Once again, I'm feeling kinda swamped and don't have the leisure to do too much abstract thought. But I want to keep up (and wrap up) our ongoing discussion about "church."
Most of you know that I have a great admiration for N.T. Wright. I think he's one of the most progressive, pragmatic, and biblically grounded theologians in recent history. And so, what I have to offer you today is an excerpt from his book "Simply Christian" (pg. 210-212):
"If God is our father, the church is our mother." The words are those of the Swiss Reformer John Calvin. Several biblical passages speak in this way (notably, Galatians 4:26-27, echoing Isaiah 54:1). They underline the fact that it is as impossible, unnecessary, and undesirable to be a Christian all by yourself as it is to be a newborn baby all by yourself.
The church is first and foremost a community, a collection of people who belong to one another because they belong to God, the God we know in andthrough Jesus. Though we often use the word "church" to denote a building, the point is that it's the building where this community meets. True, buildings can and do carry memories, and when people have been praying and worshiping and mourning and celebrating in a particular building for many years, the building itself may come to speak powerfully of God's welcoming presence. But it is the people who matter.
It is within the church, even when the church isn't getting everything quite right, that the Christian faith of which we have spoken is nourished and grows to maturity. As with any
family, the members discover who they are in relationship with one another. Churches vary enormously in size, from scattered handfuls of people in isolated villages to enormous congregations of many thousands in some parts of the world. But ideally every Christian should belong to a group that is small enough for individuals to get to know and care for one another, and particularly to pray in meaningful depth for one another, and also to a fellowship large enough to contain a wide variety in its membership, styles of worship, and kingdom-activity. The smaller the local community, the more important it is to be powerfully linked to a larger unit. The larger the regular gathering... the more important it is for each member to belong also to a smaller group...
So, what do you think?
What do you agree with?
What do you disagree with?