Friday, August 31, 2007

What the Church Has Done Right

Over on his blog, Scott Freeman has asked the question: What has the church done right?

In my mind, the church has done many things right, but I'll list a few here, knowing of course that there is a flip side to everything.

1) The church has formed community. This is one of the greatest assets of the church. Within her, those that wouldn't normally join together are joined, and in the best of circumstances learn to work together in spite of differences. The downside to this is that we can make our communities so insular that we forget those that are outside of those communities and form communities with walls and barriers and not the open accepting ones that embody the spirit of Christ.

2) The church institutionalizes aspects of the Christian life. Worship, service, compassion, learning. These are all disciplines that need to be a part of the Christian walk. Within the church, these aspects can be formalized to some extent or perhaps provide a single gathering place for them. The negative of this is that these can become institutionalized and people can get so used to the pastors or ministers doing the day to day work of the Christian that we can forget that it's our work as well. Plus, the church can become bureaucratic, and natural state for a bureaucracy is to preserve itself.

3) The church directs her members toward worshiping God. In this world where it's possible to worship anything and nothing simultaneously, the church can be one of the few institutions to point her members back to the Father. This is one of the few things I see that isn't negative.

I know there are more, but this is what's hitting me right now. What am I forgetting?


chris said...

It seems to me that you are treating the church as a civic organization rather than the body of Christ.

Scott said...

I guess my struggle with the question is when you progress to the broader ecumenical question that I pose. There is such a wide discrepancy of belief and practice that it is hard to hit at exactly what the church in the catholic sense has achieved broad consensus on. I think in your first two you hit on that by noting the downside. For every church that fosters community there are those who don't.

Thomas+ said...

How about this one:

Without the Church, there would be no salvation, no redemption, no restoration.

Whether folks like the Church or not, she is the only witness to Christ in the entire world.

Justin said...

I think Ghandi was a much better witness to Christ than most churches in America

Phil said...

Chris, I'm not completely sure what you mean. I think community is an important aspect of a congregation's life, but I would hope the other points I made were not things that most civic organizations do.

And Thomas, I would love to agree with you, but I've known of too many churches that offer none of those things you claim she is a witness to. Should she be? Yes, absolutely. Is she? Far too often, no.

Thomas+ said...

You said "the church." Did you mean churches? The Church, in my opinion, is what I said it is--the Body of Christ. Churches may or may not be. So, which is it?t

Phil said...

Good point, Thomas. I have a tendency to use church or churches, where congregation would be more appropriate.

I would tend to agree with you that that is the purpose of the Church.

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