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Mortal Sanctuaries & The Eternal Church We’ve Left Behind

“The church is a colony of heaven in a country of death.” Eugene Peterson

Growing up in the church can give you two different sides of two different narratives:

The first being the “practicing Christian” who goes through the motions, says the prayers regularly, takes their hat off when they enter the church, drops their tip to God in the offering plate, and expertly passes judgement on others in the name of being “holy”.

The second is the community that is so caught up in God’s blessings, making church fun, tip-toeing around difficult conversations, being vague in terms of core values, ignoring true discipleship, and forgetting that our “best life” is not God’s ultimate priority. In God’s eyes? Holiness, yes. Best life? Well…uh. Not always. Ask the martyrs.

How did the Church become a sanctuary to both the self-righteous and the self-centered, parading their own personal Jesus to the masses?

As I walk the city streets every day, I see hurting people who don’t “belong” next to the prim, proper hypocrites behind their hymnals. Those same hurting souls also have an incredibly difficult time meeting the real Jesus in the land of self-help, blessing gibberish, me-centric gospel speak, and celebrity driven communities.

What have we become? Are we no longer a haven for the broken souls, instead, opting for the safety of righteous safe havens and ear candy sanctuaries?

Let’s see what the Apostle Paul believed about the mission of the Church:

“This is my life work: helping people understand and respond to this Message. It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise, God handling all the details. When it came to presenting the Message to people who had no background in God’s way, I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities. And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ. My task is to bring out in the open and make plain what God, who created all this in the first place, has been doing in secret and behind the scenes all along. Through followers of Jesus like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels!” – Ephesians 3:8-10 

The Church – where God’s plan of redemption becomes a visible manifestation to a broken, hurting world.

No, church isn’t about your blessings. Church was never about how many rules you can keep. Church has nothing to do with sheltering believers from the world. Rather, the church is intended to be set like a city on a hill, in full view of the world around us. How will the world know of Christ’s redemption otherwise?

It’s time we began having more conversations about what it looks like to “be the Church”, not just “go to Church”. Fallen, yet redeemed humanity is what makes up the Body of Christ. I’m not suggesting perfection, but I am suggesting a change of focus – one not so much on our own righteousness, or our own blessings.

What if we began seeing ourselves as a safe haven for the hurting, lost souls looking for hope?

How could the Church be a catalyst of change if we embraced the call to be a voice in the dark world around us?

Maybe I’m too idealistic, but I’m tired of man-made religious behaviors and me-focused ceremonies that make our needs/wants the center of the conversation. God is the center of all things, including the church, not us.