why i love the church*

why i love the church

*ps: when i use the word ‘church’ i mean, people gathered together in some way, shape or form to learn & practice the ways of Jesus & pass on love, hope, mercy, justice, and healing in a broken, weird world.

i am leaving today for washington DC for the transFORM east coast gathering.  this is one event i’m really happy to be part of because it is focused on something that i care deeply about–people who are interested in cultivating incarnational communities in all kinds of creative ways.  as much as i am annoyed with “the church” (as in the system, the institution, the so-far-from-the-values-of-the-kingdom-versions), i really do still believe in God’s people gathered together in some way, shape or from to learn & practice & pass on love, hope, mercy, justice, and healing.

in the spirit of the next few days & all-things-church, i needed to remind myself–why do i love it still? why am i still in?  why do i pour my life & time & heart & energy into it even though the cost is so high & the pay is so bad?  why do i put myself out there and make myself vulnerable and say nutty things on this blog which some people use against me?  why do i beg and plead for people to wake up & come alive & find freedom despite what “their church” may have taught them about what they’re allowed to dream & hope for & do & try?

because i love people.  and people are the church.   the reflection of Jesus here on earth comes not through more knowledge or more right belief.  it comes through people.  and people have the power–because God’s spirit & image is alive and well inside of them–to infuse the world with mercy, humility & justice.

so here’s my little list of why i love the church*:

  • it’s messy & unpredictable.   there’s never a dull moment, even though i keep praying for one.
  • it’s a place to practice love in more than just theory.
  • it’s a place to practice grace–giving and receiving it.  i think they’re both equally hard to do. and good to do.
  • it’s where we can get a glimpse of what Jesus meant when he said that the kingdom was possible now–as the least of these are loved and accepted.  the notorious sinner welcomed freely.  a cup of cold water shared.
  • it gives us a chance to practice humility and find out how arrogant and rude we really can be, and learn to do better than that.
  • it can restore dignity where it once was stripped.
  • it provides a place to practice generosity–of spirit, of resources, of time, of love.
  • it’s full of paradoxes–faith & doubt, beauty & ugly, hope & despair, fear & courage, joy & sorrow.
  • it’s a place where everyone can have a voice & use their gifts & passions–regardless of money, talent, education, or a whole other slew of things that usually weed out people.
  • it’s a place where everyone knows your name.  and everyone’s glad you came.
  • it’s a place where we don’t get graded, judged, or evaluated on what we know or don’t know.
  • it’s always changing, morphing, moving, growing, expanding, shrinking, transforming, teaching. dying, resurrecting.

i know some of you might be saying:  umm, that’s not like any church i’ve ever been part of. but my guess is that each one of us have and are part of little pockets of people who somehow, someway, reflect these things despite all the obstacles against it.  that, my friends, is the church, the reflection of Jesus in the here and now.

it’s why i love it still.  and why i still believe it can change the world.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

12 Comments

  • This is an encouraging post, Kathy. May I add one more reason to love the church:

    * it’s the object of Jesus’ affection. He has never given up on her, and never will.

    Reply
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  • Kathy, I really liked your definition of church at the top of the post. If you don’t mind, I am going to use it as a quote on the sidebar of my blog.

    “it gives us a chance to practice humility and find out how arrogant and rude we really can be, and learn to do better than that.” How true that is is for me!

    Reply
  • I’m in love with the Church as well it’s got apretty exciting mission and it’s been resourced to do the job.

    BUT as Morgan Chilulu an African Pastor says, “a church that lives within it’s own walls is no church at all.” Many Churches have become nothing but spiritual spas in which we can retreat from the world as the poor and downtrodden continue to be oppressed and die – we indeed were to be answer to their prayers, but – oh we’re having such a good time – down at the club.

    BTW
    Enjoyed the Video … Hey!!! you’ve got a American accent.

    Reply
  • My wife and I are good friends and supporters of Kevin & Linsey Potter. Love this piece about the church* We started a small group in our home town which drives us nuts, but then blesses our socks off. Your blog is my “run to” when I am feeling frustrated. Thanks so much for being so transparent.

    My only comment on this last piece is the use of the word “place”. When I copied it (trust you don’t mind) to circulate it to our guys, I was tempted to change it to “setting”. As a real estate advisor, working with quite a few “churches”, I am aware how “place” has become a terrible distraction and worse. “Wherever two or three”. I am learning to find immense joy in the “wherever”; the soup kitchen, the corner coffeeshop, the park by the river, even in the showers at the gym.

    Because of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we have mobile church, we just forget and accept the venue alternative.

    Keep it coming; love it.

    DaveT

    Reply
  • ray – thanks for your addition & for passing on.

    laurie – of course, always feel free. i especially liked that one, too, since that’s the place i’m always living, painfully aware of it, ha ha.

    mark – yeah, the spiritual spa thing’s gotta go. you would have dug the convos at transFORM, i thought of you several different times. i wish i had your accent instead of mine 🙂

    dave – thanks so much for reading and taking time to comment, too. of course you can always feel free to pass anything on. it’s funny how semantics can be because in my mind “place” is “whatever setting” and has nothing to do with the physical space of a church building, etc., but i am so with you–how easy it is to be misunderstood. i think that’s why i always like to clarify my definition of the church with a little asterik, ha ha. we miss the potters so much; their legacy lingers in all kinds of ways & influences us more than ever…thanks for reading and look forward to staying in touch.

    minnow – oh good. that makes me happy.

    Reply
  • This description hit me “it’s full of paradoxes–faith & doubt, beauty & ugly, hope & despair, fear & courage, joy & sorrow.”
    I’m reading this book called turning to one another, simple conversations to restore hope to the future, and in one chapter about when do i experience sacred? she writes about the “inexplicable mixture of feelings that can never be described well.” Is this what you mean when you talk about church being messy? The feelings are so mixed, it’s hard to describe, and even hard to determine if these feelings are positive or negative 🙂 I think there’s something complex in the way Jesus FEELS everything, allows all these feelings to come in and mix together, and something healing and beautiful can eventually work it’s way to the surface, maybe like a flower coming out of dirt, manure and roots. 🙂
    Keep it up, Kathy, good stuff!!

    Reply

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