Church is hardly a neutral word. Even the masses who choose not to consider faith in God have severe opinions about church. They adamantly have no use for it.
The term has taken on a meaning never intended by God nor His perfect revelation. The church is the body of Christ. We pretty much have that one down; in theory. From there we may be headed away from God's imagination as to who we are.
Church, in general, is regarded as a group of people of various dimensions socially, educationally, and ethnically. It is assumed that of all venues on earth that at least the church is a place to find comfort and understanding.
Church has developed over time as an assumed place where the nice people--those who stay out of trouble--go to sing, pray, and listen to a weekly charge to be an even better kind of people. It is neither vulgar, indecent, nor blemished. Church is certainly clean.
Yet, this is hardly the church of the New Testament of which many of us claim we have restored. Rather elements of a radical people emerge. As the church began, the members we selling off many of their things in order to bless others. Plus, painful brutality toward those who leaned upon his name was in the mix.
The New Testament church was riddled with words like afflicted, burdened excessively, inadequacy, weakness, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down. Too often these terms fit the church if someone took our parking place or pew or sang a series of songs not to our liking.
We will not tolerate strong inconvenience; let alone any sort of physical abuse a believer might encounter for possessing an emphatic trust in God.
The New Testament records statements like, ...always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.
Constantly being delivered over to death, Paul states. What a foreign statement to the Bible student who excels only in symbolic inclination. We hear references to the cross and even ask our preachers to include sermons about the blood; but it seems we mean none of these for ourselves. We are committed to dying upon our crosses in word and theory only; not actually.
In this matter and others of kingdom suffering, it seems, we mean only to discuss figuratively; but not literally. Yet, the New Testament church is riddled with both imprisonment and execution. These bedrock truths have been transplanted by argument over which Bible version is accurate and whether one can partake of communion on Saturday night.
In the meantime the world mocks us and we highly resent their disrespect.
Being a very weak and frail sort of a man, I surely know but a sneeze of what God is doing. However, I want to state that if we think that what we are training His body to be will stand bravely for the system of Jesus and against dark imposing forces which would include Islamic aggression, I believe we haven't a clue.
There is a new day on the horizon. Our eyes are to be set upon the true church Jesus is building; not the one with the most accurate placard over the door, but the one filled with hearts who will die before they give up on Christianity at its heaviest intersection.
For many, such wording will merely irritate. Such is my point. The New Testament church we read about has a different twist than the one we tend to experience where the monitor of success is to ask, Is everybody feeling good about things?
I share this not to unnecessarily stir nor exasperate. The darker this world becomes the brighter will the hope of Jesus shine. The church is poised for some of its greatest days. We must not miss them because we are off chasing figurative rabbits.
I post this to say that one of the ways we might close the back doors where some leave us as quickly as others enter will surely be found in striving to become the true church Jesus is building rather than the true church the church is building.
There is a difference. The former will never run; but will stand and die for His glorious name. The latter will not stand; but will whine, moan, and complain because Church of Christ wasn't being done they way they insisted.