The process that spurred the post “Growing up in the Church Ruined Me” has continued to spin it’s wheels in my life. God is actively tearing down ideals and perceptions that I’ve adopted towards the Church in the past youdontneedtoknow how many years.
I remember the first time I saw a bumper sticker that read, “I Love My Church!” and how disgusted I was by it. I was fresh off the boat of enlightenment that taught me that it is, in fact, an incorrect categorization to call certain buildings and groups of people “churches.” The word “church” actually refers to WE who believe in Jesus. We are the church. There are not churches, but one Church under God. So enlightened was I that I looked at that bumper sticker and said, “Ha. I am the Church,” and I touted that whenever I had opportunity. I started calling individual bodies of believers, “fellowships,” which is a much more accurate representation of that which most of the world calls churches. There’s nothing wrong with this practice, it is the truth, but the attitude that I represented in my heightened knowledge bordered on pious. I allowed the knowledge to set me apart, and set me above those who referred to a weekend service as ‘church.’ I honestly felt a little weird about it, but it didn’t stop me. I was proud to share the reasons for my language when asked, even though the truth seemed to fall on deaf ears.
Every time I saw the bumper sticker, or the T-shirt that screamed, “I love my church,” I had the same reaction: an eye roll and the words, “I. Am. The. Church.” Mic drop.
I remember one weekend in Austin as we were looking for a fellowship to call home, I overheard a woman greeting a new guest and she said, “I’m so glad you came to our church.” My stomach rolled, and partly for go
od reason. Her tone of voice had an air of superiority that made me shudder, but also there was that issue with the church being referred to as a separate place, non-inclusive, and set apart from other ‘churches.’
For years I have judged the lingo behind our weekend services, on top of all the other things I’ve been judging. They just don’t get it. But I sure do.
Please. I wish someone would have just slapped me, and followed it up with a, “You know why!” Props if you get the reference.
A few weeks ago, as I was sitting in a Sunday morning service, a building campaign was unveiled. I’ve b
een privy to a few building campaigns in my lifetime, and I’ve seen them done pretty poorly. I knew what to expect, and I sat nervously waiting for the plan to unfold, my body tense with thoughts that if this was done like some of the others I’d seen, our whole experience in this particular fellowship (which as been pretty great so far) could be ruined. Because I’m black and white like that. All or nothing, people. Do it right or don’t do it at all.
The plan was unveiled and I was pleasantly surprised by the methods, and the heart behind what was being shared. The Lord started to peel back even more of my judgments as the worship team took the stage and He walked me through forgiveness and healing in some big hurts in my life as it related to my experiences in other congregations.
God brought the “I love my church” thing to my mind and I automatically responded with, “I am the Church,” but He stopped me and said, “How about: I love the Church.”
It was a lightbulb moment for me. My righteous indignation toward believers who classified the church in an inaccurate manner suddenly dissipated and I found myself repenting for my stupidity, for my pious and snotty attitude. Instead of puffing myself up with words of identity and worth (I am), the phrase became humbling and generous (I love).
The things that I have learned about The Church are still true and good. But the attitude with which I received those truths and communicated them was wrong and alienating. There was no grace involved in my knowledge, and right this minute as I’m typing, I’m being struck by how very Pharisaical I have been. Dang, Jesus. Gross. Thank you for your forgiveness.
When I look at all the grace I have received in my lifetime, for things much worse than referring to the Church as a building, and I acknowledge that I, myself, am a part of the Church, then I have to wonder, where in the world does the grace go? If God has grace for me, a citizen of His Church, then obviously He has grace for the whole of His Church as well, right? DUH.
Now it is time for me to repent publicly. To apologize to anyone who I have inadvertently belittled with my Pharisaical attitude in the past however many years. It was never a conscious choice to be so self-righteous, and I am truly sorry. We are the Church, and I love us.
I love the Church.