As soon as we begin our new-life journey we are faced with the frightening concept that we are joined together with a group of other people; the church. The moment I call God my Father I have to accept others as my sisters and brothers. Our union is as complete as our belonging to God.
Belonging is, in fact, a key mark of the New Birth event. Our sin, having separated us from our creator, has been defeated and the spoils of this cosmic war are that I am now re-connected to God. Not merely in a creator-creature relationship or a master-servant contract but as Father and beloved child. The cross, the greatest equaliser of all, demands that everyone who dares approach should bend the knee to the one Lord. Our self-sufficiency, our abilities, our wealth, our depravity, they are now neither aid nor hindrance to us. We all come through the same door, Christ Jesus.
As we embrace the Christ we have to embrace the idea that the church is a conception of God. It is often so easy, whether through disappointment or fear, to see the church as an optional extra in the plan and purposes of God. No matter how many times we experience the failure of the church we have to face the unending reality that it is God’s idea.
There is no ecclesiological failsafe on offer. This is not in anyway to excuse the church, including my own, from past errors and faults. It is just that we must begin our journey with this knowledge in our minds to ever have enough strength to allow God to finish the work he has started. If we believe that the church is somehow inferior to our own experiences and relationship to God then we will all to readily give up when difficult times appear. It is my continual sadness to meet Christians who have embraced the idea of personal salvation only to reject the church in response to the pain of rejection that they themselves have felt.
This in no way excuses those who have given up ‘meeting together’, but those of us in church leadership have to face the fact that we have often left a wake of disappointed and disconnected sisters and brothers behind us in our search for the holy grail of visionary success. I face the same question every time I think of those who have left our church feeling hurt and bruised. We pray for them often that they might know the blessing of God in a church family that can offer them what they need at that time.
What ever our experience of the church, the body of Christ, it was conceived of by God.