Monday, December 18, 2006
Are We Dying on the Church Hill?
Since a few of us made some noise together about syncretism, and Christianity there have been follow up posts to the subject which I find interesting. I responded to those, but thought that I would put my thoughts here as well.
Shannon (who I haven't met in blogosphere yet - I don't think) vented about His feelings about church critiquing, and then John responded feeling a bit guilty for dissing church. Next Sally asked, "what is church, where is church?
I am not sure I agree with the critique of critiquing church. My reason is a preeminently a missiological reason.
I can not tell you how many people I have met, and the people in our church have met who hate "church," are uncomfortable with church, yet have in interest in spirituality. I have found that my ability to identify with them by agreeing to the obvious validity of their complaints defuses the tension, and allows me to get to the Person of Jesus, with Whom they generally have no complaints.
Knowing enough people who appear to love, or at least admire Jesus, but at the same time hate church, I wonder if I have already lost the semantic battle for the English word "church." If I have lost the battle for that word, is it worth defending it? I have to say there are times when I defend the word, but it is usually to Christians who have a twisted ecclesiology. People who are angry at the greed, and the abuse in the church both historically, and recently are correct in their complaints, and no degree of coaxing can cause them to love "that church." They are convinced, and they are correct that the church they hate is not the church Jesus would want to see with His Name on it.
The etymology of the English word "church" does not have its source in the greek word we use to define it in our typical evangelical ecclesiology. Ekklesia is not the source for our English word church. Truly there is nothing Holy about the word church. It is not the same as defending the name of Jesus which is a transliteration of His name from the Greek. In fact, many of us have given up on even that semantic battle, and refer to Jesus as Yeshua when speaking to Jewish people, because they have a terrible history of having been oppressed under the name Jesus.
We are potentially under a similar struggle, having lost the semantic battle for the word church long ago in many people's minds.
Depending upon where we live, and who we are hoping to share our lives with, we may be able to save the word church from missiological extinction, or we may need decide that this is a hill not worth dying on. I find myself making that determination from person to person, and people group to people group. If I have a choice between keeping the word church holy in my own eyes, or reaching someone's heart by identifying with them in their legitimate pain over a failed institution, I will always choose the latter. I will choose the latter not because I think that the ekklesia is a corrupt institution, because I do not think that the ekklesia is an instiitution at all, but the church as defined by my hurting friend is a corrupt institution and they are correct.
On a Christian-Pagan dialogue The Gathering sponsors (The Gathering is our "church") ;-), this topic is being discussed now as well. The fruit of this approach is evident because people are identifying with trying to find God apart from the institutional structure which is called church.
I personally don't care if I win the semantic war for this word church. It is not a hill I will die on. I will die on one Hill, and someone already beat me to it. If it comes to dying, I will die next to Him defending that hill.
That's my take - what's yours?