Church: The Land of One Another

10 Jan

Okay, so the resolution I started the year with was better ecclesiology (ecclesia = “church”). This entails not just a better understanding of “church” but a better and more healthy practice of “church.”

This past week I spent some time with a mother of four suffering the aftermath of divorce and going through a major, prolonged illness (cancer) with one of her kids. While there have been significant manifestations of “church” in the care she has received in the form of visits and meals, I was struck by the overiding impact of the message she reported delivered from various “church-goers” in her life. Messages of “You really should go to church more”; messages of guilt pinning responsibility of the divorce on her and telling her “You really should reconcile.”

No, I don’t know all that was said, and no, I really don’t intend to be judging motives and hearts. But I walked away with a clear, fresh epiphany.

My, how we can suck at being church.

Actually, I think it came out this way as I listened and commented on the stories she told and the feelings she related: “Isn’t it ironic how often ‘church’ is the last thing you find in places that have that name on the door – and from the people who frequent such places?”

A bit harsh, but my spirit was stirred up a bit for one of His lambs.

Church is community. Fellowship. Relationship. A vertical interactive flow of relationship with God that gushes out into innumerable, creative, horizontal expressions of relationships with others. It is the land of one another. Of face-to-face. Of mutual exchange. Of the sharing of heart and life and laughter and tears; of the bearing of unbearable pain as well as uncontainable laughter and joy.

I was struck by the irony of church-goers urging someone in pain and more or less forced isolation to go to church rather than embracing the challenge themselves: how can we be church to this woman and her children?

Go to church, you’ll miss worship and communion. An easy enough trip to lay on anyone.

Be the church, let’s bring worship and communion to this home. The more radical trip to make.

And perhaps that is, after all, the essential challenge of better ecclesiology. It’s the challenge to stop merely going to church, to stop treating church as a building over there, as an event taking place in this or that hour, an event that is primarily passive in nature where we bask in others performing worship, others providing us teaching, others preparing us communion – and to creatively be the church, bringing worship, teaching and communion in the land of one another that knows no boundaries in time and space.

The land of one another that is genuine, healthy “church.”


Posted by on January 10, 2012 in Church, musings


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3 responses to “Church: The Land of One Another

  1. Betty Flowers

    January 23, 2012 at 5:38 am

    This story broke my heart, having been on the receiving end of some similar comments years ago as an unwed mother. My heart goes out to this Mom who is most likely trying to maintain her sanity in raising her children, tending to one with cancer and going through a divorce.

    Yeah, sometimes we really do suck at being the church. Well said.

  2. Kathy Sue Drabek

    January 24, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    We “suck at being church” because we suck at relationships. True relationship takes work, time, empathy and love. It starts with a relationship with God and ends with relationship with others. It requires truth, honesty, and death of self … no small task. Love the unlovely, cry with the sick, and LISTEN. It is comfortable territory to drop off a dinner, and redirect someone to Sunday Morning Church. It is difficult to enter the unfamiliar territory of another, to join them in the journey, walk the rocky road and hold the lantern to light the path. Oh to be Samwise Gamgee! As we walk the rocky road of life together, we conquer “the land of one another”, side by side, hand in hand. Easier said than done. But God tells us to be strong and have courage, for he is with us!

  3. wordhaver

    January 24, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    Kathy Sue Drabek – I think I love you! 🙂 You say much more much better with fewer words…and extra credit for calling out Samwise. If only we could “church” as well as Samwise Gamgee “churched” Frodo — to the fires of Mordor and back again rather than just pointing Frodo to the lastest gig at the Green Dragon. Beautiful.


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