. . . posts on faith and life
This viral phrase, in the church, but not of the church, was dropped on me last night at our men’s group by Jason, the Associate Pastor at my church. It has been spreading through my mind like a disease since then. It is making me think, like all good viral ideas should. I’m not really sure what Jason meant by it, and he did not want to lead me in it, just infect me with it. He was irrational and giddy, a little wild-eyed, as often happens with CSD’s (Communicable Soul Disease).
The way I see things is that within every local congregation you find both the church and the Church. With the church you will find an assortment of things that fall under the realm of what we might call Christendom. These include church-speak, human agendas, poor relationships, bad attitudes, injustices, etc. At times it would appear that church dominates our churches. However, within these same local congregations you will also find the Church. This is also marked by an assortment of things. These include the in-breaking of the Kingdom, the presence of our Lord, authentic love, generous care, selfless sacrifice, abundant grace, profound forgiveness, etc. The way these two things, the church and the Church, are intertwined is quite confusing. At times you can jump from church to Church and back to church in a single sentence of a private conversation. If I were building the Church I would not have chosen to let these two coexist together. Luckily for us, I am not building it. And our Lord, in His great wisdom, decided to let the wheat (Church) and the tares (church) grow together until the Harvest at end of the age (Mt. 13:30).
With this in mind I see two problems in both my personal life and our collective life. On the one hand I am often in the Church, but not of the Church. I can always talk a good game. I can always sign off on what sounds like Kingdom focus. In this sense I’m in the Church. But when it comes to exercising my commitment to the Church within my church I’m not always turning out to be of the Church. When it comes to the Church, I am to be both in the Church AND of the Church. That is, my life should be marked by the same patterns and principles that marked the life of Christ.
The other problem is that when it comes to the church, I’m afraid its influence pervades my life more than I wish. When it comes to the church, I am to be in the church, but NOT of the church. However, I find that I get caught up in human agendas, in getting people to like me, in getting back at people that don’t like me, in making a name for myself, in building a vision that sounds like Church, but is actually an attempt earn myself a reputation, in being busy with all this stuff, in neglecting the hurting people in my community, etc. In this sense I am often turning out to not only be in the church, but of the church as well.
So, these two battle within me. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death?