Cedar Grove Community Church is hosting a new Worship Bible Study at 6pm on Sunday nights. One of the discussions trailed over onto Facebook. The prompt was as follows:
I'd like to continue a discussion that we started at our Bible Study on Sunday night... here's the question: describe what you think about the Church (the global church, not any one particular one)... free association time.
Being given to diatribes, I thought I'd refrain this time, try to salvage what's left of the ever shrinking group of people who consider me "quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry." Everyone else knows me too well. But Pastor Tom nudged me, so...
@TB: Here's my shot...
First, the global Christian church exists only insofar as we agree on the following: Jesus Christ was the one and only son of God, He died and rose again, and in doing so, He bridged the gap between sinners and their Creator.
But that's it. Beyond that sliver of dogma remain as many divisions and derisions about faith and salvation as there are human beings on the planet. And that's only when considering the global Christian church. Look outside those broad borders and the world according to its different beliefs is a jungle, savage and fascinating and desperate in its plight, and as worthy of our time and love as we were worthy of the time and love of Christ.
What do I think of the global church? Not much.
Let us not forget that the worst moments (and eras) of history have always come at those junctures when "righteous" men (and women) have sought the power to take over the world for God or god. Such misguided focus and greed has toppled empires.
Thus, I've often wondered whether the Christian community realizes that fighting against the separation of Church and State may not be in our own best interest.
The concept of this separation first arose in a personal letter written by Thomas Jefferson, an ingenious man and a cornerstone of our country and her beginnings, which is why I believe that the fate of our nation and the fate of the faithful were both weighing heavily on the hearts of the founding fathers when they penned the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. They included a clause in the latter document to provide religious freedoms not merely to protect the State, but to protect religion, and that included all sects of Christianity and all religions outside of Christianity.
One must believe that Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin and James Madison valued the preservation of teachings promoting love and kindness, charity and support, because all those things would promote the betterment of the community, which in their case was a foundling country. And so, the protection of religion, especially the protection of a focused and forgiving brand of faith, was probably a very real priority for those wise, flawed, powerful men.
Not that anyone would guess at that truth today as they watch Christians bicker and cajole and snipe at our government officials and at one another. When we do that, we look foolish, especially when we have no constructive criticism to offer. Thus, the picture of the global Christian church is sullied by its own. Again. And again. And again.
Is Cedar Grove Community Church part of the existing global Christian church? Sure. Should it be? I'd rather we rebooted the whole system and allowed the grassroots of the faithful to take hold and spawn a new global Christian church, one in place to nurture the world rather than convert it. It's my belief that we should be wary of any religion with a quota system, any religion with ambition.
Instead... look in and spread out.
That's what I call for. We Christians need to stop and look into ourselves, examining, hunting for those planks of sin which must be removed from our own eyes and hearts before we can ask the same of anyone else.
And that introspection should never, ever stop. Where one log is extracted, another takes its place. Always. With this humbling truth resting at the centers of our minds, we may finally find a way to live which is pleasing to God, as examples of His good work being fulfilled on Earth... repentant, kind, forgiving, humble, faithful, encouraging, optimistic, honest, loving. If we can do that, then wherever we are, wherever we live, spreading across the globe and setting our individual examples, we can do precisely what we've been called upon to do.
My determinations about Christ and His commandment to love the world and spread the Word are not new. I'm no rebel. But I am disappointed by the lens through which the world sees our global Christian church, and I don't think it's the wrong lens for a moment. The world is absolutely right about us. When they cry out, "Hypocrite! Liar! Cultist!" the world is right. We are the hypocrites and the liars and the cultists so long as we allow ourselves to be aligned with a global Christian church which is fractured to the point of being permanently crippled, incapable of doing any good without undoing its own good work at some other end.
Reconstructing that image should not be priority one. Rather, reconstructing ourselves, educating and encouraging believers from the foundation up, that's the most important step. In acknowledging our shortcomings and setting out to live not only rightly but WELL, our light will only be magnified.
And as long as we're going back to basics, let's remember what the Bible says about church:
Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.-- Matthew 18:19-20 (NIV)
This isn't about the globe. This is about people, one at a time, living well, and being prepared to give a reason for the hope they display on a daily basis. Where those people come together to commiserate and encourage, God is. Where factions draw lines in the sands of the Earth, He is not. And many of those factions call themselves the global church. I, for one, want nothing to do with them.