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Going to Church or Being the Church

by Eric Park on June 24, 2022

In light of recent Supreme Court decisions and subsequent commentary (some lamenting in tone, some celebratory), I have been thinking a great deal about what it means for the church to be the church—not because I believe that the church possesses all the answers, but because the rhythms of church are where I spend the better portion of my life, and because the church, at its very best, manifests an ethos of doing no harm, accomplishing good, and attending upon the ordinances of God.

How one sees the church and its role, however, is of vital importance to the church’s realization of its best priorities and impulses.

If, for example, we see the church only as architecture, then its mystical beauty remains unrealized.

If we see the church only as a gathering place for weekend religionists, then its transformational ministry remains unengaged.

If we see the church only as a business or institution, then its revolutionary community remains unformed.

If we see the church only as an isolated hideaway that has no connection to the circumstances and affairs of the world, then its evangelical capacity and prophetic potential remain untapped.

If we see the church only as a means by which to buttress an argument, or a set of viewpoints, or an isolated social agenda, then the unique politics of God’s reign remain uninaugurated.

But when we see the church as a vital engagement between a living God and a people who are saying yes to a relationship with the Divine Heart, church becomes a supernatural means by which the world can identify itself rightly—not because the church is perfect, but because its Story is true; not because the Church is always exemplary, but because its Love is life-shaping; not because the Church is always right, but because its Savior makes it possible for every thread of creation's fabric to be woven creatively into a magnificent tapestry of redemption.

We never "go to” such a church. We become it.

In these complicated days, may Christ-followers continue to become the church in a way that breathes hope into this world’s despair; in a way that responds helpfully and compassionately to suffering in all of its forms; in a way that prioritizes the love and ministry of Jesus over an insistence upon the unequivocal rightness of a particular ethical position; and in a way that reflects a durable and comprehensive commitment to creating an environment in which all people (infants and adults) have access to the communities, resources, services, and healthcare that are necessary for healthy and vibrant life.

Again, we never go to such a church. We become it.

Eric Park is the Butler District Superintendent for the Western PA Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church and offered this commentary on June 24 2022 (Artwork: "Country Church" by Anne-Marit Bergstrom)