I’ve Given Up on the Church, Part 1

I’ve Given Up on the Church, Part 1 July 22, 2008

I’ve been thinking a lot about the church lately.  By the church I mean not Calvary Baptist Church Washington, DC, per se, but the church as in the Church of Jesus Christ as a whole. The thing is, I meet a lot of people who tell me they have given up on the church: it doesn’t meet my needs; it’s corrupt; people who go to church are generally weird; Sunday mornings are for coffee and the NY Times.

I get all of this. There are, truly, some weird people at church.

But sometimes when someone tells me they’re done with church I suspect they are really throwing down the gauntlet and hoping, whether consciously or not, that maybe, possibly, perhaps . . . there might be a little shred of potential, a spark of hope, a little flash of promise that the church could-even occasionally-be relevant and prophetic, a real Gospel community?

I suspect this because, after all, why would you tell the preacher you’ve given up on church if you weren’t hoping on some level that she would convince you to give it one more try?

I also suspect this because, well, there’s something planted really deep in my heart that longs for Gospel community and desperately clings to any shred of hope that it might, somehow, be possible, too.

After all, I’m a church professional and there have been times in my life when I have come close to giving up on the church. I can clearly remember: the time I sat in church longing for any kind of balm for my grief only to hear over and over and over, shouted in the microphone: “God is good!” to which all of us were supposed to answer: “All the time!” I sat there as long as I could, trying desperately to hold my breaking heart together.

Then I fled . . . and almost never went back to church at all.

But here I am, still believing that the church can rise to the occasion, at least once in awhile, to be the presence of Christ in this world. I’ve got a couple of stories to tell here on the blog about what it means to be the church, so I’ll be pontificating on that for the next few entries. I begin with my favorite, favorite explanation of what the church should (and can!) be:

Where is the Church?

A Poem by Ann Weems

from Reaching for Rainbows, Westminster John Knox Press, 1980

The church of Jesus Christ

is where a child of God brings a balloon

is where old women come to dance

is where young men see visions and old men dream dreams.

The church of Jesus Christ

is where lepers come to be touched

is where the blind see and the deaf hear

is where the lame run and the dying live.

The church of Jesus Christ

is where daisies bloom out of barren land

is where children lead and wise men follow

is where the mountains are moved and walls come tumbling down.

The church of Jesus Christ

is where loaves of bread are stacked in the sanctuary to feed the hungry

is where coats are taken off and put on the backs of the naked

is where shackles are discarded and kings and shepherds sit down to life together.

The church of Jesus Christ

is where barefoot children run in giggling procession

is where the minister is ministered unto

is where the anthem of laughter of the congregation and the offering plates are full of people.

The church of Jesus Christ

is where people go when they skin their knees or their hearts

is where frogs become princes and Cinderella dances beyond midnight

is where judges don’t judge and each child of God is beautiful and precious.

The church of Jesus Christ

is where the sea divides for the exiles

is where the ark floats and the lamb lies down with the lion

is where people can disagree and hold hands at the same time.

The church of Jesus Christ

is where the night is day

is where trumpets and drums and tambourines declare God’s goodness

is where lost lambs are found.

The church of Jesus Christ

is where people write thank-you notes to God

is where work is a holiday

is where seeds are scattered and miracles grown.

The church of Jesus Christ

is where home is

is where heaven is

is where a picnic is communion and people break bread together on their knees.

The church of Jesus Christ

Is where we live responsively to God’s coming

even on Monday morning the world will hear

an abundance of alleluias!

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