Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Bad Churches that We Love To Love

As my sweet little church joins me in a Lenten journey through the history, meaning, and purpose of evangelism, I found myself with a peculiar thought in my head.

Being a part of a church is a relationship, much like the kind of relationship you have with another soul.  A community has a strange sort of spirit to it, one that's not quite as clear and distinct as the personalities of the human beings that comprise it, but a spirit nonetheless.

The goal, for any community of the Way, is for that spirit to be fundamentally healthy.  That doesn't mean "big" and it doesn't mean "rich," any more than the message of our Teacher is about bigness or richness.  It means manifesting grace, service, mercy, and kindness.  It's not measured by organizational metrics and institutional measures and leadership dashboards.  It's qualitative, like a poem or a story or a song.  Like the Good itself, spiritual health is a quality, not a quantity.

Yet I wonder at this, because the goal of the church is not just to be healthy, but to be virally healthy.  Meaning, to be a place of strength and support and respite to those whose souls have been broken and fragmented.  Healthy churches aren't just healthy for themselves.  They're places of healing for those not yet within their bounds.

To be that healthy churches need to be attractional.  Or, to use a less-obnoxiously-made-up-word, folks have to want to be there.  There needs to be a draw.

Here's the rub, though.  Broken souls aren't typically drawn to healthy relationships.  They're drawn, more often than not, into relationships that reflect their brokenness.

Those who feel a lack of control, or who are threatened by change?  They're drawn to demagogues, who control them with that yearning for power, who turn their anger into the seething tribalism of the mob.

Those who suffer with shattered self-image and self-hatred?  They're drawn to the abusers and the manipulative, to the one who beats you down with fear, to the one who keeps you in your place.

Those who struggle with material poverty and the anxieties it creates?  They're drawn to the con artist and the charlatan and the huckster, pitching out prosperity while they sparkle and shine on your last dime.

Wounded souls are drawn to institutions whose broken souls plug into their own, like the protein nubbin on a virus plugs in to a cell.  This is not news.

Neither is it good.

Which means that while there are churches that grow like gangbusters, their growth has nothing to do with the Euaggelion of the Way.

They grow because our broken souls love things that are bad for us.

3 comments:

  1. I stopped going to church. I have stopped participating in all organized religion, even though I am very much on a search for God and so much wish I could find a community. I stopped loving church and community around God because, as a 43 year old single childless woman, I found continually that there wasn't space for me. The space was there for me to support the coupled, the familied, those with children, but there wasn't space for me and to support me in my struggles. Every time I have brought this up in communities that I was a part of I got negativity and anger. I have stopped loving church, and God's people because of it. Oh well, it only makes sense that God isn't for me because, as is quoted over and over and over and over, Jesus said that where there are 2 or more people, I am there. Yes. I am reminded that Jesus is not there when I am alone, and thus my life, the life I live at home, is worth less than all other lives.. Thus, I have stopped loving churches and God's people.

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  2. Tell me, Brooke, about the communities and relationships that have worked for you. Do you have a circle of friends, or one or two intimates with whom you are fully yourself? Do you have relationships with colleagues in your vocation? Are there places in the community where you volunteer, either in direct service, in shared creativity, or for a social purpose?

    Where in your life have you not stopped loving?

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