While driving home today from Abilene, I believe the Lord really revealed some things to me. I am part of a small group that is seeking the presence of the Lord through the book Sacred Pathways and community with each other.
In this group I have shared my struggle with this thing we call "church." Church as we know it, is hard for me. Probably will always be. I love rapid change, I am a product of Post-Modernity, I am uninstitutional - all things that make regular church hard. But God, in the gentle whisper is speaking to me.
God prompted me to begin defining what my ideal church would look like. And so I made a mental list. The ideal church:
Works for justice:
for the under-represented in this country
for the marginalized around the globe
for the gay community who are denied basic rights in their relationships
Has full and equal participation in worship, in ministry, in service:
the only qualifying question is: who is most gifted to fit this role?
Has worship that is vibrant, dynamically current and engaging.
Encounters the Lord through the arts.
That sees itself as a place for hundreds of intimate communities to experience "worship together" and to equip Christians to go and live like Christ in their actual worlds.
Is organized around, defined by intimate communities within the larger whole.
I felt smug and proud of my mental list. And then God prompted me again. What would David's list look like? What about Michelle, or Allyson? What about Sally, Missy, Adam, Greg. What about Matt? Slowly I began to realize all the "Ideal Lists" would look significantly different. Some of what is core to my list, would be unattractive to David. He would probably fill his list with things that reach back to his Catholic roots - things that have shaped him and he loves and adores. Clearly, I heard the question, So why should your list prevail?
And I began to realize what God was leading me to. The real challenge is this. What is stopping me from being church (the ideal list) in every aspect of my life. What is stopping me from working for justice, of creating the kind of community I value, worshipping regularly in the way I described. I already have wonderful opportunities to teach across the globe, recently, even preach - what a joy that was! And God has opened the door for me to work with Center Peace to help provide a place of belonging for those struggling with same-sex attraction.
Instead of an unholy discontent with church as it exists currently, what about being an incarnational example of what I believe in. Why not be the church. If being like Christ is really the goal, if sharing His heartbeat is what I am aiming for, does the representation of church really matter. If my inner life is so God directed that I am fully present with Him what does it matter.
These are hard things. Kingdom things. Relational things. My prayer is that God will continue to call me to a holy discontent: a real hunger for Him. And when my spirit of unholy discontent about church creeps in, I can ask Him to temper that with what really matters.