The Church: Love it, hate it, and what you can do about it


I just sat in a conference talk that centred on the nature of Church.  It was refreshingly self critical, whilst being hopeful and looking for the best in 'Church'.

I was reminded how weary church assessments being made by the most facile of determinants.  

On the one hand so many churches seem to behave in ways that seem as if they have a death wish, unable and unwilling to live out the call to radical commitment to Christ with each other, trading off habits and traditions, and self interest.

And I am equally enervated by the malaise of consumer engagement and critique of Church, that reduces all engagement to what I have time left for, and/or a pathological what 'works' for me. Church is measured by what I like/don't like, and takes on a permanent identity in opposition to the Church.  Or as my friend Phil Harold puts it, "What happens when the spiritual journey ends in little more than a prolonged rant against existing forms of religion.  Its all about dissociation.  There seems to be a stunning capacity to persist in that mode indefinitely today, and an equally stunning incapacity to find a spiritual home."

I am often staggered at how in our brokeness we can set ourselves apart from Church, and fail to realise the mess it is in is due to it being composed of people like us.

And so many of these conceptions are so often hydroponically rooted in consumer culturally values, or therapeutic self differentiation, and not in the language of scripture and practices of identity and mission in Christ, with others.

In the talk I was just in, a quote from Henri Nouwen about the Church was made, 'When we say, "I love Jesus, but I hate the Church," we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too.' 

I googled the full article, and it embodies a methodological examination of the Church, good and bad, that is the antithesis of the inveterate dichotomy above.  In short it's one of the best explorations of the nature of Church, good and bad, and our feelings and identity in relation to it, that I have ever read.  So glad I stumbled upon it.

I've attached the full text to this post.

loveandhatethechurch.pdf Download this file