Saturday, September 03, 2011

Can We Just Be Church?

The writer of this blog post is writing from a Methodist perspective as well as from a local viewpoint, but I think there are a lot of people who feel this way:

Generally speaking, there is a perception in Springfield that there are only two options in choosing churches. The first I will call “evangelical.” Congregations of this option are perceived as large churches with relatively newer and fancier facilities. They are perceived as younger, comprised of families with school age children. The perception is that they are conservative, and focus exclusively on one’s personal relationship with Jesus and getting into heaven when one dies.

The second perceived option I will call “social justice.” It is perceived as the alternative to “evangelical.” Congregations of this option are perceived as smaller in size with older or more basic buildings. The perception is that they are comprised of older people, retirees and empty nesters. They are perceived as liberal, and focus exclusively on helping people who need help and making the earth a better place in this lifetime...

...A dynamic of these two prevailing models for congregations in Springfield is that people who associate with one tend to view the other in very generalized, stereotypical ways. The atmosphere in this community is highly polarized; there seems to be a strong either/or mentality in the Ozarks that predominates the public discourse. This trickles into the church culture as well. While the truth is far more nuanced, it seems that Christians in Springfield are labeled either an evangelical or a social justice type...

I have witnessed a spiritual hunger in this community for church-without-agenda. “Can’t anyone just be church?” is a question posed in some form in multiple conversations I have had with people who are not a part of a congregation. And a church “just being church” takes only one agenda as their own - God’s agenda - for which another term could be God’s mission, the mysterious and transcendent Missio Dei. God’s mission is made known in Christ Jesus, who not only came to announce the mission and undertake the mission, but to embody it. The mysterious and transcendent made flesh and blood in Jesus of Nazareth.
Since I'm an out, gay pastor, there are folks who probably think I have an agenda.  There are others who have an agenda and don't like my perceived agenda. 

But the reality is, I wish we could just be church.  I wish those of us who call ourselves Christians would learn how to love each other, even when we disagree. 

Of course, that would mean actually trying to follow Jesus, something that I think we fail to do, no matter which side we come down on.

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