What on earth is the church for? I don’t know if you’ve ever asked this question, but I often do. Can it be described as a friendly club?
Evelyn Underhill, a well-read English writer known for her works about spirituality once remarked in a radio broadcast in 1936, “The Church is in the world to save the world. It is a tool of God for that purpose; not a comfortable religious club established in fine historical premises. Every one of its members is required, in one way or another, to cooperate with the Spirit in working for that great end: and much of this work will be done in secret and invisible ways.”
Writing 75 years ago Underhill highlights how easy it is for us to slip into assuming church is a “comfortable religious club”, rather than a participation in the work of God in the world. And in doing so exposes the false assumption that the work of the church is done by those trained and ordained rather than by “every one if its members.” She underlines how it is ordinary Christians pursuing the work that has been given them that are the ones carrying out the saving work of God in the world.
Don’t I have to get my act together?
Too often we assume that God’s work is for others, those training or the more spiritual, but not me. But in doing so we ignore the clear teaching of the New Testament that we are all called to be God’s witnesses and to work with God in his saving work. We assume we need training, more education or a certificate before we can get involved. Yet this is sheer nonsense. There is no evidence that God ever delayed plans waiting for people to “get their act together”. Think about Moses, or Peter, or Mary the mother of Jesus, or Paul (previously known as Saul). None were chosen for their training, their impeccable record or their overwhelming competence.
God chooses ordinary people to do his work and that includes you and me. Martin Luther and the reformers had it right – baptism is our ordination to ministry. Every one of us is called by God to be ministers of his grace and carriers of his good news in the world. The church is NOT a “comfortable religious club”, but an active community on a mission – a mission we have been called to by God.
Please pray with me that each of us who are part of Jesus’ Church will find our place in God’s mission to our locality and the world.