The question that started this entire re-thinking process for me was a simple one, on the surface. Not wanting to duplicate church or borrow from another church’s identity or theology, for that matter, I asked this question of myself: what is the church?
This is not a new question for me. I have answered it before on more than one occasion in various academic learning environments. I even asked the question, “what is the purpose of Church?” in an earlier article and left it unanswered because something was still amiss. I never found that place of comfort that one comes to when you have finally found the truth of the matter. I kept studying and asking, researching and probing. Finally, I decided to let it come to me. Sometimes I just keep asking questions until I find the right one.
Tania, my wife, edits everything that I write because it is her gift and passion. I have a bad habit of saying “people that,” and every time the rebuke will come, “Kwesi it’s ‘people who’.” The last time this happened, I heard her… and I heard more. I was asking the wrong question, a bad question.
“What is the church” is a bad question. You can only know this if you know the answer. Since the simple answer is “people,” then that question can’t be what is… it rather must be “who is the church?”
If we ask “what is the church,” it gives us a way to point to an organization or a leader. If we reword the question and ask, “Who is the church,” it always brings it back to us. In the past when people have asked, “What is the Church doing about ___,” I have expressed anger, disgust, disbelief and disappointment, if the answer was “not enough” or “nothing.” Changing the question has also caused me to change the answer.
“What is the church doing about helping the poor?” Now I answer this way: “I am helping the poor by… I am helping the community in that I do…” If the question is, “What is the church doing about hypocrisy?” Now I answer this way: “I am dealing with my hypocrisy by being open, honest and transparent.”
I’ve found in doing so, that I have reclaimed possession of my personal responsibility to Christ. I am a part of His church, after all. “We” are His church, and “it” cannot be Church. After years and years of going to church, being a member of a church, being a leader at church, giving to the church, and finally being disillusioned with church, I have finally changed the question, and the right question has changed me. As I rethink, I am intentionally not a member of any organization that identifies itself as church.
All the responsibility is mine, as it should always be. If I don’t study, I don’t mature. I don’t give because of anything or anyone else. I give because I am His church and as such, I strive to be and do what my Leader (Christ) requires. I question because I am His church. I’m involved in my community and the global community because we are His church. Christ’s Church is more than a building, a pastor, a people, a meeting, a grouping, a complex, an institution, an organization or a denomination. I am His church, and the responsibility to follow Christ’s direction and instruction for my life is mine alone. Others can and should help, but only I can be responsible for personally remaining faithful as His Church.
Do you agree or disagree? How does being reminded of your personal identity as Christ’s Church affect you? What would change in your life if gatherings to have what we call church were suddenly impossible? Can you effectively be a member of Christ’s Church without being a member of an organization?