New Voice: By and about young adults
On Sept. 5, Terry Shue was commissioned for his new role as director of leadership development for Mennonite Church USA.
As a friend, former colleague and one who developed under Terry’s leadership, I was asked to share at Terry’s commissioning service. Terry asked that I reflect and share on, “Why I bother with the church today and have hope for the church tomorrow.”
I bother with the church because I am a Christian, because it is through the church that I came to know Christ, because it is through the church that I have been nurtured and continue to be nurtured in my walk with Christ, because it is through the church that I have experienced God, worshiped God and learned about God, because it is through the church that I have fellowship with other believers.
In short, I “bother” with the church for the same reason that I bother to breathe, that I bother to eat, and that I bother to drink. Just like my body would die if I did not breathe, eat or drink, so my spiritual health would suffer and soon die without the church.
Am I elevating the church to the level of God? It is God who sustains and nurtures us, Christ who saves us and the Spirit that fills us with spiritual life, so to say the church is doing these things is blasphemy.
Taken the wrong way, it may sound blasphemous, but I am saying that the church is the way God has chosen to work here on earth.
The church is the body of Christ. It is more than an institution, more than Kidron Mennonite Church, more than Mennonite Church USA, more than the colleges and many other parachurch organizations. The church is where two or more people gather together in the name of Christ.
If the answer to why I bother with the church is so straightforward, then you may ask why the question is even being asked. It is being asked because of our sin; we are a church of sinners. Wherever two or more people gather together in Christ’s name, God is there, and that is “church.” Likewise, wherever two or more people gather together in Christ’s name, there are two or more sinners. There are also two or more people that are greedy, prideful, lustful, vengeful, petty, broken and desperately in need of the grace of God.
This sin is conspicuous in all: loyal church attendees, atheists and everyone in between. It should come as no surprise when the church is accused of hypocrisy. The church has no defense to this accusation; it is guilty as charged.
The choice is up to the accuser: accept the church for what it is as both the body of Christ here on earth and a group of fallen sinners or refuse to tolerate the hypocrisy and choose not to bother with the church.
My hope for the church tomorrow is that we can continue to be what God has called us to be, to be God’s instrument here on earth, to bring people to faith, to nurture faith and to be the body of Christ.
I hope we would all choose to accept the church for what it is but at the same time not be complacent about its shortcomings.
Mennonite Church USA’s vision statement (see below) has a line in it that captures my dream for the church; “… to grow as communities of grace.”
We desperately need the grace of God, individually and corporately. We need to learn to extend grace to ourselves, to our brothers and sisters in the church and to those who do not yet know the Lord. No matter what we do, we will always carry with us the tarnish of sin, but by the grace of God we can carry on.