
I say institutional church for a reason – the buildings, the pastors, the programs, the pews – these things are not the Church, the body of Christ – these things are our own creation…we, in fact, are the body of Christ.
But of course we know these things…we just find it convenient to forget we are the Church from time to time that we might blame our weaknesses on the institutional church and the pastors we place there.
Increasingly these days (although I assume this has always been an issue to one degree or another) Christians have walked out on their churches in great numbers all the while blaming the very institutions and staff for their abandonment while forgetting their own responsibility as the actual Church, the body of Christ, which is right now and always, at the centre of history, hanging and bleeding and dying on a cross.
When we, as Christians, look at our churches and pastors, and proclaim them profane, boring, unloving, broken, irrelevant, etc. we are, in fact, failing to see that these self-same churches are our own creation and as such our responsibility. Walking away from our creation is exactly the opposite of God’s lesson to us in Christ.
The churches are the visible manifestation of our own character to the world. If they are corrupt, broken and unloving this is our responsibility and frankly, our fault as they are merely reflections of our own poor character.
Leaving them does not help.
Why do you think the new churches we visit or start after we leave the one’s we dislike often fail or turn into the thing we despise? They do so because they too, are our creation, reflective of our selves.
These institutions are actually useful inasmuch as they are guided by faithful Christians to provide teaching, the sacraments, and a holy space to meet the God who dwells within each of us.
Unfortunately we abdicated our responsibilities as the body of Christ and gave them to the institution, that it, this human thing, might be Christ’s body instead of us.
We tell the church to evangelize, heal, visit, clothe, forgive, feed, house and more that we might not have to. We give it money in exchange for these services and we become terribly critical if it falls down on the job. We fail to recognize that this church will ultimately fail in these tasks EVERY TIME because these tasks are supposed to be the very outworking, the very breath of the body of Christ which is you and I.
The church is not the problem with Christianity today. The problem with Christianity is the Church. I trust you see the distinction.
YOU love. YOU heal. YOU feed. YOU clothe. YOU pray. YOU visit. YOU forgive. YOU evangelize. YOU house.
You do these things as an outpouring of the Spirit of God within you that when you gather on a Sunday you might do so in the overflowing of all these things you have done in the week. That you might recharge as other Christians continue to do the work given to them by preaching and teaching.
If the institutions are broken it is because we Christians built them as we would build robots to do the very holy work we have been given, our liturgy. We have created soulless automatons, dumb clay golems, machines without ghosts and expected them to perform as Christ that we might simply feed and feed and feed and get fat in our own judgement and laziness.
Right now Christ is dying on the cross for the purpose of enabling you and I to do the things we have abdicated to bricks and mortar. Right now Christ bleeds the very forgiveness and life we are to offer, not our churches. There is nothing compelling or noble about a corporation’s love…only living love is compelling.
When you look at your local church and dislike what you see perhaps consider that you are looking in a mirror.
The good news is there is time. For just as Christ forever hangs upon the cross so too does he forever rise to new life. Wherever there is death new life is possible.
Strip away from your churches the expectations you have that should be placed on yourself. Take away your churches’ mandate to do what you should be doing that they might be free to become the celebratory gathering and worship spaces they were meant to be while you become the Christ you were meant to be. There is still time.
The burden of Christ, the burden of the cross is too great for a church…it was meant to be carried by the Church. It was meant to be carried on your shoulders and on mine.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42-47