I fear I may not have done Learner justice in my last post with regard to his thoughts and feelings concerning the Church. It being Sunday (and with Learner preparing to teach Sunday School this morning at the request of an absent assistant pastor), allow me to elaborate on more of what I know his thinking to be.
If you were to ask Learner if the Church was God’s only and ordained way to reach the world, he would say yes…and no…and yes…and then probably that he wasn’t sure. This comes from a variety of experiences (too lengthy to go into in this one post), as well as a self-recognized lack of ecclesiastical study over the years (another reason he is in seminary now). As mentioned before, he believes the Church is the Bride of Christ, and has in the past three years moved toward taking a fuller part in that analogy.
But he has not fully embraced the idea of what he has often called “the idolatry of Church,” that mentality that tends to serve as justification for people to do things in the name of the Church rather than in the name of God. Granted, he realizes there might not be all that much of a difference between the two (and forgive him, he says, if he’s splitting hairs), but he’s very sensitive (probably overly so) to behavior of pastors who seem more like small (or large) business owners of their churches than humble shepherds of God’s flock.
And yet (and this is part of what Learner struggles with in all this), loving the Church in the most passionate of ways makes total sense, certainly biblically as well as rationally. After all, if she is the Bride of Christ, we should want to love her because Jesus does (the old “Girlfriend/Fiance/Bride of our best friend, Jesus” argument).
Learner gets all that conceptually. But (and it’s not a question of ease in his mind), why doesn’t the idea of loving the Church with such zeal overwhelm him the way it does so many others? Why, if indeed he is seeking to follow and love God, a more passionate care and love for his Church is not manifest in his life?
More on these thoughts, I’m sure, as we go along.