There are two churches.
Church #1 is a diverse group of people: a mixture of failures, misfits and social outcasts. There are addicts, former addicts, the otherwise mentally ill and the holistically needy. It’s a place of confusion, of grief, and mess. Everywhere you look there are scars – some self-inflicted, some the result of family background, ill-chosen relationships or just random bad luck. This is a church of the insecure, slow to learn, forgetful and (I’ll say it again), needy. It’s a place where people with very little in common get together and participate in what many wouldn’t even recognise as a church service.
Care to join me?
Or, alternatively (phew), can I suggest Church # 2?
Church #2 is my favourite place in the whole world. Wherever they are, that’s where I want to be. I look around me and I see my family, all filled with joy because they know their God loves them. They’re not all like me, in fact none of them are much like me at all. Some are rich; others poor; there’s the old and the young; there’s the logical thinkers and the creative artists and everything in between. But we are united by our Lord Jesus, so being from different continents and classes makes little difference to us. They love me and they show it. When I ask for a favour we all know it’s not really a favour, because when family is family you just share each other’s stuff. We are real. We laugh together; we cry together. We’ve got history, and we’ve got a future. Our future will go on and on forever. You should meet them, seriously. You’d feel so welcome there.
So… are you coming?
I wonder which church you recognise. I wonder which church you want to be a part of.
Well of course, I’m a part of both. They’re both my church. One overlays the other. We are broken, we’ve been fixed and we’re being fixed. And one day, wow will we be gloriously fixed. We’re so needy, and yet all of our needs are being satisfied by one beautiful Saviour. And we couldn’t be rescued if we weren’t being honest about needing it. As Jesus said ‘It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’ Mark 2:17. So we keep gathering and learning and praying and praising and thanking and listening and weeping and repenting and sharing the burdens and inviting others to come and do the same.
And I suppose my little family unit of five (the hubby; the kids) is a mini version of that big church family. I don’t hope for brokenness or failure or mess, but when it comes I need to know that we’re not actually meant to have it all figured out yet. We are the sick, the sinners, the tax collectors. And the Lord is changing us day by day.
When [Christ] shall come with trumpet sound
Oh may [we] then in him be found
In Him, [our] righteousness, alone
Faultless, stand before the throne.
(My Hope is Built on Nothing Less, Edward Mote)