Friday, June 22, 2007

A Prayer for the Church

As I mentioned earlier this week, the slightest little spark will ingnite a flame of applause in the conference room where 130 new staff interns assemble for training everyday. Just the mere mention of part of God's character or the visual of a fictionalized character signing over a support check or the announcement of a free book will turn the Best Western Ball Room into the Dean Dome.

So today, in prefacing a discussion on financial church partnership, a speaker began with this:

"The church is great."

He hesitated through his sentence until a brief pause at the end. Three people in the room clapped. Sensing momentum, five or six more joined in. At this point, an explosiion usually occurs.

But it didn't. An awkward pause fell over us as the eight or nine exhausted their applause. And silence dominated.

Because trivialities such as movie clips receive great applause at this event, I do not think it presumptuous to read intention into the silence. Many people do not care much for the church, especially in a room of folks who have chosen to minister in a context outside its "walls."

This silence really saddened me.

The church is not perfect and most certainly has hurt a great many people, but the reality is that Jesus Christ loves his church. He died for her. We claim to love people, justice, and the Word because Jesus Christ loves people, justice, and the Word. We often fail to strive to love the church even though Jesus Christ loves the church.

As recently at six months ago, I too did not care much for the church, so I do not say this from a point of condescention or great knowledge. I simply write in hope that we may pray for a resurgence in people's love for the church, for the sake of Jesus Christ and for the sake of ourselves.

4 comments:

Jeff said...

Ben, that post terrifies me. How can you be a worker in the body of Christ and have no love for the church?
The church is not confined by a denomination or a building, but is Christ's entire body meeting together and pondering his amazing grace.
I realize that most of these people have chosen to minister outside the proverbial church building, but I think that choice should be made out of desire to bring people into the body of the church, and not out of dislike for the church itself.
What you've revealed her is scary and sad.

Ben said...

Jeff,

There are a lot of variables here as there always are when talking about groups of people. No one here does not want to bring people into the body. If this were the case, they would not be here. I think a lot of this does center around one's definition of "church," but that's too long to get in to here.

In my experience in college, I felt like I had no need for the church since I had found so much life and purpose and growth in the parachurch. What I found on campus was a good thing not to be missed, but my indifference towards the church was not. The practical problem was that when I graduated, I had no idea how to set down some roots in the church, which becomes one of the only places for Christian community once one leaves the campus. The spiritual problem is that the Bible says Christ loves the church, and despite the fact that I wanted to become more Christlike, I didn't care to love the church.

The parachurch and the church can coexist and help each other flourish. But that to occur those of us who work and love the parachurch must choose to love the church as well.

Jeff said...

You are hitting at what I was trying to say...
The faulty assumption in disliking the church and liking the parachurch is that they are separate. The established denominations and churches (read: people with buildings) should love and embrace the parachurch (read: donate to ben). And conversely, the parachurch should be excited about the mission of the church and be passionate about people growing and loving the church proper.
This whole conversation kind of lends itself back to something I talked about in a blog I wrote recently. The fundamentally bad assumption among those who have beef with the church is that the church is or will ever be perfect. No church is perfect, and we as individuals (or the parachurch for that matter) are not perfect.
The love between the groups comes from sharing an abiding love for Jesus Christ and finding a purpose in gathering together despite our differences. I think if we all looked at it that way, we could see that there's something beautiful in each group serving in our own faulty ways.

His Little Joy said...

Dude, sorry Ben that I'm commenting so much- I'm sitting in Bible study across from your table and instead of being bored I thought I'd catch up on your blog! I just have one little thing to say here- my staffworker once told me that he hopes one day InterVarsity will not exist. And it kind of struck me funny but I think it may have some truth in light of this conversation- that we are a PARAchurch organization trying to build up the church of Christ. We should not be in competition with the church but striving to reach the people groups that the church fails to reach in hopes that one day the church will learn to reach those groups. That's kind of sing-songy, but I just think it's true that we should love InterVarsity as PART of the church (God's Kingdom) and not MORE than the church.