By: Bethany Mortelliti, Communications Assistant at the180
I grew up in a churchgoing family, and it was just a regular part of my weekend to count on Sundays being days for church.
Although I didn’t like waking up early, I got used to the rhythm and to this day I feel strange not being with the church on a Sunday.
It wasn’t until later university years that I began to appreciate church as more than a place to go on a Sunday morning. And I have to admit, I’m still trying to figure out what it means to be the church and to love the church.
However, here are a few key things we learned last Leadership Sunday that stood out to me and that just might help you survive when being the church does not always come easy.
Remember that the church has a history.
Guess what?! The church was not invented recently. It has hundreds upon hundreds of gatherings, writings and teachings where people were trying to figure out how in the world Jesus intended that we be the church. Frederick von Hügel, an early 20th century theologian said, “The institution of the church is like the bark on the tree. There’s no life in the bark. It’s dead wood. But it protects the life of the tree within. And the tree grows and grows … If you take the bark off, it’s prone to disease, dehydration, death.” It’s hard work, but part of loving the church means taking the invitation to be both impressed and taken aback by its history.
Call to mind the church’s mission.
Dom likes to remind us that the church is “those called out of the world to go back into the world.” This is a critical posture to take in a world that often dismisses Christians as escaping into a spiritual world until Jesus comes back. As people who are called back into the world we would do well to reflect on what it means to grapple with re-entering our world and celebrate when we see Christians who are doing this well.
Treat church as a mystery.
Now, don’t get this wrong – this doesn’t mean that the church gets a get-out-of-jail-free card for poor decisions or leadership moves, nor does it mean that the church is completely beyond our understanding. Rather, the church is a mystery (Ephesians 5:29-32) in that when we gather things go on that we simply cannot explain. This is much like how a physicist in principle can explain why Mozart’s symphonies are beautiful, but not exactly why they might make us want to cry or dance. Maybe a simple prayer for when things don’t seem to be right would be, Father, I don’t understand why the church is the way it is. Help me love what I cannot see and help me see that you are good.
Now, I know that this article is titled a “survival guide” of sorts, and I feel like often that’s what we need today in our scattered, undecided world. We often doubt the church’s ability to last in a world where corruption tends to rule the institutions of the day and need reminders of what the church is and what it is not. However what’s most important to remember is that Jesus loves the church, and it is possible not only to survive it but to love it, too.
Hope you can join us tomorrow for a Leadership Sunday at 9:30am for Part 2 of "What is the Church?"