The First Stone

What is the purpose of church?

I went to church today and learnt why we should go to church. One reason is to experience God in the midst of the fellowship – like in taking time to pray and in worshiping God through music and giving – and two, so as to spur one another on towards love and good deeds.
The church can therefore be said to exist for the purposes of drawing man towards God. If that is settled how then do we choose to focus on one ‘element’ and omit the other? How are you, as a leader or a member of the church, ‘fixing your eyes on God’ while refusing to face and address the issues of the congregation? When did one deduct the other?

Or when did we decide that church leaders define the church?

I understand to a certain extent what submission to authority means. It is not the easiest thing. But what does that mean in a church?

Does the number of times a pastor preaches in a given period define or put emphasis on his authority in the church?

And what happens when the pastor errs or lacks one way or the other in his ability to lead the flock? Should church leadership be unchallenged? Where is the room for airing out grievances on senior leadership? I don’t have answers. I am just wondering when exactly we get to focus our eyes on the right targets – God and His people.

In the midst of figuring out all the above I wonder where we find time to invest in the people, to be relevant to their needs. And I am not necessarily talking about financial needs and the like, because they are arguably easier to solve in the sense that we are generally less morally conflicted about giving alms, for instance.

Back in the day, certain churches were also less conflicted on the topic of the sin and the sinner. There were undebated stipulations on how to deal with certain wrongs. For example, we all know that God forgives ALL sin, right? Including those confessed in the privacy of our homes. But, the church welcomed back thieves and batterers more easily than SHE who got pregnant out of wedlock, and whoever was strong enough to stand by her side in claiming responsibility for sexual sin. And those who refused to make public confessions were sometimes excommunicated. I wonder what impact it had on the rising rate of abortions. I’m thinking Jesus never condemned anyone; but anyhow.

These pulpit confessions by the congregation do not occur as much as they used to, I am guessing churches have relaxed the rule a little bit, probably because at some point congregants would rather leave the church, or because of some out-roar for more compassion. But, as much as the church has tried to chisel away condemnation from the pulpit, how far have we gone in doing the same in our own hearts?

The church is the people, and people can be cruel – cruel even when kindest. We do so much damage even when we mean well. If the church is a gateway to meeting God all our efforts invested in it are more likely sincere, intended to make us have an encounter with Him, to please Him and to be blessed by Him. But in this pursuit many times we end up stampeding on fellow members.

Somehow I feel that some of the church rules were created in fear, as opposed to love. We fear that we ourselves will stumble by being attentive to the struggling. Human beings can be burdensome and complicated, and because ‘they’ sin they remind us that we too can end up like them. They reflect our innermost terrors and struggles, so we impose rules and crack the whip on them in an attempt to streamline or kill the image in the mirror. We fear so much that we cannot stop long enough to listen; or to admit that we do not know what it is like to walk a mile in their shoe and therefore offer to guide them back to God for remedy. It is much easier to put them at arm’s length like lepers, lest we catch their infection. We would rather read them a verse with dismissive undertones and be done with them once and for all. Who has the time or grit for anything else?

This is where the church fails. Realize that by paying attention we gain wisdom, opening our eyes to God-given convictions that alter, improve, replace or demolish for the better those which we currently hold. Or how is it that positions for the female gender in the church rose from merely being in the sidelines, covered, quiet and obedient, to pastoral ranks?

We deprive others the balming impact of God’s grace. If God condemned as much as we did, what would the point of grace and forgiveness be since even the twelve disciples sinned, even after The Crucifixion..?

If the church is the people then we need to first examine our own hearts, because faulty following makes faulty leadership – no matter how big or powerful the church sets the stage for you.

So, why do some churches feel cumbersome? Because they are oriented towards fewer specific ‘better’ persons holding on to irrelevant traditions and powers that do not work to benefit society; who congregants somehow need to please – resulting in frustration, a lack of self-identity, stunted spiritual growth and chaos in followers’ personal lives – as opposed to having allowance for working out one’s own salvation as God leads.

We need to have real conversations so that we can have real impact in society. We thus need to drop this sense of insecurity and self-righteousness we feel every time real life situations outside our individual experiences beg for our reasoning and our resourcefulness. The church is not a man’s badge of honor, a measure of one’s greatness, a seat of self-revering influence or some self-important title. In fact, Jesus did use strong words against ‘the highest of these’, who used scripture to demean and oppress the lowly (Matthew 23:33). And they were leaders of the faith! Some of us claim to show concern by giving a much needed ear, then hold committees in form of prayer meetings so as to share and judge behind a member’s back.

Jesus wined and dined with prostitutes, murderers, embezzlers and robbers. Who can cast the first stone?

I love the church. I AM the church. I pray we grow.

John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.

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