Where does Church fit?

David Lose (…in the Meantime) has been musing about things:

Given how many other groups and movements legitimately lay claim to our allegiance today, can the Church ever expect to exert the level of influence in our lives that it once did?

Let me explain: in medieval times the Church was everything and everywhere – involved in politics, in control of the banks, the arbiter of salvation (or damnation), the final authority on all matters of domestic and public life.

The omnipresence of the Church has been declining for several centuries, but even in my grandparents’ day, it remained the center of both their civic and private lives. And as a kid, I still participated in annual Christmas pageants and programs in our public school.

Living in a pluralistic society, that is simply no longer the case. Nor should it be. I can’t imagine the God we know through the vulnerability of manger and cross wanting us to force-feed our faith to everyone who happens to want a public education. Moreover, many, many other groups – civic groups, sporting clubs, political parties, advocacy groups, and all kinds of leagues, clubs, and associations – have some good things to offer and become part of our lives. And most of these aren’t connected with the church. (Remember when softball and volleyball and bowling and more were often composed of church leagues? No longer.)

All of which means we have multiple allegiances and are associated with lots of different groups that lend us part of our identity.

What, then, do we expect of the church? Do we expect it to be “first among equals,” taking priority over every other affiliation (even when we often devote more time, energy, and money to other groups)? Do we expect it to help bring our other activities into focus, that we might see these different enterprises in light of our faith? Do we treat it as one of several groups that is important to us?

Dr. Lose goes on to talk about how models of “church” fit or don’t fit into the world that has changed since medieval times. But I suspect it is a question each one of us should ask of ourselves before going outside our “walls” to evangelize.

As a Franciscan friar and Catholic priest, “church” takes priority over all else. It is my life. A life vowed to God. I would love to say my state is the mean or median of American life, but  I am pretty sure that puts me out on the “tail” of the distribution curve. How about you? Is church the priority (and if you want to answer that for ‘faith’ vs. church, be my guest). Do we see, act, and judge on the basis of faith/church? Is it part of the mix – albeit an important part, but not always the guiding measure? Is church slipping into “we go when we can…” Has it slipped off the radar scope all together?

Church, ekklesia, is the people “called out” from their lives to be community. How strong is that calling in your life?


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