The “Church” and The People of God

After I moved back to Dallas, I joined a church that had become diverse by merging 3 congregations (White, Black, Hispanic) because of the community changing but they had not really prepared for the merging.  It ended pretty badly.  Some people not only left this church but “church” in general; having had one too many bad experiences in the “church.”  For way too many believers, the “church” is no longer the place they want to belong to and share their lives.  I will include myself in that number.  After this church fell apart, a few of us created a faith community where we meet regularly, do Bible study, take Communion and share our lives.  We are somewhat diverse – Black, White, men, women, younger, older.

Earlier this year, I went to a conference entitled “What is Church” and there were a few other people there from faith communities.  Since then, I have emailed a couple of different people in my denomination and had conversations with people about the “church” and denominations.  I was inquiring about the “church” having some discussions about incorporating, including and making space for faith communities but I have not gotten positive reception nor been able to make any progress.

I was doing my devotions this morning (I am reading a little booklet by David Platt – What Did Jesus Really Mean When He Said Follow Me?) and wanted to share the following passages.  Platt writes about people not in the church.

“So many sit back and say, ‘Well, what other people do is between them and God.  Their sin is their life, their decision, and their responsibility.’ (He is suggesting that because people are not participating in the life of the church that this is what they say.)  Aren’t you glad that God pursues us despite our sin and pulls us away from that which destroys us?  And don’t we want people in our lives who will love us enough to look out for us when we begin to walk down a road of sinful destruction?….  Being a member of a church means realizing that we are responsible for helping the brothers and sisters around us to grow as disciples of Jesus.  In the same way, they are responsible for helping us.  We desperately need each other in the daily fight to follow Christ in a world that’s full of sin.” (Platt p. 37-38)

I agree with him that we don’t need people to just sit back and abdicate their brotherly and sisterly duties to one another as this is not what is required of us.  God does pursue us.  My difference from what Platt is saying is that the “church” should also pursue others while being mindful of how the “church” has harmed people.  The “church” should expand its thinking and be more open and welcoming to people involved in faith communities and provide space for these brothers and sisters.

Our faith community did have more people that were participating but as we shared our lives and welcomed them in, they were able to be healed and have since rejoined with a “church,” although not the same “church” as before.  Faith communities can be a place of healing for some.  I feel that I am called to be a part of faith communities and help people who have been hurt by the “church” to heal and rekindle a relationship with Jesus and to reconcile with Christ and then others.  Diversity, relationships, reconciliation can be found in faith communities and they are not in competition with the “church” but another place for God’s people to share in the great work of God by loving God and one another so that the “world will recognize disciples of Jesus by their distinct love for one another .” (Platt p. 40)

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