Moses and God’s Chosen people wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Jesus was in the wilderness of 40 days. I am wondering how long the Church will have to be in the wilderness before it becomes what God is ultimately calling us to be.
The reason I wonder about this is how we the institutional church is perceived by society. Right now, we are seen by many as a political group or social group, or a political group with a social agenda. Whatever way this comes out, we are seen by a large number of Americans as the followers of Christ. And in these tribal times we play into one of the two models and Jesus is not in either of them.
Jesus calls us: “To love one another as he has loved us.” Jesus shows us how to serve in the world, and teaches us how to forgive, how to share, and how to be light bearers in a darkened world. Right now, we are seen as loving only those like us, serving others when it is convenient, judging rather than forgiving, and blowing out the candles of those trying to be light bearers.
I do not believe this is who we are as the church, but I do believe there is a fair amount of evidence in our past, and currently, that would lead people to believe us to be so seen. Because the political atmosphere in this nation is getting more and more toxic, I am afraid that some churches will choose sides. I am concerned that we will not be seen as followers of Christ, but followers of an ideology or political movement.
I know I am not alone in this observation and I know that some will be angry that I have even addressed this issue. But if we are going to be what Christ wants us to be; (His mission in the world), we will have to make some major changes in how we behave as the church. By the way, this is not only a church leadership issue, but a whole congregation and denomination issue.
I believe we will be wandering in the wilderness a long time as institutions of faith, if we do not change our goal of measuring success and membership. Faith is not about metrics (bucks and people), it is about a life lived in Christ. I am not calling for perfection here, but rather authenticity. If we screw up as an institution or individual, fess-up, don’t cover-up. If we are a faith community of exclusion, we will need to open the doors of inclusion.
Honestly I believe we as a church are going to be in the wilderness for some time. Not hiding, but learning and gaining strength as we struggle to persevere in this wilderness world. We are no longer a dominant social or political institution in this country. Sure we have a voice, not so sure people want to hear it. We will need to change, we will need to see ourselves in a new way and love our neighbor as Jesus has loved us!