Someone recently reminded me that despite my gripes about the church, God didn’t institute a Plan B for how He was going to work our His redemptive plan for the world.  I often get complaints that I’m too hard on the church.  I do often have critiques about many aspects of the church, or specific iterations of it, from the pursuit of mega-church status to the health and wealth gospel to how it does mission trips.  I get frustrated because I do love it (the love part of my love hate relationship with it).

There’s a lot of ways I have looked at my history/relationship with the church.  I once wrote about church shopping in terms of a date.  Lately I’ve been thinking about how my journey with the church can be seen through some of the various metaphors of the church seen in the Bible, both good and bad.

Early on, I saw the church in terms of being an Army, and I was a soldier in the army of the Lord.  As many new converts are, I was “on fire.”  Me and my friends were young, take charge, full of dreams and ideas, and folks had to run to keep up with us.  If the church was an Army, we were the Christian Special Forces.  Ah, the arrogance of youth.  The metaphor of the church cast in terms of military made sense to a culture beset and besieged by the Roman empire.  Soldiers had to train hard, be disciple, gird themselves to battle, and be prepared to give their lives in their cause.

There is a lot of toxicity in the image also.  The idea of conquering language leads to a conquering mindset.  There was also a sense of searching for the proper level, rising through the ranks if you would.  Some people were meant to be privates, some generals, though there were often far more people who thought they were generals than privates.  The other thing about the army mentality, is a problem the Roman empire felt with the Pax Romana.  Soldiers need to fight.  Folks who are trained to wage war always need to be at war with someone.

As an example, I’m reminded of something the Internet Monk recently wrote:  As a result of this evangelical embrace of a culture war approach to their mission in the world, churches, pastors, and individual Christians have been swept up into having to choose sides on many complex issues and to adopt a “Christ against culture” mentality. This has coincided with the development of an entire Christian subculture, which in my view has isolated believers from their neighbors and genuine redemptive interaction with the world.

After a period of disillusionment, the next stage of my relationship with the church could be seen through the metaphor of the Body.  Every person has their gifts, those talents and skillsets that make them uniquely them.  Part of the role of the church and the individual is not only realizing their gifts but finding ways to use their gifts.  This stage was often one of internal searching, for the proper role or part to play.  Thing is, bodies tend to protect themselves first.  Use of those gifts were typically for the benefit of the body.

Currently in my journey, the church is viewed through the metaphor of Family.  There is a strong relational element to how I view the church.  Even as we feel out our sense of place as people in families, large or small, have to do; there is that element of being stuck with each other.  That’s one of the chief benefits.  On the down side, there is the heightened capacity to damage, as there’s nothing worse than being betrayed by family.

My family is full of characters.  I’ve grown up with weirdos and outcasts (and been/am one).  Life with Jesus and people is not primarily about information.  Ultimately it is relational.  Learning how to relate and live with one another is truly the journey of a life time.  It’s never too late to begin that walk.