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.”