Why I am the church
The church is the community of believers, so this Christian tries to better it by practicing love
The question of whether to go to church or not has always intrigued me. When I really studied it, I found that it’s not about going or not going, it’s about being. That is, it’s not about understanding why I do or don’t go to church, it’s about understanding that I am the church.
The original usage of the term for church never referred to an organization or a program or a building where the faithful gather for worship, which is how we define it now. It was always about people: the collective congregation of God’s people everywhere.
So when I complain that the church isn’t loving or caring or focused on the right things—and that is definitely a valid complaint—what I am really saying is the people aren’t loving or caring or concerned about the right things. And what I am ultimately confessing is that I am not as loving or as caring or as compassionate as Jesus modeled and called me to be.
When you gather a group of people together like me, there’s always the potential—the guarantee, even—that we are going to mess it up. But there’s also the potential that we are going to get it: that we are going to get Jesus’ message of grace and forgiveness and share it with the world through loving actions and compassionate words. That’s because the church is people, and people intrinsically possess these dual potentials. Yeah, we mess up a lot, but not always.
I have attended church services my whole life, and I have been a part of almost every kind of church community—young ones, old ones, small ones, big ones, really big ones, formal ones and renegade ones. I have worshiped in living rooms, garages, former Kmarts, beautiful cathedrals and smoky bars. If you separate any of those experiences from the people involved, you are left with nothing more than inanimate, static, dead buildings.
I definitely have my squabbles with the organized church, but I have grown to see that the problem isn’t with organization. Problems occur when we disconnect people from the church and let organizational principles control the vision and the goals of the gathered. And both sides do this to some extent, the hypocrites and the separatists.
I am currently involved with the organized church. Some may even consider me their pastor. My goal is not to build the biggest and best organization or institute programs that will solve all of the world’s problems. My mission is to constantly reconnect people with the truth that they are the church, and when we get it, when we become the church and spread the message of love and forgiveness (the message of Jesus) through tangible ways, the perception of the church will begin to change. The church will actually start to reflect God, a God of grace and love. And that can’t be contained in a building or sugarcoated in a brochure.
I guess I could sum up my sustained involvement with the church in the fact that I am a hopeless dreamer. I still believe that a group of people can come together for a common cause and change the world through changing themselves. The church has always been and will always be a motley crew of Jesus followers who may or may not regularly attend a weekly service, who look different, who vote different, but who are all called to a common goal: “Love as I have loved you.”