Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why the church and I must change, always

It is this reason that I know that I should welcome change in my life. Steadiness is comfortable, but reconciliation is change. Of course, not all change is good. Some change is reverting to a deeper sinfulness, but I know that staying the same will never help me to progress.

In the same way, I don't think the church can be the same. Christ left the church, his bride, as his representative on earth but that doesn't imply that the church is perfect like he is. The Church is guided by the Holy Spirit, but that doesn't mean that it has perfect love. If that were true, Paul's letters to the first century church would be quite different. As they were, they were letters to sinful people in troubled churches. Paul's challenge was for each of these churches to repent and be reconciled. His challenge was to change.

John wrote in his revelation to imperfect congregations. These churches were not reconciled to God any more than the churches that Paul wrote were reconciled to one another. While I believe that it is important that the church understand and teach the traditions of the previous generations, I do not think that that means that the church's role on earth is to maintain. It isn't to maintain traditions any more than Jesus accepted the Pharisees for their maintenance of Jewish tradition.

What I don't mean here is that the church needs to modernize itself. It is very possible that in the name of contextualizing, the church has become more like the Sadducees with watered-down faith in lieu of political or cultural power. We need stronger faith and a stronger commitment to the Gospel than what so many do when they hope that by looking just like the culture people will come to Jesus because someone slip a watered-down gospel talk in between songs in the big show that we call a worship service.

The church needs to change. And change needs to come in many ways. We cannot settle into comfortable organizations. The church should never be comfortable. The church in Laodicea tried that, and Jesus pledged to spit it out of his mouth (Revelation 3:14-22). I think that has got to be one of the most ominous warnings that God ever gave to anyone. The whole reason for the warning was that the church just wanted to comforably be what is was without love that challenged its members to be something. I would assume that this church had no goal of reconciliation but only a goal of comfortable conformity.

The church must be about the business of helping people to change in reconciliation so that they can help others to be reconciled. With out this goal, there is no valuable purpose for an institutional church to exist. Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, but we as humans cannot accept that same claim, either as individuals or as a body so we need to change. Change will always be uncomfortable.