I was in conversation with a friend recently about running a group associated with the church. Whilst he was interested in what I was proposing he made the comment that if he knew it was a church running it he wouldn’t come. He went on to say that he was not alone in holding such a view, not simply because of the bad things that have been done by the church in history but also because if he came to a church group he would not feel safe to express his own ideas.
This conversation is not unlike many I have had over the years which continually remind me that the church has a bad name in the community and bridging the gap means overcoming not only apathy but sometimes open hostility.
I suspect one of the reasons many of Jesus followers are trying to work outside the institutional churches is that they are trying to disassociate themselves from the stigma of being in ‘the church’. This appears to work to a certain extent but whether we want to acknowledge it or now being Christian means being church with all of the baggage that this brings.
As followers of Jesus owning the hurts and pains and doubts that the church has caused in peoples’ lives is not easy but unless we own our imperfection and continually confess it then we deceive ourselves. We cannot sweep our transgressions under the carpet nor can we point at how much we think we love one another as if we are getting it perfectly right.
As followers of Jesus we can only point away from our imperfect actions and at Jesus and pray that in the midst of our flawed witness God’s grace shines through and the kingdom of God come close.