an open letter to churches

Dear Church

First of all, let me say how brilliant you are. You are one of God’s best ideas (and he has had some awesome ones). Jesus had you in mind when he was walking and talking around Judea and you came into being at the most momentous moment in human history: born in the wondrous aftermath of Jesus’ resurrection, instigated by his ascension and empowered by his Spirit.

You have done so many wonderful things on Jesus’ behalf over the centuries. He is so proud of you for standing up for the poor, engaging the marginalised, seeking justice for the oppressed and the vulnerable. He is overjoyed at the ways in which you have told people about him. He gets excited when you still do these things on his behalf.

But, dear Church I wonder whether, when Jesus had you in mind in the embryonic stages, he had in mind an institution or a family? Did he envisage that the first thing non-churchgoers think of when you say ‘church’ they would think of buildings rather than people in a covenant relationship with God and each other? Did he plan for you to use lots of arcane language and for those who lead/serve the church to wear special clothes? Does he think it’s a wonderful thing that there are lots of different breeds of church – more than there are different breeds of dog – and that some of them scare people more than dogs do? How does he feel when more of your income is spent on yourselves than is given away or used to give him away to others? Is he happy that many people who aren’t part of you think you are keener on the word ‘no’ than ‘yes’? How does he feel when you bicker, argue and gossip among yourselves?

Please don’t get me wrong, Church. Jesus still loves you. He still thinks you are amazing. He is completely and utterly committed to you. He may be sad about some of the things you say and do – but that is the disappointment of someone who loves you so much that it hurts, and he wants the best for you and for his world.

Church, you are still Jesus’ Plan A for showing the world what he is like. He has not got a Plan B. And he’s not working on one. You are still called to be free samples of Jesus in your communities. You are still called to be places of welcome, love, grace and acceptance. You are still called (to use language we find in his awesome book) to be the Bride of Christ – but perhaps you could spend less time looking in the mirror and more time extolling and expressing the virtues of the groom.

Church, dear Church, you don’t know how amazing you are, and you have no idea how incredible you can be if you allow His Spirit to lead you, shape you, empower and encourage you. The sky is not even the limit!

Be blessed, be a blessing.

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