An Indispensable Churches Post

As you read the section below the first time, consider first “the church” as “the Christian church in its broadest, most all-encompassing definition.”

Then read the section a second time, considering “the church” as “any randomly chosen local congregation regardless of size, location, or influence.”

Finally, read the section a third time, considering “the church” as “the congregation I am personally currently involved in.”

Now ask yourself, What does it seem like God is saying to me through the words of these brothers?  How might I like to respond to Him?  and How might I like my congregation to respond to Him?

Naether Memorial Chapel; Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu, India

From a Christian point of view, the world needs the church, not to help the world run more smoothly or to make the world a better and safer place for Christians to live.  Rather, the world needs the church because, without the church, the world does not know who it is.  The only way for the world to know that it is being redeemed is for the church to point to the Redeemer by being a redeemed people.  The way for the world to know that it needs redeeming, that it is broken and fallen, is for the church to enable the world to strike hard against something which is an alternative to what the world offers.

Unfortunately, an accommodationist church, so intent on running errands for the world, is giving the world less and less in which to disbelieve.  Atheism slips into the church where God really does not matter, as we go about building bigger and bigger congregations (church administration), confirming people’s self-esteem (worship), enabling people to adjust to their anxieties brought on by their materialism (pastoral care), and making Christ a worthy subject for poetic reflection (preaching).  At every turn the church must ask itself, Does it really make any difference, in our life together, in what we do, that in Jesus Christ God is reconciling the world to himself?

– Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon, Resident Aliens.  Nashville:  Abingdon Press, 1989.  pages 94-95