The Word “Church”
I use the word “church” here with a somewhat heavy heart. I know that for many of my readers that very word will carry the overtones of large, dark buildings, pompous religious pronouncements, false solemnity, and rank hypocrisy. But there is no easy alternative. I, too, feel the weight of that negative image. I battle with it professionally all the time.
But there is another side to it… For many, “church” means just the opposite of that negative image. It’s a place of welcome and laughter, of healing and hope, of friends and family, and justice and new life. It’s where the homeless drop in for a bowl of soup and the elderly stop by for a chat. It’s where one group is working to help drug addicts and another is campaigning for global justice. It’s where you’ll find people learning to pray, coming to faith, struggling with temptation, finding new purpose, and getting in touch with a new power to carry that purpose out. It’s where people bring their own small faith and discover, in getting together with others to worship the one true God, that the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. No church is like this all the time. But a remarkable number of churches ar partly like that for quite a lot of time.
Nor must we forget that it was the church in South Africa which worked and prayed and suffered and struggled so that, when major change happened and apartheid was overthrown and a new freedom came to that land, it came without the massive bloodshed we were all expecting. It was the church which stayed alive at the heart of the old Communist eastern Europe, and which at the end, with processions of candles and crosses, made it clear that enough was enough. It is the church which, despite all its follies and failings, is there when it counts in hospitals, schools, prisons, and many other places. I would rather rehabilitate the word “church” than beat about the bush with long-winded phrases like “the family of God’s people” or “all those who believe in and follow Jesus” or “the company of those who, in the power of the SPirit, are bringing God’s new creation to birth.” But I mean all those things when I say “church”.
– taken from N.T. Wright’s book Simply Christian pgs. 123,124