Wesley, like the rest of us, came to recognise two different perspectives of what makes a “church”: On the one hand there is the institutional church – the buildings, the organisation, the ecclesiology and the ceremonial trappings that go with it. This, sadly, is what most people tend to “see” – it represents the most obvious, physical manifestation of of church and it informs, for unbelievers, much of their opinion of what the church is and represents. It is not always pretty! Empty, sometimes decaying buildings; ceremonies and practices that appear to relate little to real life experience; closed doors and the hypocrisy highlighted by scandal after scandal.
But there is a very different Church – this is the church of the people, inhabited by and inhabiting the Spirit of God; the gathering together of those who walk in humility, with a servant-heart and true compassion for those in need. This is the church that stands on street corners in Street Pastor hi-vis jackets, calming fraying tempers and assisting those who have drunk too much. It is the Church that feeds those who are hungry; provides furniture so people can set up homes; runs pre-schools; sits alongside the sick and dying; comforts the bereaved; celebrates with joy when two people give their lives to one another – so many expressions of a “people” that gives endlessly and has done so for two thousand years.
Above all, whatever form our church takes, it exists to make God known. We are called not only to meet the physical needs of those in need, but to give them hope for their eternal destiny – an eternity in the presence of a loving Father God who gave His Son that we might live.
Neither of these expressions of Church has any eternal significance unless is expresses something of the Kingdom of God; unless it is born of the Holy Spirit; unless we place God at its very heart and choose to serve Him.
I pray, Holy Father, that you will equip us to make you known; to serve you and your creation; to love others; but most of all to know You, to put You first in all things, to seek to discern and to submit to Your Will. When we learn to do these things, the lost will truly be found.