I am excited. Something huge is happening within the church and I am part of it! Unfortunately, for many people, the wounds caused by the present institution are oozing. The mere mention of the word, “church” is like pouring salt on open sores.
It is often said, “Words have power!” Yet, in truth, words are powerless. If certain words hurt us, it is due to the associations we glue to them. Sadly, for many, the word “church” is glued to the deepest injuries ever encountered.
I’ve been injured. Deeply. I endured the healing process. I carry scars that bear witness to my wounds. Yet, I can say with all honesty that I am healthier for having experienced the injuries. I have no lingering anger. No bitterness. Lots of ah-ha moments, and a ton of wisdom that I would not otherwise have. I could point to my scars and blame the “church”—but doing so would be misplaced blame. My church-related injuries are not the fault of the church. My injuries are due to humans behaving badly. They are the result of generational dysfunction, spiritual blindness, and unexamined acceptance of traditional norms.
Let me explain . . .
I don’t believe anyone who follows the peaceful, non-violent, all-inclusive Way of Jesus can truly leave the church. Instead, I believe Christians have settled for a lesser, inferior understanding of the word “church” that is not scripturally sound. The church is not an institution. She just isn’t. Songwriters, Avery and Marsh, captured the spiritual essence of the word “church” in their song entitled, “We are the Church,” copyright 1972.
I am the church.
You are the church.
We are the church together.
All who follow Jesus, all around the world.
Yes! We’re the church together.
The church is not a building.
The church is not a steeple.
The church is not a resting place.
The church is A PEOPLE.
If the church is a people, then we can’t really leave her. People are everywhere. No one is an island. So, we must be more specific about what the “Dones” are leaving. As followers of The Way, Christians are legitimately able to leave poor behavior and dysfunctional systems behind. In fact, we are required to walk away from anything that is not healthy for the human spirit. Here are some of the things we can leave wherever we encounter them.
- Christians can walk away from an unloving group of people
- Christians can stop supporting hierarchical practices
- Christians can abandon harmful theological teachings
- Christians can disallow any and all abuse of power
- Christians can refuse to enable discriminatory behaviors
- Christians can reject deceitful, insincere, or hypocritical actions
- Christians can discontinue meaningless ritual
In my case, I walked away from 2.) hierarchical practices, 4.) abuse of power, 5.) discriminatory behaviors, and 6.) deceitful actions. I walked away from a system of governance within one community that enabled harmful behavior to go unchecked. When I walked away, however, the church went with me because I am the church. The church lives in me. I did not walk away from the church. I walked away from behavior that was harming my spirit.
This is an important distinction that many people need to make.
Empirical systems do NOT reflect The Way of Jesus by any stretch of our spiritual imagination. They reflect corruption and deceit within the human spirit. Hierarchies grant power and authority to a few people while withholding power and authority from the many. The system itself encourages poor behavior. Hence, as empires go . . . it’s time for the Christian empire to fall. Yet, even if Christian empiricism falls, the church herself will not be destroyed!
The church is in the process of becoming who she was always meant to be—a beautiful bride. When creating sensational headlines like, “The Church in Sharp Decline,” or “Church Numbers Drastically Dropping!” writers and journalists would do well to choose their words wisely. Spiritually speaking, these are false headlines that mislead people all over the world. The words reflect our lesser, inferior understanding of the word, “church.”
I know what the research says, but the church is NOT in decline. She is undergoing a metamorphosis. She is shedding her creaturely form in favor of new life on earth. She isn’t dying because she isn’t able to die—except to herself. She can die to her fleshly ways of thinking. She can die to false teachings and practices. She can die to her own blindness while trying to crawl her way to self-importance, worldly relevance, and control. But this type of death always brings about resurrection and new life! This type of death always results in the creation of wings that will ultimately carry the church to a higher spiritual dimension.
If words matter—and I believe they do—then we are not using the word, “church” wisely at the present time. The word is being used to describe and identify an institutional enemy of the people. But, the church, in her true spiritual form is not an enemy of the people. Human desire for empire is the foe born of spiritual deception. In turn, empiricism creates organizational structures that make it far too easy for people to behave badly.
The deeper truth about the church could be reported like this:
“Christian Empire Crumbling!” “Institutional Religion On Death Bed” “Church Ponders Own Image” “Church Experiences Great Awakening” “People of the Church Arise” “Church Lamps Lit with Oil to Spare” “Church Meets Christ – Love Abounds” “Church Removes Make-Up to Reveal Inner Beauty” “Church Prepares for Bread-Passing Miracle” “Church Reaches for Authentic Self”
Such headlines point to where the church is going instead of where she’s been. Headlines such as these could create the positive spiritual climate we church rebels, revolutionaries and visionaries desire. This type of “Public Relations Re-framing” would build excitement for the church of tomorrow as the disdain for the church of yesterday grows old. This type of re-framing reflects health and wholeness within Christianity instead of injury and brokenness.
So, when we speak of “church,” the biblical truth is this: Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Therefore nothing can separate us from his bride. Christ and his bride are one. Moreover, “the spirit and the bride say, “Come.”
“Come!” is an invitation to a wedding.
Thoughts along the way,
SUBSCRIBE Carol Wimmer is the author of the acclaimed poem When I say I am a Christian, and three books entitled: The Net—An Organizational Vision for the Church of Tomorrow; The Clock—A Timekeeping Tool for the Church of Tomorrow; and The Key—A Spiritual Language for the Church of Tomorrow