Sounds simple enough, right? The church should just be the church- a body of believers focused on modeling Christ, sharing his message and serving others while enjoying the blessings of unity and fellowship. Simply said, but not simply applied.
Somewhere along the way it got more complicated. Somewhere along the way the church gained social status, built elaborate edifices to demonstrate it and grew very comfortable within them. Somewhere along the way the church decided to politicize, work to set national policy and grab power in high places. Somewhere along the way the church confused Americanism with Christianity and began preaching a gospel of prosperity. Somewhere along the way the church “traded fidelity for influence” and pushed her real agenda to the back-burner.
In speaking of what eternally matters Jesus said: For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. (Matthew 25:35-36)
This is the church just being the church. No pretense. No front page news. No what-are-you-doing-for-me attitude. No lobbying for personal or political power and position. Just serving; just making a difference one life at a time; and just doing what Jesus did.
Once, John the Baptist sent messengers to Jesus to clearly verify that Jesus was the one, true Messiah. Jesus chose to answer their inquiry this way:
Go back and report to John what you hear and see; The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. (Matthew 11:4-6)
Don’t get lost in the miracle talk. Jesus defined himself simply as a servant. He had no political agenda. He did not care about the social class structure. He was not interested in enhancing his public image. His focus was unclouded. He came to seek and save the lost.
If the church is to be just the church then we must do the same- period. It’s not about keeping up with the mega-churches, the celebrity authors and preachers or the latest church growth fad. It’s not about power except to surrender it to Jesus. It’s not about buildings, budgets or worship style.
In his Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis’s demon Screwtape shared this wisdom with his nephew Wormwood; “Once you have made the world an end and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours.”
Can we simplify again? Can we come out of our comfortable cathedrals and rediscover the hungry and thirsty? Can we find our way back to just being the church?