Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Binding the Wounds

Whenever I have conversations with my friend Sam, we often end up discussing religion. Surprise, right? I mean, I never talk about that stuff here. Ever.

On Sunday, Sam and I discussed the concept of the "body" of Christ (simply defined as those who follow Jesus), and how it should really look...

Have you grown up in church?
If so, I want you to ask yourself a simple question...

Does this community reflect God to those who interact with it?

What I mean is this...

We, myself included, tend to be static. Humans are creatures of habit. Ever noticed how it was the first day of high school? If you were so lucky to choose your own seat at the beginning of the semester, often you would find yourself there at the end of the semester as well. Why? Because comfort is important to individuals.

We tend to take the things we like, and try to bend them to surround us in an effort to keep from moving outside our comfort zone. We do this all the time. I think I've ordered the same type of sub from Jimmy John's the last six times I've eaten there for cryin' out loud!

We like the known.
We tend to embrace it, while shunning the mysterious.

And so, life can become quite predictable, quite fast.

Church, organized religion, or whatever you'd like to call it has become a neatly wrapped package with a little bow on top.

Don't believe me?

Walk into most churches in America, and you'll find greeters (almost like Wal-Mark, only unpaid), there will be a mingling period before the main event, I mean, service durin which (if you're a Protestant evangelical who identifies as a "Non-Denominational") you can probably find a coffee bar, and get some life pumping through your veins in time for the service.

Service will often come with an itinerary (I mean, program), to let you know just how long it will be before you're free for another week. There will be all sorts of ways you can get involved in expanding the churches influence listed in the bulletin. The service will generally consist of worship (style varies), a 30-60 minute message, a little more worship, perhaps some communion, maybe a baptism (if it's a particularily adventurous sunday), and a bendiction.

That's it.

If you're super spiritual, you may even stick around to talk afterward rather than running home to see the beloved (insert favorite sports team here) play at noon.

So this sort of experience what Christ really had in mind for the generations following his death and resurrection?

Isn't this the kind of thing he railed against?

Now, I'm being a bit facetious about some of the things listed above. I know. Traditions and rituals are important. There are many that carry a weighty significance with them, and are quite powerful when done in a large gathering...please don't misunderstand.

But, when I think about Jesus and how he lived his life, most of the radical, powerful things that he did happened outside the church walls. They were intermingled with his interactions with those who were considered "non- churched."

See, this is, in my experience, how God really truly works. He's personal. He relates to you. He knows you down to every last character flaw, and failure, and he still loves you more than anyone ever could.

Isn't that how those who represent him should live? Isn't that what's being lost in the idea of "church." Church, as Rob says in the clip, isn't a building. It isn't a denomination. It's people. People who have chosen to follow Jesus Christ. People who have taken his teachings to heart, and have committed to doing everything within their power to follow it, as best as they can.

People who believe that something is profoundly wrong in this world, and that it's the responsibility of those who call themselves "Christ-followers" to search out the widow, the orphan, the poor, the oppressed, the "not good enoughs", and show them nothing less than the love, they themselves have been beneficiaries of.

So what does a community of a living, breathing God look like?
What does a community of a God who interacted with his creation, who showed compassion to the friendless, who ate with the unpopular, who rebuked the self-righteous, what does that look like?

Does it look like your church?
Does it look like the community of people that you spend most Sunday's with?

If this isn't the case, perhaps it could be. Communities are built a relationship at a time. Perhaps your community is waiting for you to take the lead. Perhaps, just as Christ was our example, now it is time for his disciple to step up, and to begin to emulate the example we've been given.

Church goes beyond a meeting place on Sunday. Sam and I both agree on this. It happens every other day of the week. It's about knowing someone, and being known. It's about caring deeply about others, meeting their needs, and knowing they'll meet yours should the need arise. The community Jesus began with his disciples happened more than once a week. It happened every day.

This fact is very important, because the calling of a Christian goes beyond memorizing bible verses, and attending accountability groups.

The calling of a Christian is to ease the world's suffering. To bind its wounds, and to bring hope to those who've lost hope. God understands that we need other people in this. He understands that we can't do this, if we're going through life alone.

We need brothers and sisters to passionately pursue this common goal.
We need a church.
We need a community, a place to belong.

So ask yourself, is this the community you're in?


Naomi said...

You descibed our sunday services exactly.But we have one thing you didn't mention. Prayer at the front. Every service we offer for people to come up and talk to the elders/pastors, and its amazing how many people come forward.

Josh said...

A lot more churches are doing that now I think. :)

Naomi said...

High School Ministry has changed a lot too. The students are mostly in charge of it, and we really try to make it welcoming.We're making it someplace everyone feels accepted, and people are noticing.I think you'd like it.

Josh said...

I think you're right :)