Friday, February 26, 2010

What do you do when the church is broken and ugly?

I read three posts right in a row this week that addressed this question. Though it doesn't hit home emotionally anymore because I am more overwhelmed these days by the grace, community, and hope found in the church; for years during and after undergrad I was angry at the church. Horrified by what I saw there, by the people that called themselves Christians, by what the "Christian" world in America stood for. I felt like the church I was looking simply could not be the body of Christ on the earth, because they looked nothing like Christ.

That's what Sarah wrote about at Emerging Mummy this week, with deep emotion and passion. In conclusion, she says she may withdraw out of the church, unable to identify with it anymore.

Someone named Mary commented on her post and said that she understood all of what Sarah had said, and had herself pulled out of church for eight years for similar reasons. Then she said this:

 I am going to challenge you a bit here.
Questions: have you asked God what HE wants you to do? Does he want you to leave? If we love the things that HE loves, how can we pick and choose what we want to love? You are doing this because you say the church does not love the things you feel are close to God's heart.

Yet Christ gave himself up for the church (Eph 5:25) and calls the church is bride (Rev 21:9). He loves the church. The church is close to God's heart--very close. We are called to love the unlovely...and sometimes that is his church. I don't feel much love for the church leaping off the screen here.

I sense a lot of anger, bittnerness--which I realize is not unfounded. However, do you trust God to lead you in church life accordingly? Or are you trusting your own misgivings? Why are these concerns bigger than He is? The church needs someone like you to point out its failures. The church isn't and NEVER will be perfect. I think being self-protective can be insulating; spiritually isolating--even unfruitful...

All I'm saying is don't give up on what Christ died to bring unto himself.

This reasoning is was what convicted me as well, when I was angry and disillusioned. I decided I had to see what scripture showed was expected of the church, and so I searched the New Testament to see how the church was talked about. I was overwhelmed by Jesus' charges to all who followed him to care for and nurture the church, His body, His bride.  If He loves the church, then if I love Him, I must love the church too, because it is what He calls His followers to do. When I asked, how can You love this mess? He said - so great is my grace!

imonk had a post about this up this week as well, in which he said a great many things. It's titled Theology, Depression, and the Unsolvable Problem of the one, true Church.

Scot McKnight also oddly wrote on the same topic this week in a post titled Criticizing the Church, Defending the Church, and had this to say:

What ever makes us think the church has to be either perfect or we'll stay home and do our own thing? I've been thinking about this this year, and the thought keeps coming into my head along these lines:

God's People, whom he never disowned, in the Old Testament did some great things and some mighty stupid things; they had some great leaders and some disgusting ones; they had some high moments and they had some low moments.
God's people, whom he never disowns, in the New Testament, move from that wonderful church plant of fellowship in Acts 2 and 4 to some liars and deceivers and some great leaders who get into arguments with one another and sometimes abandon one another and get themselves in awful messes. And Paul tells us about church problems that would make us ...
Admit that an Augustinian ecclesiology is perhaps what we need because it's what we've got. Perhaps a cracked Fellowship of cracked Eikons is the point of what the church is!

Perhaps that's why the churches have always put the Eucharist table in the middle. We come to the Table to partake in God's forgiving grace because we're cracked Eikons. When cracked Eikons form a fellowship, you get a cracked Fellowship. In the cracks God works his grace.


s-p said...

Kacie, I think this is probably one of the most important issues in ANY Church, including the Orthodox. It is too easy to romanticize "parish or congregational life" as if the big picture of dogma and truth supercede our human weaknesses and issues. We can intellectually admit that we SHOULD be able to love all sinners in the name of Christ, but when it comes down to it we just can't (or won't). It takes a long time for it to sink in that community is the path to our salvation. The revelation that we are ALL "cracked pots" and it includes us is one of the hardest to accept and then live by.

Anonymous said...

I appreciated McKnight's bit. we are all of us cracked Eikons and melded into a fellowship taht is cracked and cracked. That grace might occur in the interstices is a miracle and the thing to keep foremost in my mind.