Church is often slow to change.
While easy to criticize, it is worth remembering what the church so often does for us. Church is the place where we practice the ancient sacraments. Church is the place where we say words that have mattered mightily to generations. Church is where the holy – baptisms, marriages, funerals – occurs. Church is the house of the sacred.
Church also has flaws. A house of God and folks, church has its humanity and with it the weaknesses all of us know too well. Church can be short-sighted, selfish, petty and all the rest. While true, I find the weaknesses of church challenging. Two thousand years after Jesus, we are still catching up with the vision He set for us. It is one of many reasons, I love Him so.
Yesterday and today I am in a meeting of larger United Methodist churches. To be honest, I find it frustrating. The room is almost exclusively anglo, affluent, and very male. As I walked in the room, it stopped me. At First Methodist Houston I have become accustomed to seeing something different. Daily, I see people from almost every continent, the homeless to the CEO, the ex-con to the tireless saint, the cancer patient at M.D. Anderson whose life is threatened to the millennial whose life unfolds every day.
Some might say at first glance, these people have little in common – and I understand the sentiment. Church in America, in spite of Jesus, is like attracting like. Our churches, by and large, are filled with people who share perhaps too much. They are the same color and social class, from the same neighborhoods with the same education, with the same interests and frustrations – American Methodism is a monochromatic monotony.
Jesus is calling the American Church to more and more look like heaven, and I believe First Methodist Houston is wrestling with answering that call. At first glance, someone might look at us and ask- what do these people have in common?
The question is honest, as is the answer. We all need to love God and each other in a better way. We need forgiveness. We are searching for God’s plan for us. We want belong to belong to a Kingdom, not just a country. The uncommon share so much.
This is the ministry of Jesus. From Pilate to the prostitute, from the Pharisee to the fisherman, Jesus brought a Kingdom of God, a Kingdom of Heaven, that pushed us. He showed us what the uncommon truly share.
Churches that push this direction are Kingdom churches and I pray both First Methodist Houston and United Methodism will be such a church. Heaven is a place where we will all see what we share, and Jesus is calling the church to mirror below what will be above.