I had a picture in my mind of the Church. Well, it was more a picture of how the church might be perceived or experienced from outside the church. There are tall, impenetrable walls. There are no cracks, just strong, stout walls. And as I look up, it is stories tall — maybe six stories, and similar to a strong, sturdy fortress. Outside the walls it is desolate.
I sometimes wonder how the church is perceived or experienced by others “outside” the church. I imagine there are as many answers to this as there are people. Often our world portrays “the church” as cold, judgmental or narrow. This may be the experience for some, but not all. Have they really experienced the church? Would it be like me being asked to describe some beautiful mountain as I am standing on the other side of a valley in a storm? Obviously, I cannot see clearly. But the mountain is still beautiful whether I can see it or not. The church is beautiful. Yet, does the church feel more like a fortress to some than engaging people? Maybe they really don’t get to experience the church because the church is acting like a fortress — like it needs to be protected from the world.
I do love the imagery and mystery of the church — made up of redeemed people, with Christ as the Head. The church is not a fortress or a building or a place — no, it is the body of Christ. It is people with transformed lives, under Christ, with Christ and following Christ.
Where does Christ go?
Recently I had the opportunity to be around some sheep — some timid, skittish, and uncertain sheep. Some could barely see through their thick wool. They were kind of cute, especially the lambs. In with some of the lambs was a puppy who would one day protect these sheep. Right now he was becoming their fast friend. But one day, the pup would be very large and would look out for the sheep, who would need protection from coyotes. He being with them was what they needed.
Jesus, of course, is the Great Shepherd. And people are like sheep. They need a shepherd. And
Jesus saw the people.
This is our head– the Head of the Church.
I am thankful for the redeeming work of Christ who makes us a changed people. We can see differently now, but not yet fully. We have the ability to hear things in a fresh way, but not completely. We can go. We can feel, speak, and listen, like our Head’s example — but again, not perfectly. The church is made up of changed lives, not perfect lives, being “little Christ’s,” or ones like Christ. This is the church. We are to be kind of like the pup — with the sheep, caring for them and so close we can see, feel and understand their fear.
My desire is to be a person that is not showing others a fortress, but Jesus — the Good Shepherd, He who laid down His life for the sheep. My hope is that the church would be experienced more through the day-to day lives of engaging individuals. I pray it would be felt by people we know who live outside the church, or who don’t even know about the church. My dream is that redeemed people find the simple conversations which cross their path as divine opportunities — opportunities to bless, and even explore whether that person knows the Good Shepherd. I desire the church to be individuals who will always keep close to their heart that the greatest need of any person, the deepest need ever, is to know God and experience a forgiven and redeemed life. I pray there would be more people outside the walls of the church engaging with those who are actually in our path, or going possibly to those not even near our path.