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Friday, January 14, 2011
My church is currently working through a sermon series on being the Church. The first message can be summed up by this excerpted quote:
"Bottom line: You cannot genuinely love Christ's bride, the Church, if you only love this abstract, idealized version of the universal Church while you refuse to commit and get your hands dirty and love real people - even really messy, broken people in one localized gathering of believers. The local church is a big deal to God"
That sermon message reminded me of Doug Wilson's "shacking up with Jesus" quote. Then this morning I saw this John Stott quote over on another blog, saying a very similar thing as the aforementioned:
“The church lies at the very center of the eternal purpose of God. It is not a divine afterthought. It is not an accident of history. On the contrary, the church is God’s new community. For his purpose, conceived in a past eternity, being worked out in history, and to be perfected in a future eternity, is not just to save isolated individuals and so perpetuate our loneliness, but rather to build his church, that is, to call out of the world a people for his own glory.”
Last night, I watched "Solitary Man", a recently released film about aging businessman Ben Kalmen (played superbly by Michael Douglas) who finds himself losing everything from his health to his friends to his business to his family, in no small part due to his terrible moral choices. The movie is a surprisingly honest and realistic (for Hollywood, at least) depiction of the carnage that a self-centered, adultery-riddled, hedonistic lifestyle can create. While focused primarily on the man's sexual lusts and proclivities, it never once glorifies his choices and is surprisingly clean of graphic content considering the subject matter. In one particularly good moment in the film, he asks his one remaining friend Jimmy Merino (played by Danny Devito) why he has remained faithful to his wife of 30+ years. The friend says, "when my father gave me this [restaurant] years ago, I used to dream about these [college] girls. Every night, dreams, all kinds of dreams about 'em. But then I'd see them coming back after graduation. They'd come to homecomings, ballgames. They'd sit at the same tables, eat the same food. And I'd look at them and I noticed, they don't stay like this. None of 'em. They put on years and pounds and wrinkles. And I got one like that at home. And we can talk to each other. I know her and I'll always know her."

What does that movie have to do with the first paragraph of this post, you ask? It's this: just as our wives will eventually put on "years and pounds and wrinkles," so can our local churches. People join the church that you may not personally find that likable, or the music begins to lose touch with your particular tastes in worship style, or a new pastor just doesn't teach very well or focus on the things that you think are important. Many people in similar situations have moved on to greener church pastures, places where the band is cool, the children's program is thriving, and good coffee is served. But such spiritual adultery comes with its costs. For one, besides being disobedient to where God has placed you, jumping around from church to church rarely breeds close community. And those popular churches will one day find themselves wrinkled and old. What are you going to do then? Being faithful to the local Bride of Christ, with all its warts... that can be hard. But as the pastors and theologians above remind us, it's what we're called to be.


PB said...

Nice, man.

Gord said...

I am in a position to see up close the "wrinkled and pounds" of the church I attend. I am realistic with my expectations of a group of authentic human beings and the range of experiences that come with them. THat's not my concern. On the the other hand, due to some changes in membership, my three kids are the only children left in the church. They don't have any friends that attend consistently, and and under seven they don't fit in to or appreciate fellowship with adults. I would rather be raising them among other Christian families so they can grow up and build community with people their age outside of the secular school system. Is it right to find better supports for raising up my children in Christ, or is this an indication of the spiritual adultery you are describing?

Darius said...

Gord, I don't think your situation falls into what I was describing. It seems perfectly reasonable to want a church body that represents all ages. It may say more than you realize about your current church that they don't have any kids besides your own. Depending on how involved you are at that church, you may want to express your concerns rather than just leaving abruptly, but in the end, I think you're right to value your kids' relationships. One other idea beyond leaving... are there any friends of yours with kids who you could invite to become part of your church? Just because the church currently lacks kids doesn't mean it has to stay that way or that you can't do something to change it. Perhaps you can't, but just a thought. Thanks for the conversation!

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Darius' book montage

The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel The Main Thing
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
Overcoming Sin and Temptation
According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible
Disciplines of a Godly Man
Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem
When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
Respectable Sins
The Kite Runner
Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak
Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak
A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/calvinist, ... anabaptist/anglican, metho
Show Them No Mercy
The Lord of the Rings
Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass
The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception
Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming
The Chronicles of Narnia
Les Misérables

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