I have to admit from the beginning of this blog entry that I am a huge fan of the Church. I absolutely love her, every aspect of her, simply because she is the Bride of Jesus. I can see what the Father has intended and I can get frustrated at times when we miss the point, but nothing can mask or smear her true beauty. I have great concerns when we try to prostitute her and turn her into some kind of commodity to market and sell to the world, but I have read the book and I know the ending; she will prevail even through this current ugly age. The thing is, many of us get so fascinated with her beauty, which is that Jesus loves her, that we forget we have a mission; we forget that we must go out from the warmth and comfort of the Church to tell the world about the Bride.
I believe that is part of the problem, we keep trying to sell the world on the virtues of the Bride whereas we are suppose to be lifting up the groom. In reality the Bride is rather pitiful and ugly, it is the Groom's love for her that makes her wonderful and beautiful. So there are no real virtues that can win the world over to the Bride. It is the Groom who came and sacrificed himself; it is via the Groom that the world can go to the Father; it is the Groom who watches over and protects his own; it is the Groom who is pursuing the lost; it is the Groom who has the great compassion for the suffering. We should not be marketing the Church from the comfort of our armchairs and laptops; we should be out in the world, lifting up Jesus. We need the Church and everything that happens in the Church but if we only "do" Church it is us who have missed the point.
I am going to refer to an odd bit of Scripture here. Yesterday we read how Jesus dealt with the religiously minded people who thought man-made definitions of God's law was more important than compassion. They left him to plot how to kill him. Then we are told:
Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick, warning them not to tell who he was. (Matthew 12:15-16)
As we read through the gospels we are going to often see where Jesus tried to get people to be quiet about the miracles. He would heal a blind man and tell him to say nothing. He would give a person back the use of their legs and tell them not to tell anyone. He would heal their leprosy and tell them to remain quiet about it. A strange thing to do considering he had come to tell the Jews about the Father's rescue plan. One would think he would want to shout it from the mountain tops. However, Jesus knew what would happen if word of the healings spread. Crowds would come to see the miracles and his mission would be limited.
We need to keep in mind that Jesus started off with the purpose of casting out demons and preaching the good news. The casting out of demons was to allow every person the freedom to make a choice without demonic control in their life. (I think we need to get back to that.) He only began to heal because the compassionate heart of God could not stand to see the suffering that his creation was going through. He did not heal to make money or to draw a crowd. In fact it was just the opposite; he tried to heal in secret so there would be no crowds. Jesus did not want crowds because crowds would keep him out of the towns and villages. Jesus did not want to be stuck out on a mountainside preaching to a multitude. His desire was to be in the villages, towns, cities where he could talk to people where they worked and lived. He wanted to enter their world not have them leave what was familiar to meet him in an unfamiliar place. This is the wonder of our God, meeting each of us where we are.
If you were to look at the events of Jesus' life in chronological order you will see that Jesus spoke to people in the market place, in their homes, at the local pub, in the village synagogue, at the docks, in people's homes. But as word got out about the miracles, Jesus was forced to stay outside of these places so he could accommodate the thousands who flocked to see him and his miracles.
The point I am making with this is that we need to meet people where they are. Most salvation takes place outside of churches and is later acknowledged in church. Of the many I have led to the Lord only two took place in a church, all the others were in people's homes or in offices, parks, cars or other every day places. So often we try to get people to come to church as if that will be a place of miracles. People do not need to come to church to encounter Jesus, all they need to do is meet the Christ in you. After they need the Church to be built up in their faith. But right now, you tell them about Jesus' love, show them with the compassion he has placed in you, let them see the miracles as you pray for their "illness". We have an advantage over Jesus when he was walking this earth, we will not have multitudes of people following us. We can fit in their world. We can go to the market place or into their homes. We can meet at the local park or even the grand amusement park or perhaps the movie theatre. We need to stop secluding ourselves and enter the world of those who need Jesus just as Jesus did.
The Church is beautiful but she has a specific purpose. Although we need her and we need to be part of her (because we are her), we also have a mission to fulfill. It really is time to understand that this mission was not given to the Church but was given to you and me. It is not the Church's responsibility to make disciples but ours. We need to trust what Jesus promised, that our mouths would be filled with the words to speak, that we would be given what we ask (such as when we pray over people to be healed), and that he would remain with us to encourage and empower. We must stop hiding behind the skirts of the Bride, be bold in the Spirit, and step out into the world to seek out the objects of the Father's affection. That is our mission.