"The Church" is such a deeply abstract concept and the more I think about it and hash things out with my husband, the more I realize that our model is so fundamentally flawed. The things that seem to matter to the church in our culture would make zero sense to Christ's original followers and that is so very sad. We have people whose lives are dedicated to building up this church and it's a box step that repeats itself until circles are spun but very little progress has been made. We can count our steps, add our events, tithes, studies and groups but unless disciples are being multiplied and led toward baptism by the actual hands of the church, this family is little more than a complicated math problem with no objective solution. I went to Bible college so it's extremely safe to say that I am no mathematical prodigy but I am also inclined enough to spot a calculation error.
I love the church and I love each of the congregations I've been a part of. I've had the pleasure of walking through the doors under a variety of steeples. The one that meets in a school. The one with great worship. The one with soul touching sermons. The one where we all sit on folding chairs on a carpeted basketball court. The one with sermons that I can't understand or follow. The one that only sings hymns. The one where the preacher sits on a stool with carpets on the stage. (Let's get church-funky.) Candles, organs, drums, teams, information booths, communion services, foot washing, potlucks, small groups, VBS, Sunday school, Bible study, seminar, retreat etc.
The focus seems to have somehow shifted from collectively dirty fingernails to a very efficient, streamlined program where numbers somehow trump hearts and no one notices the ripe soil sitting next to them because everyone's too busy craving spiritual water and setting up chairs. Jesus created this church to be a family but it has been painted in hypothetical GMOs and pesticides, robbing the organic chemistry that is foundational. Christ's bride has a veil so dense that it's created a lens through which she sees everything and spends her time and energy to fix things that aren't even the real problem. If we could all just pull back the veil, look into Jesus' eyes and allow ourselves to be transfixed, we would not need all the silly things we count as "church."
Let us sincerely grab hold of each other and get real. Let's expose our inch thick dust and have people over for dinner. Let's bust out a bottle of wine for heaven's sake, play games, laugh and have conversation! Let's be vulnerable to admit when we've screwed up and laugh at ourselves as we brush the dirt off our butts when we fall on them. Let's be people we can trust to help raise each other's kids and not be afraid of the mistakes we will make along the way.
Our poor kids. We love them and want the best for them, but they're being presented with a very confusing world that is not going to be gentle on a young, Christian heart. No matter how we may try to protect them, bits of societal ugliness will seep through their precious skin and will influence them in some way. Social catchphrases will be the norm for them and they won't bat an eye at the concepts of transgender, abortion, divorce, sex, STDs, terrorism, polygamy etc. We can't just drag them along on the same spiritual wave we've been riding because it won't work. Statistical observation shows that a good majority of them will fall off that wave and come close enough to drowning that returning to church will not even be worth considering. I don't know how to protect my kids on this level but I have to assume that keeping them sheltered and only exposing them to people who think exactly like we do is not going to help them in the long run; it will just delay the exposure to a time when my influence is eclipsed by the world. Meanwhile it is fully my job to teach my kids about Jesus, love, discipline, sacrifice, and what it all means to them.
I don't have all the answers, and I'm certainly not pointing fingers at anyone or any congregation in particular (unless you feel convicted, then roll with it). I'm just having a hard time connecting the great plan for this family of God when it's so easy to get lost in weird details that we've unnecessarily created and progress seems to go sideways instead of forward much of the time. I want to look at the church and be proud of people banding together, loving people in their community with no expectation of repayment, association, or anything else that would detract from the ultimate goal; one person engaging with another person creating relationships that point to Jesus. It's got to be so much more simple than we've made it. Older people, train younger people do to it right and let's influence a healthy cycle. Elders, that's you! Lead the church and train people up. Let's get some mentorship going on up in here. Everyone, be like Jesus and get to know people, meet them where they are and show some love. Do it outside of the umbrella of "ministry" and let it be your life. It's a good thing! If it wasn't, Jesus wouldn't have said to do it.
While this is all coming from my heart, part of it is coming from the small corner of my heart that tends to be task driven rather than the bulk that is relationally driven. There is a place for tasks, but I'm realizing that it is not my goal to do things for the sake of doing things. If I can foresee something inflicting stress on me that does not center around relationship building, it is not for me. There is a time and a place, and surely a person for the job, but it's not me. Saying no isn't my cup of tea, but with the right parameters set, I might be doing more of that in the near future.