I write a lot about personal responsibility, focused here on this blog as our duty to follow Christ with all that we are. This is our call as followers of Jesus. If we are not personally “all in” for Jesus, we cannot expect to have any merit with those to whom we would speak. We have to model our beliefs without wavering, trusting always in Christ rather than in anything we might possess or accomplish. I would be remiss, however, if I were to stop at personal responsibility. We are called the body of Christ, meaning we are part of a connected network, a family. Jesus called this family His bride, the church.
Today we tend to think of church as a building, indeed as several building throughout our cities. This is a misrepresentation of what the Church was created to be. The Biblical church never referred to a building, but rather a body. We are supposed to amplify all the things we are called to do as individual followers of Christ, by gathering with other believers and doing those same things together. The power in a group of followers of Jesus can be breath taking. There is more power in love than any other force in the universe. This is true on an individual level, but even more pronounced when a group of people come together to love others.
Together, through love, we can feed the hungry, give shelter to the homeless, care for the widows and single moms, and look after the orphans and those from broken homes. Love is powerful. Love, amplified, is unstoppable. We are called to be the church, yet most of us associate being the church as going to a predetermined building each Sunday morning, being entertained for an hour or two, then maybe even getting involved in a couple of programs. Mission accomplished, duty fulfilled, right? Doubtful. There are a few modern “churches” that get it right. They do the things Christ commanded us to do. But by and large, the modern Western church has become a divisive collection of mini-corporations with building campaigns, catering budgets and medical insurance benefits. Much of the money collected from the church members goes to pay the overhead of the staff and electricity bills. Thankfully we squeeze small corners of the budget in so we can help out in the inner city and send some rice overseas. We manage to earmark just enough money to soothe our conscious so we can get on with bigger ideas such as building campaigns.
I cannot begin to imagine the sorrow of Christ as He looks down on all of this. Is this the reason He sacrificed His own life, so that we could build better playgrounds and more adequately cool our “sanctuaries”? God, forgive us. What have we become? How we have twisted His mission to the point that our own professed Lord would no longer recognize it. This is not the church Christ died for. We – you and me – we are the Church for which He died. Yet we ignore the commandments of Jesus and we spit on the cross where He bled for us because we can’t see past our own comfort to notice a wounded and dying world, a world that cries out to us for help. We pass by the homeless and overlook the poor. We ignore the needs of the outcast and cater to those more like ourselves. We are the Church, but where is the work of the church, where are the results? We need more than Sunday morning sermons and soon forgotten resolutions of commitment. We need true followers banding together to go out and care for this world. We need to come together and be the Church. We need to be the ones who are not afraid to stand in the face of oppression and persecution. We as the Church should be throwing our bodies over those in need, protecting them, loving them and nursing them back to health.
But we stand off to the side. We bicker over styles of worship, the length of sermons and meaningless nuances of religion. We are not called to be a people divided, but rather a people united under Christ. He is to be our Lord and Leader. So how about it Church, are you with me? Are you ready to abandon the buildings and divisions and begin to be about being the Church rather than simply attending one? The church is the bride of Christ. A bride does not merely attend her wedding but rather is fully engaged in all facets of it and fully focused on the one she loves. It’s time to stop merely being in attendance. It’s time to be the Church, fully devoted, fully alive.