What is Church: A Reality Check

I just finished reading The Good Life: Where Morality and Spirituality Converge, which I already mentioned in a post a couple of days ago. The book is an effort to explore what are the characteristics of the appropriate response to the God who speaks to us first, who makes the first move to invite us into relationship with Him. In the author’s words, it “is based on the conviction that, when it comes to living the good life, character and virtue matter; that is to say, the moral life and spiritual life converge when we begin to explore the sort of persons we ougth to become and the sort of lives we ought to live in ourder to flourish as authentic human beings.” The book is well worth spending some time with, both for its thought-provoking text and for the reflection exercises with which each chapter ends, which are suitable for both individual and group prayer. I suspect it is a book I will keep close by and go back to often.

Although there are many places in the book where I have underlines, asterisks or marginal notes, one of the things that particularly struck me was the book’s discussion of church. Church membership, the author explains, “is far more than the passive acceptance of doctrines or the submission to a set of precepts.” Rather, belonging to the church

is an adventure of following Jesus in new and ever-changing situations. The church is to give the world a hint of what life looks like when we take God’s love to heart and Jesus’ vision of discipleship into the home, the workplace, and the marketplace.

That strikes me as a wonderful definition. But it invites the reality-checking question: do our churches look like that? Do they offer to the world a vision of Kingdom? Do they offer a model of Jesus’ vision of discipleship? Do we even think in those terms?

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