Please indulge my tongue in cheek cynicism. (Also a warning, I’m going to ask more questions then I’m going to answer here) But ask anyone- No one seems to like her that much. Everyone everywhere, inside or outside of her family has an opinion about how and what she has to change. You hear about her sorted past and her dysfunctional present. I hear from those who were a part of a church talk about why they couldn’t stand being with her anymore. I hear from those who are still with her give her verbal tongue lashings on why she is so incredibly irrelevant and just frankly ‘unbeautiful’ (I know it’s not really a word but seems to fit the descriptive).
Why does the church seem so broken in both function and form? I’m a church planter… someone who feels some particular ‘call’ to start new churches, or re-plant churches that maybe frankly need to die. Where do you look for what a church, the Church, is supposed to be? Look like? Function like.
The Bible, right? Yeah you knew I’d go there. The Bible tells us how our church is supposed to look right? How she is suppose to be a place of beauty and hope; The community of love in true form and function. Right?
I turn to the letters written by this guy named Paul who’s ‘call’ was to go through out Asia and start up churches. He went to an urban center, Corinth, in the Roman Empire that was a cross roads for all sorts of things – commerce, political prowess, trade, poly-theistic tolerance, theatre, entertainment and sexual revolutionary expression. This sounds perfect to me… this book must hold a lot of great pictures for the beauty of the church in urban community! Perfect for my setting, for our church to figure out what it is supposed to look like in a very similar part of town! WOW pumped to read, study and teach I Corinthian’s to our little insignificant community called PAXnorth church.
Here’s a few great opening lines from the NIV commentary on I Corinthians by Craig Bloomberg.
“Imagine a church wracked by divisions. Powerful leaders promote themselves against each other, each with his ban of loyal followers. One of them is having an affair with his stepmother, and, instead of disciplining him, many in the church boast of his freedom in Christ to behave in such a way. Believers sue each other in secular courts; some like to habitually visit prostitutes. As a back lash against rampant immorality, another fraction in the church is promoting sexual celibacy- complete sexual abstinence for all believers- as the Christian ideal. Still other debates rage about how decisively new Christians should break from their pagan past. Disagreements about men’s and women’s role’s in the church add to the confusion. As if all this were not enough, alleged prophecies and speaking in tongues occur regularly, but not always in constructive fashion. A significant number of these immature Christians do not even believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ!”
So even if you don’t know a lot about church or hold a high opinion of her significance or if you do think she is the hope of the world, you have to admit, “That’s messed up!” You aren’t about to shout, “Sign me up for that kinda community.”
This is one of the reasons why I love and trust the Bible. It doesn’t try and pretty it’s self up. It tells it as it is. It tells us how WE are. Over the next several months we are going to be working through the book of First Corinthians. The focus is going to be what does ‘progression’ in the church look like? What is the point of church again? Is there some clear understanding of both function and form for a Church? What does it mean to ME? What can I expect? Isn’t the church the place where I am supposed to move closer and closer to realizing my spirituality and why can’t it take me there?
If you listen in or get in on the conversations I think you’ll be both shocked and pleased at Paul’s instruction to the local expression of Church. In the end I hope you’ll understand why we NEED the church. Or at least, in someway, if you ever find yourself in a place where you think you might need the church you’ll have some clear understandings on what to expect.
To start the conversation:: What do you think needs to change in the Church? Second why do you, or would you ever, go to church? A follow up Q: Are these reasonable expectations of the Church? Why or why not?