If you just read the Bible and had no experience with or awareness of the current state of the church, how do you imagine it to look like?
I don’t imagine it would be a place that people come once a week to feel connected to God because I imagine “church” as always being connected to God. It wouldn’t have to have a specific time for music and worship because you’d constantly be praising God in absolute awe at what He is doing in this world. I don’t imagine you’d have to get all dressed up in your ‘Sunday Best’ because it would be your heart that reflected your devotion to God, not your clothes. And you wouldn’t find any judgment of those around you who feel led to wear their best clothes as an act of worship either.
I don’t see church as a 1 ½ hour slot of time one day a week. I see it as a breath by breath awareness of our relationship with God and His family. I don’t see our lives being so busy that we don’t have time for our neighbors and friends and family when they simply want to drop in and visit. I don’t see chocolate stashed in the back of the closet somewhere because we think we’ll need it all to ourselves later. I see us bringing out our best food, best drink, and most treasured possessions when we have visitors. Instead of making meals for our sick friends, I see us asking them to stay with us until they are more able to manage their daily activities.
Church would look more like an extended family than a building we visit once a week, or once a month, or once a year. It would be like a family that prayed for each other, shared each other’s possessions, lived in united harmony with each other, repented and forgave one another, working things out without having to resort to lawsuits or acts of revenge. If you’re a parent, you’re always insisting that your children learn to work out their problems between themselves, so why don’t we do this with our brothers and sisters in Christ as well?
Maybe if the church looked more like this to a watching world rather than the judgmental, divided, agenda-driven hypocrites who drag Jesus’ sweet name through the mud, we might actually look like we serve a God who loves us, forgives us and helps us live a life worthy of being called Christ-followers. Maybe the word “Christian” wouldn’t seem like such a bad thing, but rather an invitation to join an extended family who takes care of each other, loving and serving each other out of a response to the love and mercy, forgiveness and grace that our Father first gave to us. To clarify, I don’t believe all Christians are judgmental hypocrites, but when I wasn’t a believer, these were the only ones I heard about.
Do I ‘attend’ this type of church? I still go to the building once a week. Fortunately for me, my particular ‘building’ is full of people who live more like the church I read about in Scripture than most congregations of which I’m aware. And forgive me if you’ve read this far expecting to hear my proposed solution to the current state of the church. I am just beginning to study God’s Word to see what He intended this fellowship of believers to be like. But from what I see, it would be nearly impossible to expect believers in our culture to be the church that I see described in Scripture. We are anchored to our jobs and schools. Our lives are maxed out with rehearsals, meetings and presentations. Perhaps we think we need to be ‘doing’ something because we don’t feel good enough just ‘being’ God’s beautiful sons and daughters. I don’t really know, but I am searching how to best serve God and His family. I want us to look like such a loving family that the world comes over for a sleepover and decides to stay.
I really think Shane Claiborne has got it right. But I don’t think it’s feasible for all Christians to live like he does. I wish we could. I wish I could, but I think my hubby likes his chocolate stash too much. Living as communities instead of single families requires a vulnerability and an accountability that I imagine a lot of us are uncomfortable with. We prefer our private place to stay private, to not have to be “fine” all the time. I know that if you all saw how often I can be found in front of this here computer, and how often I ignore the dishes in my sink, you might think thoughts about me that I don’t want you to have. Maybe that’s just what this family needs, to be honest.
Anyone want to buy an abandoned old building in the inner city with me and love our neighbors?