Friday, August 22, 2014

Why the Church?

I've been doing a lot of serious writing lately, trying to take a stand and say what I have to say about the most concerning matters of current events. And so I told myself that I was going to write on something a little lighter this week. But my mother, my father, and my wife have all told me that I have selective hearing. Apparently I even have trouble hearing myself.

However, I think what I'm doing this week is okay because, even though my topic is "Why the Church?" it comes from the Acts 8 Moment BLOGFORCE Challenge. Which means it's not just me trying to throw rocks at current events by means of my blog. No, in fact, this topic is a challenge given to everyone who follows the Acts 8 Moment. Which means that this post of mine is a part of a larger discussion taking place in cyberspace. As proof of said discussion, the icon below should route you to a collection of all the participating posts. And since it gets you into a select part of cyberspace, it means that I'm giving you my credentials.

I feel so cool... I have credentials...

I do have to take a step back and chuckle at myself. Because what I just summed up, the nature of the BLOGFORCE challenge being issued to a community of bloggers, rather than lone rangers railing online against various injustices, is founded on the same basic principle that I would hold up in response to "Why the church?" Please let me explain...

If I'm just a lone ranger out here on the internet and I'm railing against various injustices, then I have very few choices to make when I sit down to write; Is it this injustice or that one today? Do I write about the injustices this week or do I cave and do something lighter for my own well being? And going through that whole process can be exhausting if I do it with a tunnel vision mentality. I can go ahead and extend that situation to my diaconal ministry: if I approach diaconal ministry as a lone ranger, it is exhausting and a prescription for burn out.

So how do I counteract it? Well if recognize that I'm not speaking into a vacuum, I have the space to recognize that others are contributing their voices as well. This makes my role as a blogger much more fulfilling and it makes my job as a diaconal padawan much less dire. What I mean by this is that I'm recognizing that I'm a part of the Body of Christ, which we can refer to as the Church.

Let me restate that in terms of the initial question. Why the Church? What is it about the Church that is good and that deserves to continue? I believe that the Church deserves to continue because we are the Church; we are the hands and feet of Christ in the world today. We are invited to be the expression of Christ in the world today.

Now I need to unpack those statements so that they hopefully make more sense. I believe that God entered this world that we experience in order to have a human experience of it; to live and die as one of us. To live and breathe and act as an example for us.

If we follow Christ's example, we the Church, the Body of Christ, can meet the least, the last, and the lost in order to live with them in their experience.

The awe inspired in me by that opportunity is humbling and nearly overwhelming. Because Lord knows how messed up I am and how messed up everyone is. Nonetheless, the Lord still loves us and empowers us to be his hands and feet in the world today. We are the Body of Christ; the Expression of Christ in the world today.

That being said, I know full well that God can act in the world today without us. I know that people can and do encounter God without any help from the Church or Christianity. Ed Stetzer expresses this by saying "It's not that [God's] church has a mission, but rather that [God's] mission has a church" (emphasis mine, see complete interview here). The mission exists with or without us. So if we, as the Body of Christ, join in with that mission, then we will be guided to encounter the least, the last, and the lost. But if I stop there, then I still haven't actually answered the question.

The Church is also the community of people who have answered God's call to mission. In gathering as the Church, we are able to help each other authentically answer God's call. We are able to support one another so that each of us individually do not feel like lone rangers. Because lone rangers will burn out. But if we gather together to support one another, we can worship and be replenished in order to continue our work in God's mission.

TL;DR: How do I respond to "why Church? I say we, the Church, are the community of people answering the call to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world today.


EPILOGUE

I hope, dear reader, that you were able to see my passion for this way of living. And I hope it didn't come across as hokey. Because Lord knows that I tried really hard not to sound hokey to myself. Every time I wrote something like "we are the expression of Christ today," I had flashes of those really awkward 1990s Stephen Sawyer paintings. If you don't know what I'm talking about, there are a couple featured in this article on Cracked.com and this post from The American Jesus. I apologize for any trauma experienced by following those links.