Monday, January 14, 2008

the beautiful mess that is the Church

This past week I've been thinking a lot about the Church.

To be completely honest with you, I haven't felt like I was "home" at any church since I left for college 8 years ago. My home church in Streator was all I knew, and I had no idea my entire perspective and experience with the church would change so much over the course of time. Throughout college and up through now, I have visited several churches, become a "member" at another church, regularly attended a couple others, studied the Church, studied the Bible, led in the Church, and recruited students to BE the church and prepare to LEAD the church of the future. And after all of these things, I realize that the Church isn't quite as simple as the old hand-folding "here is the church; here is the steeple. Open the doors and see all the people."

But maybe it is.

I've confused it. I've compartmentalized it. I've tried to classify types of churches and parts of them and there have been all of these lists and containers in my mind that have held ideas about the church. And really, it all boils down to the people. There might be a steeple and a building, but the people are all that matter.

Some recent events in my home church and an episode of Grey's Anatomy this week have really put some things into perspective for me.

Sadly, there are all too often occurrences of ministers who have failed their churches morally. Or maybe, I should say, they have failed their God. They fall to pornography, adultery, homosexuality & molestation (commonly in Catholic churches, it seems...), or an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, no church is free from the attacks of Satan, and neither are people in ministry. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We know this. So why does it come as such a surprise when we find out that someone in ministry has failed? Too often those in ministry are put on a pedestal, much like we put celebrities on a false pedestal, and we expect to see perfection. When we see their failure, it appears more visibly because of this invisible spotlight we've placed on their lives.

Needless to say, there are countless lives out there going through what Britney Spears is experiencing, but only she is suffering from the whole world watching it happen...which surely won't help her get through what she's going through. Similarly, there are leaders in companies, organizations, and churches who fail. And those who once trusted, respected, and followed these people are now impacted and confused by their behavior.

It makes me realize how critical every decision in life truly is. Every choice matters.

This past week we found out some truths about the minister at my home church that have led to his resignation and a torn family all around. Not only are families of the parties involved affected, but the church family is greatly affected. After a church meeting it felt like we were grieving the loss of a life, and it seems we are, in fact, grieving the loss of some spiritual aspect of life or one's morality.

People are hurting. Those who have made poor choices are hurting. The church body is in pain, and it needs healing.

Somehow, in the disappointment of it all, I can see a glimmer of hope and beauty in the way the church comes together. Sadly, I'm sure that some members will leave and some will continue to tear it apart as much as they can with gossip, lies, and unending speculation. Some members will be discouraged and find themselves in doubt and distrust...possibly even a lack of faith. But somewhere in the mess of all of this, I believe that God is working, healing, maybe even performing "surgery" on this body of people to fix what needed to be fixed, to purge what was hurting the body, and to bring healing where healing is needed.

The other night while watching Grey's, I couldn't help but be inspired by the brilliant narration. While scrolling through each character's scenario at the end, this narration in Dr. Bailey's voice was spoken:

"As doctors, we know more about the human body now than at any point in our history. But the miracle of life itself; why people live and die, why they hurt and get hurt is still a mystery. We want to know the reason, the secret, the answer at the back of the book… because the thought of our being all alone down here is just too much for us to bear. But at the end of the day, the fact that we show up for each other, in spite of our differences, no matter what we believe, is reason enough to keep believing."

That last line depicted for me exactly what the Church is and always should be. The fact that we show up for each other, in spite of our differences and beliefs, is reason enough to keep believing. It's reason enough to keep living. We're not alone. And no one is perfect. Everybody hurts sometimes. (enter R.E.M.)

As I reflected on the church meeting that was held this weekend and how so many kinds of people are a part of the church and how different we all are, I realized that it's all just a beautiful mess. It's a tangled web of crazy people. It's full of people who are liars, cheaters, alcoholics, gossips, and druggies. It's full of the rich and the poor, the sick and the healthy, the broken and the joyful, the weary and the strong. And not one is better than the other. We all sit in the same pews at the same level, and we all kneel before the same throne.

I praise God for being the only one who we can hold high above us, on the highest pedestal of all. And I praise Him for being the one who loves this beautiful mess, no matter how messed up it may seem.


Aubrey said...

Really amazing reflection Mandy :) I love it when you post things like this bc they truly get me thinking... Hope you are doing good!

Kevin M. said...

Mandy, I'm not even sure how I found this googling, but a couple thoughts:

1. What a writer! This is the first entry of yours I've ever read. I'm very impressed!

2. You've conveyed the feelings everyone here at home should have. My sayings lately have been "We move on" and "We move forward." You've provided some awesome insight and I'm proud to have you as a member of a family at the church I also call "home."

We'll all get through this. I'm confident of that much. I've never seen a darker day in our church's history, but I know days brighter than I've ever seen are on the horizon...



Cory said...

wow, very good entry, my sister. you are a brilliant writer.

Mills Family said...

Good insight...good thinking...good brain...good heart...

Anonymous said...

Hey, I read your article on Great article! It reminds me something Margaret Feinberg once said (I noticed you're a fan too). She said that even though the Church might have a torn dress, it is still the Bride of Christ. I'm paraphrasing, of course.

Anyway, great article.

Haffner Home said...

Just caught your piece on, Mandy. Appreciate you sharing it with us all. And, I thought you might be interested in a lot of the thoughts from the teaching paster at my local church body... Enjoy and God Bless.

Anonymous said...

I don't read the latest books or whatnot, but everything you've written is such a reflection of what's been on my heart lately. It only confirms the unity of the body. I found your post on relevant--thank you for sharing!