Why does the church exist?

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“According to the early Christians, the church doesn’t exist in order to provide a place where people can pursue their private spiritual agendas and develop their own spiritual potential. Nor does it exist in order to provide a safe haven in which people can hide from the wicked world and ensure that they themselves arrive safely at an otherworldly destination. Private spiritual growth and ultimate salvation come rather as the byproducts of the main, central, overarching purpose for which God has called and is calling us. The purpose is clearly stated in various places in the New Testament: that through the church God will announce to the wider world that he is indeed its wise, loving, and just creator: that through Jesus he has defeated the powers that corrupt and enslave it; and that by his Spirit he is at work to heal and renew it. ~ N.T. Wright (Thanks DashHouse for this quote)

I’ve been meeting many “unchurched” or “de-churched” or “hard-to-reconnect-back-to-church” Christians. I know there are stories that need to be heard. I’m curious of how they came to where they are at right now, how do they see their Christian faith, and where are they heading or would like to be in the near future?

Many of these individuals are reflective people. Some are enaged in worthy causes which I wish more Christians “in the church” could be part of. There are those whom were once “very active” but now totally disconnected with Christian community (apart from some Christian friends), they also admit that perhaps there’s nothing really happening as far as faith in God is concerned.

It’s a strange feeling talking with them because I resonate with much of their complaints. In fact, I would agree with much of their criticism of the “weaknesses” of the “institutional or organized church”. I applaud their engagement and interest in social issues and/or anything for the betterment of humanity. It’s just that deep down I wonder, could this have been different? What if? What if .. they or we could find a local community of believers at least desiring and taking some steps to “rectify” how church should be and get back to the heart of why does the church exist? Perfect models aren’t existent (apart fro our ideals or at times illusions) but does that mean we give up?

I joked with someone yesterday, “I planted a church I wanted to go to!” (I know that sounds selfish … if read out of context! And I’m very well aware of our weaknesses and limits in Bangsar Lutheran Church). But the opportunity did arise, and reading N.T. Wright’s quote reminds me again though we are a small congregation we are part of God’s bigger picture and we need to return to that center.

Now back to those whom are “unchurched”, “de-churched” or “hard-to-reconnect-back-to-church” … what is a possible alternative that could “express” out in concrete forms what Bishop Wright is talking about here? What if we sat down and patiently in gracious conversations – listen to our stories, deal with the various themes and issues that arise without sidestepping them? What if we could re-ignite our imaginations again to what the church can be and do (beyond our former “boxed” mindsets and formulations)? What if we take risks again but now with a second naivete, a chastised zeal, with more realistic expectations – and play our part in small ways for this to happen?

My prayer and wish is … Those in Malaysia (especially Klang Valley) who are already engaged in some sort of NGO, social cause, or whatever that is important – part of what the church should be involved in in some way- and yet feel a disconnect with church will be willing to enter into a conversation with someone they trust (I’m open to be contacted) to ..

(1) Share their story, their success, their struggles about where maybe they felt “the church (specifically the leadership) might have failed them” from their point of view. – no strings attached here 🙂

(2) Explore what could have been done .. even can be done now. Ideas anyone? kind of sharing. This could include, how can a church or the church support those involved in “work” not commonly seen as “Christian ministry”.

(3) Be open to the possibility to reconnect back to the church again (in whatever form) – yes for me it’s.. a more organized community of friends and families. That we could be faithful to see the church re-emerge again and fulfill her true calling. What it looks like will vary, but I don’t think Christ has given up on her bride yet. Church History is helpful here. … But I’d like to take it one step further, can we see ourselves actively part of his ongoing authorship here and now today?

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