What the Church is All About
Reading through the comments on this post, I saw a stunning indictment: "Why is it that the church spends 95% of its time coddling insiders?" That may seem a bit harsh, but I think it might be true.
Just today I had a conversation with a nice young woman named Jenny - yeah, she's interested in the church plant; yes, she loves Missoula with all its beautiful pagans; but when are we going to start a Bible study? After all, what she really wants is to grow, to be around mature people, to become more spiritually mature herself. She wants fellowship with believers, with people who've got it together. But it's ok if we don't offer that yet - she's found another church that does, and she's making friends there, and she's thinking she'd like to get more involved there. I mean, don't you think I can just be involved in both?
What struck me is that Jenny is a consumer. How many times do we desire the fruit of our salvation - sanctification, holiness, calm in the face of trials, peace, love, joy - rather than the vinetender from whom all these things flow. And when we pursue the former, rather than the latter, we end up with neither.
I'm reminded of C. S. Lewis, who deeply desired joy. When he pursued joy, he failed to find it. When he pursued God alone, he also found joy.
The church, sadly, falls into the trap of marketing to felt needs. You desire community? Ah, we have some of that over here! Holiness? Hey, we have a twelve step program in stock!
The church coddles believers - insiders - because the church thinks it needs them (just like the believers think they need the various things the church offers). And yet what everyone needs is what Christ alone offers - himself.
Christ offers us himself (go read about the woman at the well in John 4, and look again at what Christ offers her). And he goes on to say that the call of one who would follow Christ is that of a servant, a follower, one who emulates Christ - not serving himself, but taking the form of a servant and dying that others, unbelievers, weaker brothers, might live.
Christ calls us not to be consumers, but servants. Of those inside the church, and also of those outside the church. The infidels. The unbelievers. The 'sinners' in this world. The cities and neighborhoods in which we live. Not for their own sake, but for his - to call them to join us in this self-denying service of Christ.
This is not a sexy call. It's mother Teresa, toiling away in the slums of Calcutta, never really being recognized or appreciated until after she was gone.
Seek holiness for the sake of holiness, and you will never find it. Seek Christ, and seek to serve those whom Christ loves - the poor, the needy, the afflicted, the oppressed, the lost - and you will not only gain Christ, but you will also find holiness. Only then will be ever really experience peace, joy, satisfaction, fulfillment - as we die to ourselves that others might live.
I'm not sure that's what Jenny wants in a church. But that's what the church is meant to be all about. And that's what it means to really know Christ.