What does it mean to be the church?
I mean really. Just say the word church, and depending on who’s standing around at the time, the sound of it can conjure a wide range of emotions.
For some, the word feels like a warm blanket on a cold night.
Maybe you were raised in the church, and your family went every time the doors were open. Maybe some of your earliest and fondest memories were of Sunday School teachers and camp counselors and volunteers who nurtured you and loved you into the faith, until the faith you inherited became the faith you owned. Maybe for you, you try to imagine where your life would be without the church, and you simply can’t, because it has had that much of a shaping power in who you have become.
Or maybe that’s not your experience at all.
Maybe you hear the word church, and want to run as far and as fast as you possibly can in the other direction. As tragic and heart-wrenching as it is, we all know people (good people; loving people) who have been injured by “church.” Wounded, by the abuse of individuals, or even the recklessness of religious systems judged and condemned rather than loving and healing. And let’s face it. Those kinds of experiences leave wounds so deep that, for some, the mere mention of church conjures up nothing but negative emotions and pain.
Know anybody like that?
And every time I meet someone who’s been injured, wounded, jaded like that, I want to tell them, “Yes. I get it. I know. I understand. If that’s what church is supposed to be, then I’d want nothing to do with it either. But it isn’t.”
It so very much isn’t.
I believe the Church is intended to be nothing less than, nothing more than, nothing other than the visible presence of the Risen Christ in this world. As such, the ministries of the church must embody the radically compassionate, selfless love of Jesus. Like Jesus, the Church must be grace-centered and patient with people. It must be known as a safe place, where broken, struggling and imperfect people are welcomed and empowered to engage the life that Jesus proclaimed was entirely possible.
That is why this Sunday, October 12th, we will begin a new sermon series. For six weeks, we will examine the mystery and beauty of what it means to be the church of Jesus Christ in our current age…and in every age. We will imagine together what it looks like to be a community of believers perpetually connected, formed and mobilized by the redemptive love of Jesus.
I hope you will join us this Sunday at 11:00 a.m. for “Love My Church.”
Johns Creek Baptist Church