A steeple rises into the air and no matter where this is seen; there arises a sense of reverence and hope, at least for most of us. What does the steeple really symbolize? What emotion might it bring to you or someone you know? What kind of people come to mind when we think about the building on which this steeple rests. With the current negative conditions, exposé’s on National Spiritual leaders who held dear places in our hearts being heralded, and many stories coming from parishioners who have experienced less than hope, even abuse of their souls, minds or bodies. Has the meaning of the “church” in the 21st century changed?
Historically the church has been deemed the “Ecclesia” or “a calling out” or “a popular meeting, a religious congregation, assembly.” This thinking sticks pretty close to the Greek translation of the word. Most of the time in the Old Testament when there was a called assembly for the purpose of praising God or being thankful for a great defeat of the enemy, or a miracle, it ignited into a celebration and a party atmosphere. Most Christians can recite the story of David dancing as he brought the Ark of the Covenant back into the possession of God’s people. But some didn’t appreciate his enthusiasm, such as King Saul’s daughter Michal, who thought David was foolish for his exhilaration and praise! And we find this still prevalent in our churches today. There are and always will be those who feel the church only exists for certain things and the execution and administration of those swallow up the real commission of Jesus, who called us to love God first, then ourselves, then our neighbor as ourselves. If we nurtured this message above all, it is likely that scandals would cease, abuse would be non-existent, and “church” would, once again, become a place of the application of God’s love and of celebration and praise.
Some churches concentrate on saving lost souls, some on teaching the Christian message, morals and values from the Word. And then there are those who feel the Church is a social organization called to bring light into a dark world by helping the unfortunate and this becomes their mission. They become very community oriented and even politically aligned with those who embrace conservative values. But if we take a look at all of these worthy purposes and then compile them into one Body, it would start to look like Jesus Himself. Jesus Christ embodied all of these things and had a balanced way of spreading this message, fleshing out His ministry. And since we, the ones who respond to His call are now the Body part of God on this Earth; we must take a look at the churches’ effectiveness in all areas.
When Jesus was on Earth He made the statement “I will build my church” and though it can be debated as to what He meant when He said it, He stated, “you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church”. Let’s assume He meant that with Peter’s understanding of “Who” He was, He could build His people. The basic foundation of the church is Christ, He is the cornerstone, meaning if His love is not the first priority in our churches, and if our other missions don’t include His character of mercy, truth and grace, we have fallen short. Today’s church and its leaders must embrace a new grace, a new mercy for our society. Jesus rose to every occasion, even raising a friend from the dead, because it was the pressing need.
What are the needs in our society? Culture dictates that certain standards of beauty, eccentricity, risky behaviors and the disregarding of certain moral values are necessary to “fit in”. So how do we, as the church, be the institution of light hope and faith that Jesus espoused? We evolve to meet the current needs, always pointing people to Jesus, but never demanding sacrifice without love. Love is the key and always will be. What I am saying here is that when people see a steeple or a “place of worship’ or “House of God”, they should feel that they have just spotted unconditional love. As a Pastor recently being interviewed on a morning show proclaimed, “love is all that matters”. His comments brought forth strong reactions from the Christian media and clergy. So yes, we should always assemble, because therein we find strength. But this is the truth; the church whether big or small, are the people of God and should represent, live like and be Jesus to this world, and therefore, always exemplify love, love, divine and enduring love!