Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Church as Marriage

Expanding on yesterday's post of church as community, church also is like a marriage. In today's American society, we expect our marriages to satisfy all needs. They are the culmination of romantic ideals that come to fruition. We will not want after marrying the right person and waiting for that person to have sex with.

Well, look around, it doesn't work like that. Nor is it supposed to. Marriage is a partnership. A beautiful one, at that. However, it is not meant to satisfy all needs and definitely not all the time. One person simply cannot do that. We need community. We need other people to satisfy some needs. And that is not only okay, it is good.

I realized I have approached church organizations similarly. I expect the church (little "c" meaning the local organizations, big "C" meaning the universal Church body) to meet all my spiritual needs. Why would or could any human organization do that? Just as our life partners are not perfect, the church is imperfect.

It will meet many needs, but there will be areas where it is not a good match. And that is not only okay, but it is good. It is an opportunity for the church to push and challenge us and for us to push and challenge the church. My only hope is for the churches to be open to being pushed and challenged. This process is the key.

We also need to connect with the larger Church outside of our smaller church. This is another good reason for the churches to be imperfect. It leads us to connect to others. This allows for a cross-fertilization of ideas and worship. We need friends outside of our churches. This, too, will help push and challenge us as we also push and challenge others.

As is the purpose of this blog, that process will lead us closer and closer to Christ and Truth. It can be tiring. I can admit I long for a church in which I fit perfectly. It hasn't happened yet. It probably never will. And that's probably a good thing...

1 comment:

  1. Stephanie Coontz provides an interesting perspective on the marriage part of this in her book "Marriage, A History." She links the dramatic rise in the divorce rate to changing perceptions of marriage diminished the role of close friends, extended family, community, church, and other social support in emotional satisfaction. My summary of her argument would be that by trying to make marriage "everything" our society has seriously undermined it. And often killed it.

    It's an interesting thought--can we do the same with church when we expect one church to fulfill all of our longings for spiritual community?

    I'd put myself in the category of those who benefits from multiple ways of experiencing church. I love the large gatherings in my home church. I thrive on the collective energy, I'm blessed by the messages, and the music stirs me deeply. The version of "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" at the end of the Easter service (with orchestra, choir, organ, and congregation) was a true peak experience.

    I also feel an ongoing need to be connected to the larger body of Christ in ways that aren't about any one local church and/or denomination. That's why I've enjoyed visiting a lot of other churches over the years. And networking with people outside my local congregation.

    There are also aspects of the "soul friend" spiritual connection I haven't experienced in my local church. I've had to seek a lot of that elsewhere.

    One conviction I do have. In today's digital age I think it's too easy to look at electronically mediated and digital experiences as church. They have their place (I'm glad for forums like this). But I also think that, one way or another, we all need to be really committed to significant flesh-and-blood people as part of the mix. I need that in both large gatherings and more deeply personal connections.




Got a question, struggle, or doubt you'd like to see addressed here? Contact me, and I'll try to discuss it (and may even help you get an answer).