When Jesus was about to leave his Disciples and ascend to heaven, he gave them the famous charge to go and make disciples of all nations. Succinctly, this is what the Church-the community of Christian believers-exists to accomplish. This is what the Church is for. But this is not the question I am asking.
I do not mean what is the Church for in the grand scheme of history, or God’s saving plan, or even in society.
Honestly, such thoughts are too high and wonderful for me these days. It is far to great a thing to imagine my place in the centre of the eternal destiny of the cosmos. Indeed there is a certain ‘so what’ to this whole mission-of-God talk, not to mention the inevitable frantic despair that when conversions are not seen, that church is somehow broken or wrong or to blame.
There has been a distinct change in my reasons for going to worship at church and I confess it is selfish.
I was taught that the Church really exists for the unbeliever, so that they can be presented with a message of God’s love and make the appropriate response. Then, such an individual joins God’s mission and thus the Church continues. A little like a 12-step program, where the only way to fulfil the steps is to share your knowledge with someone else at rock-bottom, and a little like a traveling roadshow, putting on gigs every week to demonstrate and proclaim the wondrous love of God.
I don’t go to church for this. Not any more.
I am not sitting in my pew to be lectured or to learn. I am not here to impress anyone or show off my fantastic Divine-life.
You know what? Since coming to this place, I begin to care less and less about the quality of the building or the presentation of the worship leaders. Little and less does the quality of preaching matter to me and even an awkward cup of tea standing in the corner won’t turn me off.
When I come to worship, I ask only three things:
- That someone will tell me my sins are forgiven
- That someone will proclaim the Word of God to me
- That someone will pray for me
For me, now, that is what church is for. It is selfish, I know I know. Yet do we consider the sick selfish for going to the doctor’s surgery? The simple child for going to the school? My soul has a need far greater than the need of physical healing. A need more basic than that of education.
My soul needs God, and the Church is the place and the people where he is present.
I’ve spent more years and more effort than I care to recount participating in events and programmes which seek to make Christianity appealing and culturally acceptable. Clear communication is important and observing the customs of the culture allows people to better understand. However Christianity is not a 12-step program. It is not an education programme or a wellness regime.
Church is where we go to satisfy the yearnings of the soul which has been awakened to God. That is what Church is for, for me.
How about you?
Holy places are dark places. It is life and strength, not knowledge and words, that we get in them. Holy wisdom is not clear and thin like water, but thick and dark like blood.
C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces