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 model of the church, are oozing. The mere mention of the word, church, is like pouring salt on open sores. It’s 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 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 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 a building. 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, can we? So, we must be more specific about what we are leaving. As followers of The Way, Christians should leave poor behavior, and dysfunctional systems behind. In fact, we are required to walk away from any environment that is not healthy for our spirit. Here are some of the things we must walk away from 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 hierarchical practices, abuse of power, discriminatory behaviors, and deceitful actions. I walked away from a system of governance, within one congregation, that enabled harmful behaviors to go unchecked. However, when I walked away from these behaviors, the church went with me, because I am the church. The bride of Christ lives in me, and I live in her.
This is an important distinction that many people need to make.
Empirical systems do NOT reflect The Way of Jesus. They reflect corruption and deceit. Hence, as empires go, it’s time for the Christian empire to fall.
Yet, even if Christendom falls, the bride of Christ will not be destroyed! The church is in the process of becoming who she was always meant to be—a beautiful bride. To reach her true beauty, the bride of Christ must undergo a metamorphosis. She must shed her creaturely form in favor of new life on earth. She isn’t dying—except to herself.
She is dying to her human ways of thinking. She is dying to false teachings and practices. She is dying to her own blindness. She is dying to her desire for 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, which will ultimately carry the bride to higher spiritual dimensions.
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 a man-made institutional model of spiritual control. But, the church, in her true spiritual form is a people. The church is you! The church is me! The church is, we.