Where is the Church?
Surely many will immediately think of the crossroads upon which a particular meeting house is found and point down the road with a mapquest description about how to find a building? Where the Church is, in this case, is land-locked.
Or, perhaps in response, you think of some pet burr in your saddle – which may explain the uncomfortable gait of some cowboys. You wonder where the Church is when it comes to a pressing issue of the day or hour. What is the Church’s stance on this or that and why doesn’t the Church – and we really mean someone other than us – do something about the mess. Where the Church is, in this case, is in her position papers.
I’m weary of such shallow churchianity. After all, since the Church is not a building if asked where the Church is you should point to yourself and your believing neighbour, don’t you think? And, if you wonder where the Church is in regards to some social tsunami you might consider a conversation with the mirror or look at the collective statement of lives shared in the fellowship of the King. What does the witness of our lives declare about what the church stands for? This may not be a comforting revelation.
The point is that the Church is found where Christ resides – in his people, and specifically, how they live his glory. As such, where the Church is may be in very unexpected places and, frighteningly, where we assume she is may in fact be a mirage.
I know a family, an amazing clan, and if you ask me where the Church is I’ll give you both directions to their home and tell you to watch their lives speak about what the Church stands for. They would be completely embarrassed if they knew you were reading about them, so don’t tell, but that alone highlights the subversive nature of their witness. They, like Christ, do not do what they do for accolades, but because something within demands it. They exist for the glory of Another, seeking to live faithfully in their troubled suburb of Nazareth – or just beyond the middle of nowhere – and fighting, yes fighting, a great battle they often wonder is worth the blood, sweat, and tears.
This family has adopted four incredible children; biologically contributed a couple more, are fostering three others, and dreaming of ways to serve the hungry more effectively in our community. They are not perfect, maybe a little crazy, but they are where the Church is. Their home is the Church. They are incarnating the selfless love of God and yet, tragically, pathetically, there are those who might click their tongues midst the gossip about such sorts in a church building lobby. Where then is the Church?
Believers like this bear an incredible weight. They not only carry the thankless task of loving what often bites back, but they – and others like them – are carrying the weight of the integrity of the Church before a culture that is ignoring our fairweather song and dance, but cannot ignore the long-suffering of those who see hope and give it.
In the current cultural reality it will be homes and hearts like those of our friends who, centered on Jesus and his people, embody that pure and faultless God-ward life found in a long obedience of sacrificial embrace and not in the tidy and trendy buildings, programs, and rhetoric we engage in that leaves many still asking, “Where is the Church?”