I believe in the gathering of god's people. Conversations (in gig harbor) was such a gathering. However, the unconventional nature of this kind of fellowship of believers flies in the face of the majority of thought regarding what the "Church" should look like. I do feel the tectonic shift and the roll of the earth even as we sat, 16 women, faced with a simple question of...
how do you define church?
I wanted to shout..."It's this"! but remained quiet as discussion went from the ways in which one attends church... to accountability, to... "it's not about you". All important comments on the stages in which most North American churches ebbs and flows, but the core question which was placed at our feet was...
how do you define church?
Maybe why a discussion like this is so elusive is because, simply...
church is being redefined.
We are those that sit primely on the timeline of church history and need not look around us and recreate what was, or create a modified version of what was, but must look instead, outside of ourselves.
Until just a few years ago I had never been prompted by my own religious traditions to truly examine the history before luther. And I dare say most evangelicals (outside of seminary grad school) have either, or unfortunately ever will. But as the world expands and borders dissolve what it means to be a fellowship of believers has/must/will expand as well. The very definition is as broad as the world but coming to terms with that broadness is very hard for some people.
Maybe there is an underlying question that should be asked. Something that would prompt a response more foundational to the core of faith. Maybe instead of asking, "how do you define church"? we should ask...
What does Christ require?
Picture the being who for the sake of the patriarchal historical context in which he was deposited was packaged in the form of a thirty year old virgin man. Try to picture the being inside this package. Christ. Strip away the many ways in which Christ has been depicted over history...
the sad eyed pleading Christ,
the white-robed fluffy shepherd Christ,
the long-haired historically inaccurate anglo-Christ,
...you get the idea.
Try to strip away these depictions, these notions that are comfy because they are familiar or understandable or touchable, well packaged. Instead, picture...
The being that is a third of God.
The being that is beyond cultural context.
The being that is neither male nor female.
The being that is the foundation of the "Christian" faith.
Now imagine sitting in the presence of this being and ask the question with your whole heart...
What do you require?
When we look at the text that has been passed down through generations the vehicle in which the answers came, the package that delivered wisdom to humanity (the thirty year-old virgin man) being Christ answered a question posed to him, "Which is the greatest commandment in the Law"?
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, Love your neighbour as yourself.'" Matt 22:36
Luke 10:25 has him answering a different question with the same answer. The question being "what must I do to inherit eternal life"?
So might this be the answer to the core question of "what do you require"? And if that is the answer how does it influence every other question one can possibly ask? Like...
How do you define church?
When I reflect on the great "being", sitting in the presence of that being, and asking eternal questions, I get mental whiplash picturing what Church has become because of the vast disparity that seems apparent between what is trapped inside a building and what is let loose. But I no longer feel paralyzed by the shock, left only to criticize. Instead I can reflect on the wisdom that came from the "being" and go to the core. How then do those of us (so many many of us) of good conscience live out that command and truly love? So many of us have left the buildings because the "being" isn't there anymore. And the building was never meant to contain it anyway.
We are the church.