Thursday, September 14, 2006

An Unclear Painting

I've been disenchanted for some time now about the "institutional church." I was disillusioned enough to even be a part of such. Something different is happening now. I have "criticized the current consciousness" (as Walter Brueggemann would say) of the institutional church and am beginning to see an ever-so-unclear and fluid painting of who we are to be as a church. If I must speak within the constrains of modernism and provide a mission statement or definitive explanation of who we are as the church, it would go something like this:
If we have to call ourselves something, we’ll call ourselves "the church" – not because we are so full of ourselves that we think we are THE church, but because that’s simply who we are collectively. We are the church. There is no need to distinguish ourselves as a separated entity or place. We are not a “local congregation” (whatever that means). The only reason any label such as “the church” is necessary is because we have been set apart by God as His people for His service. We are the ekklesia - the community of Christ-followers. We do not attend church because we are the church. We are not a place. We are a people. We worship - but not as most Western, "conservative" evangelical Christians may perceive worship. We worship together everyday.
The word "we" does not distinguish us as a tribe, clan, exclusive club that requires membership. The "we" only continues to exist if the "we" live with the "they" in order that the "they" may encounter the very love of God. "We" and "they" are distincly different but live in community one with the other. From what is aforesomentioned, the church looks unclear. It is indeed unclear yet it is clear. Like air - One cannot see air yet the air is so very clear. The church may be intangible and immeasureable but participates so intricately in the formation process of people that it secondarily becomes distinctively recognizable.

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Matthew 5:38-48, NASB

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone want to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only you brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."