The answer to the question of why we are still here is because I/we believe in the Church. I want to articulate that a little, because, a lot of people look at me sideways like I’m a raging catholic or something when I say that. So let me clarify.
When I say that I believe in the Church, I don’t mean the institutional church, that is, the power structures, or the institution itself, I mean the Catholic Church. And when I say Catholic Church I don’t mean the Roman Catholic Church, I mean the worldwide fellowship of believers everywhere, who are members of God’s family – those who make up the body of Christ worldwide.
But even then, I think we can get into trouble. I have been in a situation (many situations) where people in the church have let me down, have hurt me, and have been deliberately mean towards me. I’m sure that you’ve found the same – if you’ve been in church, you’ve been hurt by people who were supposed to be your brothers and sisters. You’ve felt let down, disappointed by the hurt you’ve felt in what was supposed to be a healing community, and frustrated at the lack of a voice you’ve had in the face of these disappointments. One thing I have discovered over the last 15 years is that there is no such thing as a perfect church.
This is the reality of the world we live in – a broken and fallen one. I’m not here to advocate for going to a particular church, or that a particular way of doing church is right, what I am saying is that you are a part of the church – the body of Christ – if you are a Christian, you can’t escape the Church, it’s wherever you are!
One thing you will learn about me, is that I really enjoy church history, especially the Early Church (before the Edict of Milan).
What you find as you study the history of Christianity is that the Church has faced the same stuff for the last 2000 years.
So, when we look around the church, and we see people who are hurting others, who are frustrating us, who are being unfaithful to the call that God has for us, this is nothing new.
There were two schisms in the early church that dealt with this. The first was called the Novationist schism, and had to do with letting people back in after they had renounced the faith during times of persecution – the lapsed, they were called. There was one group that didn’t want them back in under any circumstances! #Gracious!!!
The second had to do with the Donatists, who felt that those priests and bishops who had handed over books to be burned, and named other Christians as followers of Jesus during times of persecution, could not be allowed to be ordained, their ministry was invalid, and they had to be stood down, because God could not work through them – they were too sinful!
Saint Augustine wrote extensively about the Donatists, and, in defence of the church looked to passages in Matthew to talk about the church, and he coined this idea of the invisible church, which is the church as God sees it, those who are faithful, those who are true, it does not include everyone who is in the church that we can see around us, because that is like the field of wheat and weeds, or the sheep and the goats. We will take a look at those passages in our next post in this series.