When I was preparing for the discussion we had at BookPeople for Theology on Tap last night, my mind reeled because it is a daunting task to envision the future of the church and also to be a minister called to lead the people of God through that envisioning.
Someone in my Sunday School class yesterday reminded us that our current Christian climate can get caught up in trying to make Jesus fit into a particular brand that a certain group of “hip” people currently have, making Jesus palatable to them. When you think about it, it seems so desperate like, saying, “Hey, Jesus fits into your brand…Jesus is hip too! Promise!” Instead of giving the full bodied, biting tang of Jesus’ blood-red way of life that goes down strong, we risk watering down the cost of discipleship to get people into the doors of the church.
But what are we to do? It seems as though nobody cares to sign up for what the gospel requires of us. It’s damn, taxing work! Who wants to make time for building relationships? Who wants to work day in and day out with harsh, needy, hungry people? Darn, who has time for it these days? “I have to get children to lacrosse practice, ballet practice, roller hockey practice, and then go to a PTA meeting on top of all of that!,” one might say. “My life is more than the church; I have other commitments that are important too,” another might say. It reminds me of the parable of the Great Banquet when the invited guests list all of their excuses for why they cannot attend the feast that was prepared for them. So, what does the master do? He invites the lame, poor, and sick, and anyone who would come and drink of his cup.
The question is, who is desperate enough to want to drink of this cup and be committed to what being at that banquet means? The situation in which church finds itself currently has numerous reasons, and the church itself is to fault for many of our issues. No matter what the future of the church looks like, what it cannot do without or neglect is the role of community in the life of Christianity.
Part of the issue that the church must address is our attempt to make Jesus palatable for the sake of getting bodies in the building. Being a part of church is more than just showing up occasionally for a social gathering with hip folk. It means commitment. There is no sugar coating that. That’s just the way it is. When the culture of the 21st century church changes, I hope that the essence of Christianity will not change, and an essential part of Christianity is the body, the community of Christ that makes the church. We commit to one another to love, nurture, edify, feed, clothe, and promote spiritual health and over all healing when we commit to being Christians. The church is what helps orchestrate that work of art. You really cannot be a Christian in isolation and be true to the gospel. You need the support of the community of Christ and the community of Christ needs your support.
One of my favorite professors in seminary taught us that the gospel is offensive. The words we need are often times the words we avoid, but we are invited to drink of Jesus’ cup. That blood sure is strong, but it certainly hits to the core of our being, a way in which we keep coming back for more. The call of the Christian in any age is to be a part of the body of Christ that is committed to the nurturing, edifying, feeding, clothing, and loving of the people of God’s creation, including the people of the church.
Rebekah Falk Associate Pastor