Why do our churches not look like the early church? Why do we gather on Sunday mornings and maybe small grops once during the week. We talk with our friends, share the latest news and gossip and then sit in a lecture hall to sing emotionally stirring songs and hear intellectually stimulating sermons, then say goodbye and have our weeks to ourselves with our other friends.
Why doesn’t the church act as our life and health and unemployment insurance? Why doesn’t it share meals every day? Why have we relegated mercy ministries to para-church organizations? I feel like if my church were to disappear tomorrow, I could easily replace it with some other social club. I could join a bowling league or a community chorus and fill the niche that the church currently fits in my life.
It would be so easy to pass this problem off to “the Church”, but the Church is its members. We are the church and if we see problems, they are only the manifestations of our individual issues. If the Church is not caring for the poor or seeking social justice, it is because the church’s members are not seeking to be imitators of Christ in His ministry to the outcast and downtrodden. If the Church is hostile and accusatory towards those outside it’s walls, it is because the church’s members have failed to see themselves in the chastised religious elite gripping stones to throw at the adulterous woman. If the Church’s main concern seems to be gaining political power and legislating a comfortable situation, it is because the church’s members have become like Jesus’ disciples on the road to Jerusalem; expecting Jesus to ride in and overthrow the Roman oppressor, all the while missing Jesus own words “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” (Luke 18:31-33).
The Christians of Acts shared everything and depended heavily on the community of the Church for even their basic needs. I don’t depend on my church at all. In fact, I often catch myself thinking about how much the church relies on me! Certainly I should be ready to help those in the church (or else how would anyone be able to depend on the Church in the first place?) but if the degree to which I bear the burdens of those in the Church does not cause me to turn around and lay my own burdens on other brothers and sisters, am I truly bearing any burden at all?