“The Church is not a tribe for the improvement in holiness
of people who think it would be pleasant to be holy, a means
to the integration of character for those who cannot bear
their conflicts. It is a statement of the divine intention for
humanity.” – Harold Loukes
I tell people that I am full of mystery and intrique. It started as a joke – probably a shameless attempt to get on the quote board – but like all really funny things, there’s some truth to it. As I’ve often expressed, I’m not very good at expressing myself. People don’t know what to make of me. I’m a girl that looks like she could be in high school who uses words like “stymied” in everyday conversation. I’ve (almost) completed my doctorate, but I couldn’t figure out my friend’s CD player. I talk when I’m tired and am silent when fully awake. I’ll argue on behalf of someone else, but hate conflict when it pertains to m own defense. As the great philosophers of Green Day once sang, I’m a walking contradiction.
Once, I even had a friend remark to me that the intricacies of my (probably somewhat warped) personna ruined a long-held theory about Christians. They had been of the opinion that there were two types of believers – those who are raised in the Church and believe because that’s what they’ve always known. These Christians have never “worked out their salvation” as Paul directs because they’ve never really thought about it. Or there were those who turned to Christianity to improve some aspect of their lives. The second type view the Church as a means of restoration and come from a variety of different contexts, but the defining feature is that the Church is a means of self-improvement. I didn’t (and hopefully still don’t!) fit into either of these categories.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of truth to what my friend observed. There are people in the Church who appear to be members of the community solely for the good that they think will be brought to their lives as a result. They see the Church as good group therapy, a way for them, or their kids, to be shown how to conduct their lives in a morally upstanding manner. For them, the Church is little more than a spiritual psychoanalytical group session – a good way to get their life back on track.
But this was never God’s intention for the Church. As my pastor taught in a recent sermon, the Church was intended to be the foundation upon which God’s plan was brought about on Earth. It is His means for bringing Him glory – and for drawing others to salvation. The Church is Christ’s ambassadors, sent to do His work. As Harold Loukes comments above, the Church “is a statement of God’s divine intention for humanity”.
It’s a shame that in many circles the Church has become less than that. It’s an even greater shame that there are Christians who are content with this downgrade. We should want more. I know God does.
As for the second type of Christians, those who have been brought up in the Church and don’t ever reason out their faith, we’ll leave that discussion for another day. 🙂