As a United Methodist pastor, I’ve been assigned to the churches I’ve served. While I’ve been very fortunate to serve very fine churches and ministries, from time to time I wonder, if I wasn’t a pastor, what kind of church I might choose to attend (Some days, this thought is a bit more tempting than others! I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve quit being a pastor. I’ve just never actually turned in my letter of resignation!).
If I wasn’t a pastor, and could choose any church I wanted…
I’d want to be part of a close-knit, loving, Christ-centered community, where I can truly know and be known.
I’d want worship that’s a genuine, heart-felt, impassioned offering to God.
I’d want to be challenged to grow and expected to become the human God intends me to be.
I’d want to fall deeper, and deeper, and deeper in love with Jesus.
I’d look for a “thin place.”
I’d want to find a church community that’s open and honoring of all kinds of people, embracing and celebrating diversity in every form.
I’d want to find a church that literally drips, oozes, and overflows with God’s love.
I’d hope to find a place I could really be myself, knowing I’ll be loved and accepted, with no reason to fear judgement or rejection.
I’d look for a church that’s a “saint-incubator.”
I’d seek a church that always asks, “What should we try next?”
I’d look for church that was perfectly imperfect – whatever that means!
I’d want to find a church that embraces the unfathomable, ineffable mysteries of the Spirit and rejects sterile, overly-simplistic, formulaic religion.
I’d want to be part of a church membership that tithes generously, and gives more to missions than it keeps for itself.
I’d look for a pastor who knows and love Jesus.
I’d look for a church where the Spirit moves equally freely in worship, and business meetings, and shared meals, and acts of service.
I’d want to be part of a church that feels less like a business, and more like a spiritually organic network of friends.
I’d seek a church that boldly dreams God-sized dreams.
I’d love to be part of a creative church, that embraces the arts as expressions of worship and service.
I’d seek a church where each and every person is treated with utmost honor and respect.
I’d want to be part of a church where my friends are hearing and responding to God’s call to attempt outrageous kingdom experiments.
I’d look for a church that actively cares for and cultivates God’s good creation.
I’d want a church that never, ever settles for status quo, or the way things have always been done.
I’d look for a church that reads the Bible as a grand story to be part of, not just as a rule book to obey.
I’d join a church led by deeply-spiritual, God-seeking, wise, inspired, godly men and women.
I’d want to be part of church that is deeply committed to a particular people and place – loving it, serving it, healing it, shining a light on it, embracing it, nurturing it, caring for it, changing it.
I’d want to be part of a church family that equally embraces seekers and skeptics, long-timers and short-timers, saints and sinners, masters and novices.
I’d seek a church that believes ANYTHING is possible, if it honors Christ.
I’d hope to find Christ-followers who could easily say, “I’m sorry,” and “I forgive you.”
I’d look for a church that prayed and taught people how to pray.
I’d seek a church relentlessly committed to justice and mercy.
I’d look for a church that graciously expects people to act like Jesus.
I’d seek brothers and sisters in Christ who are equally comfortable singing passionately, laughing uproariously, shouting riotously, applauding wildly, lamenting defiantly, and crying unashamedly.
I’d want to find a church equally committed to excellence and exceedingly gracious with short-comings.
I’d seek a church that primarily exists beyond it’s walls.
I would look for a church where EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING is about Jesus. EVERYTHING!
I know, I know. I’d never find such a church. Such churches don’t exist. There’s no such thing as a “perfect church,” whatever that means, according to anyone’s hopes, standards, or expectations. Every church has its gifts and graces, it’s strengths and weaknesses.
If the Church is the Bride of Christ…
If the Church is the Body of Christ…
If the Church is the visible manifestation of the Kingdom of Heaven, on the earth…
If the Church is “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic”…
If the Church is Spirit-filled and Spirit-led…
If the Church exists for God, and God’s mission…
If the Church is God’s family…
If the Church is where saints become saints…
If the Church is where heaven touches earth…
If the Church is where the Holy Sacraments are blessed and served…
If the Church is where believers worship the most high God…
If the Church is salt and light…
If the Church is where God’s story is remembered, retold, and relived, over and over and over…
If the Church is where saints are baptized, confirmed, confessed, communed, married, ordained, consecrated, annointed, commissioned, healed, and memorialized…
If… then, perhaps, someone could explain to me why we would ever settle for a church that is less?
Maybe the point isn’t to find the perfect church. Maybe the point is to BE the Church we know we’re supposed to be. Why do we settle for so much less?