Tuesday, January 16, 2007

What is the Church About?

I'm a little hesitant in bringing up this post, because I know there will be people that will think that "Dennis hates poor people and probably kicks puppies." That's far from the truth. (I mean, I would kick kittens, instead.)

Seriously, I know that there will be people who will assume the following critique means I don't care about social justice when in reality I do. But I still have this problem.

Fellow Disciple and blogger, Michael Davidson stated his resolutions concerning our denomination, the Disciples of Christ. I agree with most of it, but I have some questions about the following:

We will become even more mission-focused. A missional focus that does not seek to create more Christians or churches, but rather seeks to serve our world through: standing up for economic justice; being a non-consumer driven church; standing against all kinds of discrimination based on race, gender, socioeconomic, or sexual orientation; altering systems in our culture and Christendom that tolerate mediocrity in the name of maintaining power or creating diversity.
Only then will they know us by our love, and will an authentic Christian witness revealed.

Now, I am someone who thinks that mission, being "sent out" into the world carrying the good news of Christ is important. I think it is important for Christians to engage in acts of justice, not just as a side issues but as part of who we are. But there is also a question that tugs at me: if the church is only focused on economic injustice, ending all forms of discrmination and the like, who really needs the church? The fact is that there are a lot of good and wonderful people who do these things without the church. (I don't agree with those who say you can't be both moral and an atheist.) We don't need to get up on Sunday mornings, let alone give money to a local church, when such money can be spent directly on the poor, instead of paying pastors and administators. To take it farther, we don't need denominational officials or structures, since again, we should be spending money on social justice.

(I'm also a bit peeved by his dismissiveness of new churches, being a new church pastor. I will get to that in a moment.)

For me, I do justice not because it is what Christianity is all about, I do it out of joyous response of what God has done in my life in particular and the whole of creation. God came to earth in the form of Jesus and lived with us. Jesus then died for us a freed us from the power of sin. We now live in God's grace. When someone does something wonderful for you, what is your normal response? Well, to "pay it forward." I do justice out of the love that God has shown. God has shown love and we want to share that love.

Davidson also seems to be dismissive of new churches. Being a new church pastor, I take some offense. One of the reasons I helped plant Community of Grace was to be an Open and Affirming church, a place where gays and lesbians can worship freely. This new church has brought one person back to church after years of not feeling welcomed because of his sexuality. He has come back to community and his faith has grown because of this new church. Church planting can also be about justice.

Justice is the evidence of our faith, but it is not the faith itself.

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