I had a picture in my mind of the church, not of a particular church. Well, it was more a picture of how the church might be experienced— experienced from outside. In my mind there were tall, impenetrable walls. There were no little cracks or crevices in it— no, not cracks, just strong, stout walls. It reminded me of the high stone walls from some ancient but sturdy fortress. Yet, these walls were not crumbling, or in need of repair. And as I looked up, the fortress was stories high– maybe six stories. Outside the wall it was desolate, with the exception of a person– a person looking for others, others with whom they could find outside their fortress.
I sometimes wonder how the church is perceived or experienced by others “outside” the church. I imagine there are as many answers to this as there are people. Often our world portrays “the church” as cold, judgmental or narrow. This may be the experience for many. But have they really experienced the church? Would it be like me being asked to describe some beautiful mountain as I am standing on the other side of a valley in a storm with sunglasses on? Obviously, the blinders make it so I cannot see clearly. But the mountain is still beautiful whether I can see it or not.The church is is beautiful. Yet, I still wonder. Does the church feel more like a fortress to some than engaging people? Maybe they really don’t get to experience the church because the church is acting like a fortress.
I do love the imagery and mystery of the church– made up of redeemed people, with Christ as the Head. The church is not a fortress or a building or a place– no, it is the body of Christ. It is pretty simple: changed lives, under Christ, with Christ and following Christ.
Where does Christ go?
Recently I had the opportunity to be around some sheep– some timid, skittish, and uncertain sheep. Some could barely see. They were kind of cute, especially the lambs. In with some of the lambs was a puppy who would one day protect these sheep. Right now he was becoming their fast friend. But one day, the pup would be very large and would look out for the sheep, who would desperately need His protection from coyotes. He being with them was what they needed.
Jesus, of course, is the Great Shepherd. He said the people were like sheep. They needed a shepherd.
Christ saw the crowd.
This is our head– the Head of the Church.
I am thankful for the redeeming work of Christ who makes us a changed people. We can see a little different now, but not yet fully. We have the ability to hear things in a fresh way, but not completely. We can go. We can feel, speak, and listen, like our Head’s example– but again, not perfectly. The church is made up of changed lives, not perfect lives, being “little Christ’s,” or ones like Christ. This is the church. We are to be kind of like the pup– with the sheep, caring for them and so close we can see, feel and understand their fear.
The fortress will grow. The fortress will create more programs, become more educated, build higher walls, make more plans for dreams, continue to expand and grow. That is just the natural course of things. When we establish, perfect or grow one area, we look to the next area to fix, grow and expand.
My desire is to be a person that is not showing others the fortress, but Jesus– the Good Shepherd, He who laid down His life for the sheep. My hope is that the church would be experienced more through the day-to day lives of engaging individuals. I pray it would be felt by people we know who live outside the fortress, or who don’t even know about the fortress. My dream is that redeemed people find the simple conversations which cross their path as divine opportunities– opportunities to bless, and even explore whether that person knows the Good Shepherd. I desire the church to be individuals who will always keep close to their heart that the greatest need of any person, the deepest need ever, is to know God and experience a forgiven and redeemed life. I pray there would be more people outside the fortress engaging with those who are actually in our path or possibly not near our path altogether, or even who are on the other side of the globe.