I love the About Circle of Hope dinners that Circle of Hope at Broad & Dauphin hosts every other month. Interested and interesting people always fill them, really. I like going because it helps me get back to the basics of being the church and planting it. On Monday at Jen and Aaron’s, we had a full dinner, and at some point during the evening, I used a basic economic image to describe the church.
The capitalist political economy has largely subverted the church, as well much of modern life. Even anti-capitalism has been commercialized (like that Che shirt over there). In fact, we are so individualistic and consumer-based that participation in a faith community is fundamentally commercial. We church shop and we look for worship that meets our needs. We might even read a Yelp review of a church before visiting to make sure it is worth our time and/or money (should we ever become generous).
We have even made the cross and the atoning work of Jesus into a transaction! But I want to be more than a consumer. I want to be more than a buyer. God has bought me so that I am free from that consumption. Being the church is not about being a consumer.
I think, for the most part, Christians understand that the point of the body is not just to satisfy our consumer needs and desires. Even if their actions undermine our thoughts, I think we still think people consider being the church about what you are accomplishing. It’s not about consumption for some, but about labor.
We are co-workers for Jesus. We do his work. We fulfill the Great Commission. We are looking forward to the next leader who will take us into a new era, that is for sure. But there is still something missing from the laborer mentality. Being the church is about more than working.
For me, being the church is about being an owner. I’m not looking for consumers or laborers, but people who will own the church and be the church with me. It’s a family business, one that thrives on people owning it with us. Consumers are OK. The laborers are getting it too. But I want us to own our dignity enough to believe that we are the church and we become full partners.
This is a challenge because most of us don’t own much. We are in debt. We can barely get a job that pays the bills. The bank owns our house if our landlord doesn’t. The government and corporations control our lives. The one percent dominates us. We don’t own anything, not even our own desire anymore. So why would we consider becoming a partner and owner in the church? I think because it subverts what the powers that be have told us. Because we are not just defined by our consumption or the work we do. We are defined by who we are in Jesus! We are His body.
We have an intimate relationship with each other, that’s why we are a family. That’s why we share our money in common. We have mutual goals, and a mutual mission. Jesus needs us to take ownership. He needs us this Advent, particularly, too, when we are reminded of his needs as a “needy baby.”
It takes time to get from here to there, and some of us might never get all the way there. I don’t think Jesus will judge us if we don’t get all the way there, but we are on a journey and we are moving together.
Who knows? Maybe we aren’t for you. But if you want to do and be something beyond yourself, please don’t just come to our church.
Be it with us.