Church or Pornography?
I was just reading an article recently about a man who resigned from his pastoral position to pursue the development of an online spiritual community. The analogy he used was pretty astonishing to me: “Do you know why I left professional ministry? Because frankly I was tired of propping up the institution of a central bank in an ATM world.”
Yes that makes sense – I mean the beauty of ATM’s is that they’re accessible whenever you want, make no demands on the inconvenience of relationships, and will always give you just what you want without any hassles. Interestingly, those are the same distinctions often made between pornography and real relationships. Of course ATMs, or porn, or virtual church are more convenient, and make less demands on you. But let’s at least be honest enough to admit that all three have the effect of diminishing our capacity for real relationships, which are suprisingly messy, inconvenient, and painful.
The week after week gathering of a community, united in our brokenness and desire to be transformed can be one of the most glorious displays the reality of Christ available; or it can be show. But if, because of the danger of show, or the danger of spiritual consumerism, we react by withdrawing into our virtual caves – picking our teachers, picking our times, picking our fellow worshippers like choosing apples at the supermarket, I would argue that we’ve diminished the testimony substantially.
I remain a strong advocate for gathering with irritating people, to work out our salvation together in community, for this is the hope of God’s glory being seen. Instead of the airbrushed perfection of our own customized communities, how about the long haul, hard work of loving real people? Anything less isn’t a real body, and hence not a real church.