Oh the Church. You’ve been on all our minds at the Conversant offices this week… especially mine. I’ve always known that the Church was a good metaphor for marriage: Love your spouse as Christ loved the Church. Lately I’m beginning to think the metaphor is just as applicable the other way around. When you enter into the covenant of marriage you basically say I choose this person and all their junk. Wash off the make-up, come back from the honeymoon and eventually you’ll see the imperfection you made a vow to love. Difficult? Yes. Reciprocated? Hopefully. Rewarding? Definitely.
For someone who grew up working the church system, hip to all the marketing ploys, the politics, the hypocrisy, knowing when to raise his hands, replace his “ums” with “Lord Jesus”, and perfect his post-group-prayer-hand-hold squeeze (I’ve secretly always wanted to interlock fingers with someone I didn’t know), it’s easier for me to get on bored with the challenge of a lifetime commitment to a person then it is to an institution.
But I can’t seem to get away from the church. Whether I’m working for Conversant, consulting for a ministry, or having a conversation over lunch with a friend, this living, breathing, broken, backwards, beautiful, transformational, insecure, dis-unified bride refuses to release the chords of my curiosity, frustration, and imagination.
This past month I’ve heard church plants offer to pay people $50 to come to their service, mega churches urge people to donate towards their building fund because it was “God’s dream,” and televised churches adorn their halls with quotes and murals depicting their precious pastar.
Moreover, whenever I find myself in conversation with someone my age who doesn’t follow Christ, their beef ten out of ten times isn’t with Jesus, it’s with organized religion.
So I’ve been thinking a lot lately…
Where does this leave us as a generation? We’re a people with a kingdom imagination, a passion to see heaven gravitate toward earth… and a cynicism like a rhinoceros, unliftable and morose.
Back to the wife analogy. A friend of mine who is making tremendous progress in the city he lives in as a cultural architect said this to me recently in regards to the Church, “I may not always agree with my wife, but you call her a b**** and I’ll punch you in the face.” I think that’s a pretty accurate description of how Christ feels when we talk smack about His bride. We need to remember that institutions don’t hurt us…people do.
So here we live in this tension. The tendency is to think we’re a unique generation scarred by big hair, shiny suits, cheesy marketing stunts, and front-page hypocrisy. But the truth is that brokenness, pride, selfishness, disunity, and dysfunction have always been a part of our story since Christ told Peter, “You’re kind of an a-hole but that’s just the kind of guy I’m looking for to build this thing.” (VLP)*.
This is our story. This is why Christ died. There’s a freedom in communicating that it’s never had great PR but we’re trying to listen closer, lean in harder, imagine more authentically the pulse of Grace until the heavens fully envelop earth like an unforeseen kiss…unannounced by a campaign, commercial, or crusade.
*Very Loose Paraphrase