The Wounds of the Church

I’ve been hearing a growing number of my Christian friends adopting a “no need for church” spirituality. When I stop to listen to their stories, I can easily understand why people feel like this is a justified way of Christian living: it’s safer to live outside of a community that may cause us pain. The Church is supposed to pour soothing balm on our already-fragile spirits, but the sad truth is it’s often the Church herself who wounds us. The people who call themselves Christian (yes, including me and you) live hypocritical lives or inflict harsh judgment on others. The Church sometimes does more harm than good, and many Christians are saying, “I’m better off without Her.”

If you have been a victim of the Church (any church) and her unredeemed actions, please, Friend, receive my sincerest apology on Her behalf. I am sorry if someone has spoken untruths about you or uttered ill-will against another. I am sorry if your service has ever gone unappreciated or your talents untapped. I am sorry if anything I’ve said or done in haste has caused you pain. Please forgive me, and please forgive the Church.

You see, we are all in the process of being saved (I Corinthians 1:18), but the full sanctification of our fallen humanity has not yet been realized. The process of sanctification is about becoming holy, allowing the image of Christ to be formed within us and being motivated by Christian love. We cannot learn to love if we are not living in community, letting people see us for who we really are and allowing them to love us anyways.

I must admit, sometimes the Church seems to be farther from the goal of Christian love than ever, and I can attest to how difficult it is to be part of something which causes us pain. But I exhort you, Friend, to make corporate weekly worship part of your Christian spiritual discipline. The Church is dysfunctional, yes, but it is the physical representation of Jesus Christ on earth. Corporate worship is about being the Body of Christ. (The Latin root “corpus” means “body.”) We need one another in order to do the unifying work of worship together and we need to be present to participate in God’s ministry of reconciliation.

So thank you, friends, for showing up on Sunday mornings…even when you’d prefer a few extra hours of sleep or when you don’t particularly care for the music or when you hear mediocre sermons. Thank you for choosing to push past the minor irritation with that guy who chomps his gum or the girl who seems to give you the stink eye. I pray God ministers his great healing among us as we continue to climb over the invisible fences we’ve erected to protect our fragile hearts.

Roots

My dear church family,

As I look out my kitchen window I am beginning to see a longtime dream come true – the makings of a garden! Ever since we were newly married, Kevin and I have talked about having a garden, imagining where we would plant it, and what foods we would want to grow. May 24th we are celebrating our 9th anniversary (!!), and I’m so excited to finally be putting in our garden. So far, Kevin has done all the work (oops, thanks, babe!). He continues to surprise me with his vast knowledge of gardening (learned from my great in-laws!) and has been over and over the soil with his great-grandpa’s trusty roto-tiller.

There’s something about watching things grow, isn’t there? It’s a deeply spiritual experience for me to think through the growth of a single plant. The way the seed dies, being buried in the ground, feels a bit frightening. We must wait, trusting for the new life to spring up from the earth, almost magically. With the perfect combination of time and dreary rainy days and bright sunshine-y afternoons, the seed will yield its fruit in season (Ps. 1:3). Part of my spiritual practice during this season of Eastertide, is to contemplate new life, the slow process of growth, in our garden. It will keep reminding me of the way God works in our own lives – we can plant seeds and we can water them, but only God can make things grow! (I Cor. 3:6)

As the roots are going down deep in our garden, I am realizing that my husband and I are truly putting down our own roots. It’s kind of embarrassing to admit this, but finally, after three years in pastoral ministry here in Monroe, we have both officially settled in to our offices. Kevin dug through the corners of his desk where paperwork from its previous owners was still filed away, and I have moved into a new office adjacent to his. Having these spaces to meet and pray with you, to study in solitude and to hear from God in prayer has already been a true gift. (Special thanks to everyone who’s helped! You all should check out my desk, made by our friend Kyle Loomis using a broken pew. So beautiful.)

As pastors in the Free Methodist denomination, we are appointed to a church by the Ministerial Appointments Committee (MAC) every annual conference (in June)…and when they ask us if we’d like to be reappointed we can wholeheartedly say, “Yes!”  The Lord continues to invite us to create community, and that takes time and commitment. As far as we’re concerned, the Eccles are here for the long-haul!

MFMC, we love doing life with you, serving you, and watching you grow!

-pastor melanie