To be the church means we are living the unfolding story of God in the world. We open ourselves to God’s continuing newness, to unexpected twists and turns of the plot, to all the drama and comedy and suspense that God wants to write. Our small story is part of a much larger story, the ongoing story of God’s little struggling band of followers, and we are either a part of that narrative or a part of the world’s narrative.
God willing, our story continues. The next chapters are being written and lived into even now. In our willingness to let God do a new thing through us, we are not rejecting our past, but more fully claiming it, more fully harnessing its energy and vision. We are seeking to return to bur first love, a love thaf calls us to become more authentically the presence of Jesus in our neighborhood, our city, our world.
God’s vision for the church doesn’t change, but the structures of the church must change to speak that vision in authentic ways to each new era. We must be ready at all times to transcend all our loyalties to religious traditions in order to find the new ways that will reach people now. No one knows what any church, genuinely seeking to be Christ’s body on behalf of the world, should look like. There is no single right way, only the willingness to move into the new, not knowing with certainty where we are going but with the Holy Spirit’s companionship going anyway.
One thing is clear: all of us are desperate for meaningful existence. We are desperate for a place of belonging and trust, desperate for a life free of addiction and compulsion, desperate for meaningful work and a way to contribute to society with dignity, desperate to know people who care. Does the church have a message worth hearing when we feel desperate? If we have nothing to say in the presence of our desperation, we have nothing to say at all.
In saying yes to the church’s story, we say no to the world’s story of power and violence and greed. Saying yes to the church’s story doesn’t end our addiction to the world, but it ends our denial. And once we move out of denial, God is set loose in us in a way that wasn’t possible before. We are freed at last to become the gift of love that is our deepest nature, who we truly are.
When we enter the authentic church, we enter a recovering community rooted in honesty and accountability whose healing is found in reaching out to help heal the world. Like any addict, we’ll be there for the rest of our lives.