Had a great conversation with a friend and fellow sojourner tonight about this really big question that I’ve been pondering for some 22 years or so now, that is ‘what is church’? The sub questions are: Is it a weekly event? Is it a place? Is it public space? Is it private space? Is it a personal experience? Is it a political affiliation? Is it comfortable? Is it pleasing? Is it tethered to something historical? Is it relevant? Is it therapeutic? Is it justice oriented? Is it biblical? Is it . . .? Is it . . . ? Is it . . . ?
If you have been one of my students, you have had to deal with one of my mantras which is ‘church is not someplace you go, it’s a people you belong to.’ In my years of asking this question, that’s been one of my conclusions for many reasons. But I would go further now and say more conclusively I think is that church is something you ‘opt in out of a place of need’. Kind of like an AA meeting. Your place of being poor and powerless finds resonance in others who find themselves in a place of being in need and as a people you seek the source of your being, that is the Creator. That Creator is ‘holy’, by definition he is ‘other’. To pursue something or someone ‘other’ is not a controlled strategy, it is the end of your self.
I’m not really interested in being comfortable, entertained or relevant. I can get that at the local theater complex. I need church to be alternative to my cultural surroundings. I need it to be tethered to something outside of the problems and trappings of my day but yet immersed in the passion to bring healing to the brokenness around me. I need church to be ‘in’ and yet not ‘of’ this world.
What is church? . . . it is for the poor and powerless. Welcome.