This weekend I was on a retreat with “my church” (aka the local group of believers that I choose to commune with and serve on a regular basis). With four of my favorite youth dozing off in my car, I drove home listening to Lecrae and this song reminded me:

There is something I am just not understanding.

The Church (as my Dad would remind my siblings and I almost every Sunday) is not the building but the people.

Christians – past, present, and future, local and global – collectively make up the Church.

The Church is the body of Jesus. Literally His hands and feet. He is no longer physically present with us but as the Church we bring His presence with us. We continue his work and ministry.

You’ve probably heard the verse that says, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The Church makes that happen. We live out the Kingdom now. In the midst of the craziness of sin… and pain… and suffering… and loss.

It doesn’t make much sense for that to be possible. But as I wrote in my last post, there is something powerfully comforting about that.

This weekend as I watched my pastor’s little girl – content as can be – dance and prance around the camp, a friend commented how they love that this little girl marches to the beat of her own drum.

Isn’t that kind of what Christians do? To the world it looks crazy, and to us it feels ridiculous at times, but the simplicity and radical nature of following Jesus can be awfully appealing and astoundingly satisfying.

The Church makes the Kingdom known by the way we live, not just as individuals but more so by the way we live in community.

What I don’t understand is this:

Why do we change the way the Church functions depending on the specific context?

At Biola we have these conversations all the time. “We are not a church.” “We don’t operate as a church.” “It’s okay to do ___ at Biola because we are not a church.” “Stop talking/acting like we’re a church!”

It seems in these moments we are referring to “the church” as the local church, the local congregation.

But if the Church is the people and not the building or congregational name or tax ID number, why do we say it’s okay for us to do ___ because we are not a local church – when in reality we ARE the local Church?

How can we attempt to separate these two?

I would think that the same principles and Kingdom mentality would penetrate the Church wherever we go and whatever we do in whatever setting we’re in. I can see the model of leadership and method of disciplinary action vary.

But…

How can the same person who believes women shouldn’t teach men in the local church be okay with women teaching men in a university setting where both the men and women are a part of the Church?

How can the same person who believes women shouldn’t teach men in the local church be okay with sending single women as missionaries to teach men in other nations in order to bring them into the Church?

The same goes for having different beliefs about men and women in marriage verses men and women in ministry. I don’t understand how one can have different beliefs about the two if ultimately we are all a part of the Church.

I guess what I’m getting down to is this:

It seems that in order to make life easier for ourselves (aka wanting to pick and choose what is comfortable to us) we begin to drawn distinctions between marriage/ministry, local church/missions, local church/parachurch organization, local church/Christian university… to name a few.

But in reality, the Church (the people) isn’t changing –  only the structures/buildings/organizations.

This inconsistency has significant consequences especially for women because of the gifts that they may or may not be able to use to bless and build the Church.

The Church is a part of the crazy-sanity, failure-as-success, love-your-enemies, complex-simplicity, confusing-clarity, upside-down Kingdom. The Kingdom is wholly other than the structures we attempt to govern our lives by. It transcends politics, permeates diversity, and creates a bond stronger than biological family. Our weaknesses become our strengths and those whom the world considers worthless and a bother because of their inability to contribute to society are prized and treasured. We live in full acknowledgement of the brokenness around us while looking back towards what was intended to be and looking forward towards full restoration and redemption – and seeing these processes happen before our very eyes as we hover in between.

Witness the Kingdom. This is the Church.

Shouldn’t a Kingdom reality govern our lives instead of the limits of the structures we create – or even – the limits of our comfortability?

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