In case you are not up to speed on the last decade’s slang, a baby mama is someone with whom you made a baby, but have no commitment to and little contact with. In other words, someone objectified, used, abandoned, and now mocked for being dumb enough to think the guy would actually be faithful to her.
If you are a Christian does that remind you of anything?
I hear similar attitudes towards the church expressed in Starbucks every week. People waxing eloquent about how into ‘Jesus’ and ‘spirituality’ they are, but not so much ‘religion’ or the ‘Church.’ It is why 24 million people watched Jefferson Bethke’s spoken word video “Why I hate religion but love Jesus” last year.
I am most amazed when I see Christian leaders encouraging people to use the church as their ‘baby mama’ – for their own desires and preferences, and when she no longer ‘does it for me’ to ditch her for a younger, sexier model. What I am whining about exactly? Here are a few examples:
- Checking to see if the “good preacher” is on before going.
- Having one church for worship, one for small groups, and one for preaching.
- Changing churches because you just aren’t “feeling it” anymore.
- Driving so far across town for a church you like that your unchurched friends would never think of coming with you.
- Picking your church, not on beliefs, but simply because your friends all go there.
- Criticizing the church you didn’t go to from Starbucks on Sunday morning.
For the love, have we lost our ability to pick something and stick with it!
The church has played right into our preference driven world by featuring ever-hotter, better packaged versions of itself. And, as with a baby mama, after we have used her, we stand back and mock that she is hurting from our lack of commitment and fidelity. It is the height of fashion to stand close enough to the church to criticize it…sort of like standing close enough to a fire to urinate on it. …and just like people who have had too much beer on a camping trip, everyone laughs and no one asks the obvious question, “Helping or hurting?”
I get that the church has earned its negative reputation. We have often behaved badly. I get that the church has been irrelevant, unloving, unhelpful and invested more in carpet than cast-offs. Surely the church has often behaved as Hosea’s harlot wife, but even so, she is still Christ’s bride and the mother of believers. To quote Tony Campolo’s misquote, “The church may be a whore, but she’s my mother.” Even gangsters have their mother’s backs. It is why “mama” jokes don’t play in the ‘hood. But the church isn’t a baby mama, even with her all her problems she is the spotless bride of Christ.
Bridal imagery, by the way, is all over the New Testament. The church as Christ’s bride was a common image in the early church and remains such to groups with higher ecclesiologies (like Catholics, Orthodox and Anglican). The other feminine image of the church, the church as our mother, is largely from the early Christians, although it too has roots in Scripture.
What we have done, perhaps as an unintended consequence to the Reformation meets American pragmatism and individualism, is created a religion of me, by me, and for me. Our most holy Trinity of me, myself and I.
The historic vision of the church universal (catholic) is the Church as agent of salvation (proclaiming the Gospel), mediator of salvation (baptizing us into new birth in our spiritual mother, the Church), and means of sanctification (Word, Sacrament and service). It is also this bride for which Christ will some day return. As Cyprian said, “If one is to have God for Father, he must first have the Church for mother”
The motherhood of the Church, showing her as a birthing and nurturing institution, bearing fruit in many “sons of God,” and the bride-hood of the Church, portraying a union with her bridegroom, are not just nice metaphors. They are necessary to understanding our right place in the cosmos as God’s children.
The Reformers may have removed the direct mediation of the church from salvation, but they still had a very high view of the church. John Calvin, for example, wrote, “The Church, into whose bosom God is pleased to gather his sons, not only that they may be nourished by her help and ministry as long as they are infants and children, but also that they may be guided by her motherly care until they mature and at last reach the goal of faith.”
The church needs us. It needs us to repent of our philandering and commit to her. It needs us as insiders, not as onlookers; As her children, rather than a cheap and unfaithful lover ever looking to move on to his next conquest.
 There is a name for people with the most baby mama’s: Big Poppa’s. Here is a website devoted to the professional athletes with the most children by the most women: http://www.complex.com/sports/2012/06/big-poppa-the-athletes-with-the-most-children-by-the-most-women/ Enjoy watching New York Jets, Antonio Cromartie try to remember all of his kids names.
 A friend, Dave Wright blogged about this recently at fusionmusing.blogspot.com The posts are under “Youthministry and church” 3 posts about a field trip to an exceedingly cool church sporting 1970’s psychedelic secular rock and very funny preaching.
 Wrongly attributed to Augustine by Tony Campolo in Letters to a Young Evangelical.
 See, for example: 2 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:21-33; Rev 19:7; 21:2, 9; 22:17.
 Passages such as Galatians 4:26, 2 John 1,4 and 5 and Revelation 12
 Rev. 21:22
 Cyprian, Letter 74.7.2, in Ancient Christian Writers: The Works of the Fathers in Translation
 Gal 3:26
 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, vols. 20-21
47 thoughts on “The Church is Christ’s Bride, Not His Baby Mama.”
An insightful indictment. Thank you, Matt. Worth sharing.
Thanks for commenting, Linda. It was a bit snarky, but I have watched too many looking at websites to see who was preaching so they could go where the “star” would be preaching. It is pretty grotesque.
Excellent, Matt. In years of doing ministry with high schoolers, college students, and young adults, I find your thoughts to be the prevailing attitude among believers who would classify themselves as “nones” on surveys these days. As a pastor, the deeper I was involved in the business dealings of individual churches, the more disheartened I became over Her state. I considered leaving for a bit, but couldn’t…Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for her…How could I be so vain as to think that my turning my back on her was a bold and proper statement? That would have made her a jilted lover, like you describe. I love the old girl, even though she distresses me at times. I think I’ll stick with her.
Thank you for your comments, Lee. Everyone who is married wakes up and realizes that we have married a projection of who we wanted the other person to be. Surely the church is the same. Maybe maturity is figuring out how to be faithful to the old girl, remembering that we don’t actually look as good in the mirror as in our minds either. .
Oops, sent too quickly. I too have had those struggles of wanting to do church of Starbucks. My blog is mostly me reminding me I who I want to be. 🙂
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Reblogged this on Reveds's Blog and commented:
Some good thoughts – How do you view the church?
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Thank you for reposting me, Gary! God’s best.
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Hi Zach, Thanks for linking to my article. God bless you as you plant your church in Santa Monica.
o those rascally people….
So the protest-ant Reformation churches (35,000) finds themselves in the same condition that it accused the Catholic Church.
God did establish and will maintain His one true Church through all our misdeeds because He is able to do more than we can ever imagine and He is that authority. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of ALL.
God is accomplishing amazing, astonishing things in the Catholic Church. Give yourself an opportunity to check out http://www.ewtn.com, http://www.catholic.com or call Catholic answers radio show and talk to wonderful Catholic apologists Patrick Madrid, Patrick Coffin or Al Kresta. There are many voices in the Church so listen for the faithful voice of those following God faithfully. The sheep and the goats, the wheat and the weeds….
John 17 Jesus prays that we would be one so the world would know that God sent Jesus to save. The flip side is that our divisions will cause the world to ridicule God. Let’s be part of the solution not the problem.
(saved in a Charismatic, Anglo Catholic Episcopal Church in 1972 in CA, left ECUSA in 1998 or rather ECUSA left me, came home to Rome in 2010!)
I am glad to hear that you have found a home with Rome. Many of my friends have as well. The unity Jesus prayed for in John 17 has been very elusive for Christians. Whatever Jesus meant, I cannot imagine that it was theological unity. Relational unity would be a very nice thing indeed!
I am not certain which “problems” you are referring to. We who went through the Reformation have plenty of them, though.
I do find it ironic that so many evangelicals will critique RC for “man-following” with our embracing of multi-site churches. No Catholics that I know would sit still for the Pope beaming his sermons around the world for all to watch-but mega church people are doing that more and more each year. I think that is a very strange phenomenon indeed-sort of an American Idol-Preacher’s Edition.
Thanks for commenting.
My passion has become John 17. As a segue between the Last Supper and the Garden of Gethsemane, I am drawn to this prayer of Jesus. This is the first time that Jesus addresses his Father in prayer out loud in the midst of the disciples outside of the healing requests. He prays for Himself, the disciples and for us to come- The Church. Striking! This causes me to stop and ask God for understanding.
Yes, Unity has been elusive even from the beginning. Should we speculate about what He didn’t mean or strive to be obedient to what He prayed for-unity? My concern is the cause and effect of His prayer: “that they (The Church) may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
Our unity will confirm to the world that God sent Jesus, our disunity has brought ridicule.
One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. May you have a good Lent.
I think knowing what Jesus meant is pretty important if we are to obey the request of the prayer. Did he mean one theology? One organization? A spirit of oneness?
My hyper-Calvinist and my hyper-RC friends both want me to have a oneness that is defined along these lines: “well, either you don’t know or you choose wrongly. I have now told you the truth, so if you don’t agree with our position, it is hardness of heart on your part.”
I don’t find Jesus’ oneness with the Father to be about “mind” or “organization” but of relationship and purpose. Jesus asked “if possible let this cup pass from me, yet not my will but thine be done.” So Jesus didn’t necessarily have the same level of agreement or understanding, but did have trust in the Father.
In my mind, greater trust and relationship between Christians is a better place to start than greater theological agreement or organizational submission.
Thanks for your article Matt. Can’t agree more. The idea of commitment and sacrifice are so unpopular in every setting let alone the church. Hebrews 10:24-25 says it all, we meet to encourage the other person, not to have our needs met … what an unpopular message in these times!
Hope you are enjoying the great white north.
I was thinking my post was a glove upside the face. I have been waiting for the negative responses and have been surprised that they haven’t come. Apparently I wasn’t direct enough for the apathetic. 🙂
Well, I don’t know how broad your readership is, but if it’s primarily Anglican (or other traditions which view the word ‘catholic’ as integral rather than pejorative), I would expect you will mostly find agreement on this, rather than negativity. As you noted, this seems to be particularly a problem within Protestantism, and especially American Protestantism.
Coming from a largely evangelical background, for years it’s bothered me when friends use the word ‘religion’ as shorthand for ‘dead legalism.’ Why not just say ‘dead legalism’? By popularly redefining the meaning of religion in this way, they have effectively condemned any organized, committed community that sets itself out to live by a rule of life for God as something to be avoided, something that will inevitably become dead legalism. And so the only safe course is to live totally unmoored to any ‘human tradition’. As your post observes, this has led to a situation in which it is very difficult to build and maintain any community at all, since that takes commitment (a ‘mooring’, if you will). This is incredibly unfortunate, because I believe that true, loving, face to face community is something that the Church can and should be offering in our day, when so many communities and institutions are fading before the onslaught of hyper-individualized, tech-facilitated ‘connectedness’ (which is quite different from community).
A good post, thanks Fr. Matt.
I am not sure how many readers are Anglican. I would guess about 1/3. I have some Roman and Orthodox regulars, a good group of Reformed readers and many big church evangelicals-I would guess at least 1/2.
Rampant individualism and the surrendering of discipleship at the altar of numbers are issues that are beginning to resonate with many. I suspect that is why they read.
You make some good points Matt; I especially liked the part of the Reformation meets pragmatism and individualism. That is America. Although I do think its important to stick with something when one finds a church that suits one’s idea of what a church should be doing ( kind of like staying married and working out the kinks instead of getting divorced), I do think there should be a dating period when one can, and to quote a Marinoism, ‘suck face a lot.’ 🙂
I recently had a qualm about this with a church I am attending. As you know I have switched churches a few times trying to find a place where I can be and feel in the best atmosphere. Now, I am finding that there are many ministries missing from my church that are important to me to be fed. I have been serving at my church for a year and a half, but when I realized what I needed, I also realized I didn’t have the time to initiate everything myself! After asking the Pastor and realizing that the things that are important for my spiritual growth are not being prioritized, I began looking for another church that does offer these elements! And even bigger opportunities to serve seemed to come with the church I found! Is God telling me something? Especially when leadership is starting to clash once again on what they teach believers ( in terms of Adiophra versus non- Adiophra?).
So, I guess what I am asking is, how does one discern between treating the church as a baby mama and searching for God’s bigger plan to nourish one’s spiritual growth?
My comment (with smile) is “the one that gives you the opportunity to work with high school kids.”
Bless you for struggling to remain married to your church. 🙂
Actually, I am starting to stray from working with the program as much because of my frustration with youth ministry leadership. As far as I am concerned, the best way to reach kids of the day is in a one on one relationship, so I am just trying to maintain a few relationships that I have time for. My focus has now been on drama ministry. But I continue to serve both. My current needs to be fed lie in small groups, holy-spirit inspiring worship, and third world country missions. If a pastor does not take the time to build up his leaders, or the youth leader take the time to build up his volunteers, who is feeding the sheep? Now, I am not saying that there aren’t adult educational programs, but we really need relational small groups to connect on a personal level for accountability and relational aspects of growing as a Christian. This in my opinion is too important to overlook, wouldn’t you agree?
Yes! Wholeheartedly. Do they know of your feeling of need for “feeding”?
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Jane wrote: “So the protest-ant Reformation churches (35,000) finds themselves in the same condition that it accused the Catholic Church.”
GW: Sorry, Jane, there are NOT 35,000 Protestant Reformation churches. (Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientists, Unitarians and many other such cult groups and/or sects have nothing to do with the Protestant Reformation or its teachings, and thus cannot be legitimately counted as “Protestant Reformation churches”.) That’s just misleading Roman Catholic propaganda you’ve imbibed from the Catholic “apologists” you referenced above, and it has been often refuted. I suggest you get your facts straight and actually try to understand the concerns and history of confessional magisterial Protestantism (of which there are really only three major historic branches — the Lutheran, the Reformed/Calvinist, and the Anglican, though there are some sub-branches and offshoots, like the Baptists, Independents, Congregationalists, etc.; but certainly not 35,000!) before making such uninformed comments on a public forum. And let’s not pretend that Rome is monolithic in its alleged “unity” or any less divided than Protestantism. There are liberal Catholics, conservative/traditionalist Catholics, sedevantist (spelling?) Catholics, charismatic Catholics, liberationist Catholics, gay Catholics, pro-choice Catholics, Latin Rite Catholics, syncretistic Catholics (especially in certain third world countries), cafeteria Catholics, “hatch-em, match-em, dispatch-em” Catholics; etc., etc. (Sure, I know your apologists will argue that not all of these represent the “official teachings” of the church’s magisterium; but which interpretations of magisterial teaching are in fact infallible, and how do you know? How do you know that your favorite Catholic apologists are correctly interpreting the allegedly infallible interpretations and teachings of your church?) The only difference is that the divisions within the Roman fold are hidden under the umbrella of a huge worldwide religious bureaucracy with lots of money, power, property and political influence (things which don’t matter a whole lot from the standpoint of Christ’s kingdom, which is spiritual and otherworldly).
Sorry, but some of us just aren’t persuaded by Rome’s pretentious claims.
Thanks for commenting. I suspect that Jane is referring to the total number of denominations. The number I have heard is actually higher- 40,000. Once, many years ago, I looked at that data and the standard to be considered a denomination was 5 affiliated churches.
Hi Matt: Sorry if I came across a bit fiesty in my response to Jane. I’m not trying to be nasty or a troll. I confess I just get a bit fed up with this Romanist “talking point” about Protestantism producing 35,000 denominations. The point of the talking point is basically to say, “Look at all the schism you Protestants have produced; while our church is still one. Go Rome!” I believe it is a tremendously misleading claim and lends itself to propaganda rather than the pursuit of truth, especially given the widespread theological fracturing within the Roman Catholic communion. (I believe Protestant apologist Dr. James White has refuted the claim numerous times on his “Alpha and Omega” ministries website: http://www.aomin.org)
Regarding the matter of how many denominations there are, it really depends upon how we define a “denomination,” doesn’t it? For example, some “denominations” are simply branches of the Christian church that minister to certain ethnic or immigrant groups (for example, the Korean Presbyterian Church, Korean Methodist Church, etc.). Other “denominations” represent national churches (Church of England, Church of Scotland, the various state chuches in Europe, etc.) or non-state churches of like faith and practice in other nations, even though such chuches may be theologically, ecclesiologically and ecumenically one with churches of like faith and practice in other lands. So, again, I don’t buy the claim of “35,000 denominations” when all the facts are considered.
No worries. Jane seemed to be trying to be provocative.
In the category of “small world, James White and I went to school together. He was a year ahead of me at Grand Canyon, the fine institution my latest post is in reference to.
Jane has a point: our divisions are sad. Your point was well-stated in response: they have their own divisions. Not only that, but Rome’s over-reaction to the Council of Trent is what led to Protestants being separated. If Trent had not codified the Medieval theological innovations of Rome, there would most possibly be an undivided European Christianity.
I worked in an ecumenical youth ministry for years and have sat through many conversations on unity through truth. I have been contemplating posting on the topic. This is good food for thought. 🙂
Matt wrote: “Jane has a point: our divisions are sad. Your point was well-stated in response: they have their own divisions. Not only that, but Rome’s over-reaction to the Council of Trent is what led to Protestants being separated. If Trent had not codified the Medieval theological innovations of Rome, there would most possibly be an undivided European Christianity.”
GW: Good observation, Matt. One wonders what Christendom would have looked like had Rome not anathematized the Protestants as dangerous heretics at the Council of Trent (of course, nowadays since Vatican II we Protestants are no longer anathematized as heretics headed for hell, as at Trent, but recognized as “separated brethren” with whom Rome may have ecumenical dialogue).
The denomination to which I belong is the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. In our Book of Church Order’s “Form of Government” we have a chapter on the unity of the church. One of the sections of that chapter puts it well: “The visible unity of the Body of Christ, though not altogether destroyed, is greatly obscured by the division of the Christian church into different groups or denominations. In such denominations Christians exercise a fellowship toward each other in doctrine, worship, and order that they do not exercise toward other Christians. The purest churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error, and some have gravely departed from apostolic purity; yet all of these which maintain through a sufficient discipline the Word and sacraments in their fundamental integrity are to be recognized as true manifestations of the church of Jesus Christ. All such churches should seek a closer fellowship, in accordance with the principles set forth above.” (Ch. IV.4, pp. 6-7, Form of Goverment, The Book of Church Order of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church (Willow Grove, PA: The Committee on Christian Education), 2011 Edition)
One does wonder. I have thoughtful friends of both Catholic and Protestant persuasion who have characterized the Reformation as both the greatest event in the history of the church and the worst.
We also have a statement on unity. Ours is in our prayer book. It is called “The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1886.” It basically lays out a plan to re-unify Christians around four points: Scripture, Creeds, 2 Sacraments and, here is the doozy, bishops…although it adds the caveat “locally adapted.” The document says, “…this Church does not seek to absorb other Communions, but rather, co-operating with them on the basis of a common Faith and Order, to discountenance schism, to heal the wounds of the Body of Christ, and to promote the charity which is the chief of Christian graces and the visible manifestation of Christ to the world.”
The Episcopal Church has gone from the forefront of ecumenicism to not even being invited to the meetings due to our national church’s stances on “justice issues” causing a rift in our relationships with other Christian bodies. At this point somewhere between 50 and 80 percent of our own tribe across the world will no longer meet with us either.
Problems of unity are tied to authority, behavior, theology and love. All four of which make unity very difficult to achieve. For Jesus to make unity a major topic of his last public prayer surely illustrates how difficult an issue this would be.
Blessings to you as you extend the Good News of Christ in Cleveland.
Hello again Matt,
Thanks for your comments. I appreciate the dialogue, and I’m glad to read that there are still some sane voices left in the Episcopal communion. (That’s intended as a compliment, not an insult.) I actualy grew up in the Episcopal church, in a family committed to regular church attendance. I did not come to personal conversion/saving faith until I was 15 years of age (and, sadly, not through the preaching ministry of my parish priest, which was rather insipid and had very little gospel content, but through reading a Christian book that had a simple gospel presentation at the end of it). Nevertheless, I credit the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer as the means that God used to prepare my heart for conversion. The liturgy is saturated with Scripture, and it was through the liturgy of the prayer book that God catechised me in the basics of the Faith (through the creeds, the Scriptures we read and sang, and the many biblically-based prayers).
It was in the liturgy that I learned about the authority of Scripture (“This is the Word of God.” “Thanks be to God.”), the Trinity, the Incarnation, Christ’s death for our sins and resurrection, etc. It was in the liturgy that Iearned of the depths of my sin (“We have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep; We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts…” etc.), and it pointed me to God’s mercy in Christ as my only hope. Even today I often use The Order for Daily Morning Prayer (from the 1928 Prayer Book) for my personal devotions, and I an affirm probably about 95% of the 39
Articles of Religion (except for such sections which affirm Episcopal order and the power of the church to decree “rites and ceremonies” not found in Scripture). I appreciate the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral’s suggestions for church unity (Scripture, the two creeds), though obviously as a Presbyterian I would take exception to the statement about bishops, even if “locally adapted.” (I would also want to add an affirmation of justification by faith alone, since I agree with the Reformers that this is an essential gospel doctrine, an article of faith upon which a church either stands or falls, as per Gal. 1:8-9.) And I wholeheartedly agree with you that one cannot claim to love Christ if one hates His visible Body, the church.
Again, thanks for the dialogue and for letting one of the “frozen chosen” share his comments on your blog.
In the grip of grace,
It is a pleasure to get to know you. I have friends in your denomination. I joined the Episcopal church for its dependable words and the prayer book as a way to shape the Christian life as much as its potential to shape corporate Christian life.
I wholeheartedly agree with you on faith + nothing.
There is a new daily lectionary put together by an Anglican guy in the south that you might like. It reads the entire Bible in a year, goes through the Psalms several times and has special readings on 14 days from the church calendar. I can send you a copy if you would like to see it.
Thank you, Geoff, for including this statement. I like the wording of “visible unity is greatly obscured by the divisions….” good wording to say not destroyed.
What does it mean to “exercise a fellowship toward each other …that they do not exercise toward other Christians”?
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You wrote: “There is a new daily lectionary put together by an Anglican guy in the south that you might like. It reads the entire Bible in a year, goes through the Psalms several times and has special readings on 14 days from the church calendar. I can send you a copy if you would like to see it.”
Thanks; that would be great!
I use http://www.missionstclare.com
The BCP helped me to read through the Bible.
I use missionstclare as well.
I really do appreciate your desire for John 17 unity, Jane. The days of sectarianism are rapidly closing. In a world where people have the world at the fingertips (smartphone), sectarianism makes less and less sense. You see that in all of the boundary hopping we have all done- you, me, Geoff. In my diocesan office no a single one of the clergy staff were born in the Episcopal Church- not one!
Hi Geoff and Matt,
Wonderful to read your posts. Several thoughts on them but first…
I came to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior in 1972 in a holy Spirit-filled, Anglo-Catholic, Bible centered Episcopal Youth group of an aging small Episcopal Church in Marin County, CA. I had no church background and learned about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit during my high school years at this church during the 1970’s which was a highly charged spiritual decade! Our youth group sponsored weekly Evensong with guitars so I have an ancient/contemporary experience which put me on track learning Church History. I became an avid reader of the Cross and the Switchblade, Prison to Praise, the BCP and Holy Scriptures.
Next, I spent 18 years serving in an orthodox, holy Spirit-filled, ancient/contemporary Episcopal church in Petaluma, CA. Through the 1990’s the ECUSA made it clear they did not like us. Eventually, forcing the congregation to make the choice between compromise or departure. I left the area and began a journey in and out of non-liturgical churches. (Baptist, EFree, Lutheran, Bible, AofG, Nazarene, Byzantine Catholic, Roman Catholic, Anglican, AMIA) All the while studying why “that church” was “that church.”
I took the stance that “I am searching for the church God wants me to belong to”. I have gifts and talents that God has given me to serve the church with and there is a church that I can help while it helps me.
Because of this “journey of seeking”, I have some experience with the thesis of your commentary, Matt. Although, my seeking resulted in studying this plethora of denominations and the conclusion I reached was to join in 2010 The Church that had the continuity of Truth for 2000 years.
My passion is John 17 because Jesus made it His prayer and He was obedient to do the Father’s will. Based on OT and NT Scripture, I believe and trust God’s desire and ability to make a Nation and a Church. Too bad its so messy because of us!
I hope we can continue our talk. I so want to dialog with you as my brothers in Jesus Christ our Lord!
Jane, thank you for sharing your journey with us.
I have good friends in leadership in the diocese of California. I suspect they would be very sad that those who came before them treated your church with disrespect.
The Episcopal Church has tried to push the boundaries of the tent of grace as far as possible to welcome sinners (such as us) to the table. We have often preferred to rip that tent as prophets than to risk it’s not covering someone outside of the family. That has often caused great discomfort for marriage traditionalists…and tended to wander into some pretty bizarre places theologically. I have seen a strong arc back to trinitarian, Christ-centeredness accompanying (and maybe even as a result of) the pressure being let out of the system on sexual issues.
The question is what will be the treatment of the remaining traditionalists. Will new ones be welcome and/or allowed places of leadership, or will they be patted on the head as quaint or actively driven from the church? I wrote a post about this last summer after general convention that I never posted. Maybe I will now.
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This is very timely post. The problem you have described sadly is not only an American problem. it is a problem that also exists on this big brown flat Island Down Under where I minister. (I am an Anglican Priest/Presbyter/Pastor/Minister [choose the designation you prefer])
My take is that consumerism & ‘me-ism’ within the church is due to the fact that we have over emphasised personal individual salvation (becoming members of the invisible church) due to a previous era where corporate membership to the visible church was over emphasised (which led to nominalism – where we have churches full of people who thought they were Christians because they were members of the church through baptism).
In my context as an Anglican Minister who is Reformed-Evangelical, I have met many Anglicans who are solid when it comes to the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, but they have very little understanding or knowledge about Anglicanism (the 39 Articles, the BCP, the Ordinal) nor do they really care. They would be happy to attend a Presbyterian or Baptist Church as long as their was good teaching. At one level this is a good thing, because what matters is that the gospel is being proclaimed, but the weakness is this (what I call) ‘Generic Evangelicalism’ means that denominational distinctives are minimised which leads to a poor ecclesiology.
So now we are bearing the fruit where we have Christians who are saved by trusting in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, who have no idea that they have been saved individually in order to be a people; who have no concept of accountability, church membership and/or commitment.
Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I couldn’t agree more that evangelicalism has tended to result in an individualistic faith with a bizarrely truncated view of the church and of our call to bring honor to and be in mission for God as his set apart people.
Btw, I checked out your blog. Lots of good stuff there.
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Incredibly thoughtful! One challenge for the church remains to be in the culture and not of the culture!
Thank you, Hollis!
As a child, I couldn’t separate the Church from its People. It seemed the Church supported snarky, judgmental, condemning behavior. I stopped “attending” church at age 16.
Church never felt Motherly, or even warm and welcoming. There was no bosom to snuggle or in which to find solace. (I guess I believed church to be the one place to be me. No masks, no pretend. A place to give without being judged on the gift.)
Over the years, I’ve attended multiple church services at varied branded churches, ie Catholic, Protestant, Lutheran, Mormon, Seventh Day, Evangelical, Baptist, Methodist… Etc. Some had charming preachers, friendly people, great food. Some were in worn out buildings, had more elderly than youth, and were the most boring sermons I’ve even experienced. Still, giving “mother” her respectful due, I understood that giving time, effort and grace to her wasn’t something done at one sitting. I would attempt to participate/give back to the Church that had opened its doors to me. Again, some were receptive, some not at all.
It still amazes me how harsh or even angry people will become if they think someone in their midst believes “wrongly”. I mean, how angry should one become about whether there is a Godhead or three separate entities? This is such a divisor! (I learned young to just hush, again wondering where I might find warmth.)
Now, being middle-aged, I find myself still “searching for a church that doesn’t just preach “at” me, call me a sinner, and then want my money. (Sounds very much like an angry Baby Mama.)
I am sure to be the cause of my own dissatisfaction. After reading your post and reviewing my past experiences with the various institutions, I feel even more confused as to what I should expect, if anything, from a church. I’m not sure how to treat Christ’s bride, and haven’t any role models in which to learn. As my Bible knowledge is slim, and what I think I know has been judged and deemed wrong, I don’t trust myself to make decisions about spirituality or expectations. It has become “easier” to just not attend church. (Or maybe just less painful.)
I appreciate your blog as it gives me a place to AMEN as much of what you write echos my own thoughts. Sorry if this rambled. God Bless.
Hi Andi, Thanks for your comments. Not all posts are for all people. The “Baby Mama” and “Not here to feed you” are to those of us who are bratty church regulars. Our job is to make sure that those who are tentative and unsure are welcomed and loved. I would say, “Trust your instincts.” Thank you for pointing out that the internet is a big place. Perhaps instead of the “snark meter” I should figure out a way to give an “intended audience.” Any ideas? I want to be a place of solace for the wounded, afraid, new, unsure. Part of what I am writing is to help those of us inside remember that we once stood at the door and feared to venture in. 🙂
Actually he True Church is NOT a Religion, no one hated Religion more then Jesus. The Church is a mystical entity.