The guy with the clipboard was trying to get passersby to donate to the nature group he represented. He was all sweet talk and pictures of cute baby seals and convincing arguments about why even $5.00 could make a difference. When I approached, though, he didn’t give me the hard sell. Instead, he grinned and said, “I bet you’re already a donor.”
He was right. I was. We bumped fists and shared a moment gushing about how much we loved the organization and why. As I left, he made his hands into a heart shape in a show of thanks and fellow-nature-lover love.
Why do I value church above everything else?
I have to admit: It gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling to do something good, and to belong. And it got me thinking about church. Maybe people aren’t waving us down on the street, trying to get us to join. Maybe being a part of church doesn’t always feel “cool.” But in my life, there’s no organization more important, and no greater cause to work for, than I’ve found in church.
I knew that before I saw the guy with the clipboard, but chatting with him made me think more about why I value church above everything else. I realized it comes down to three key things: What church is. What church does. And the awesome effect church has on our lives.
Though we may think of a building or a specific group of people when we think about church, I’ve come to see that it’s so much more. Mary Baker Eddy defines it in part as “… that institution, which affords proof of its utility and is found elevating the race, rousing the dormant understanding from material beliefs to the apprehension of spiritual ideas and the demonstration of divine Science, thereby casting out devils, or error, and healing the sick” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 583).
OK, that’s kind of a mouthful, but when you break it down and start to grasp the awesome power of the activity of church, it’s a major wow. Just think: Each branch Church of Christ, Scientist, as well as The Mother Church, has the inherent capacity to lift up all humanity from the challenges, pains, and terrors of mortality. We’re talking everything from gender and racial inequality to poverty to disease. As we get more of a God-based view of church, we see more of its capacity, more of this lifting and healing going on for our communities and the world.
To make sure I’m seeing Church for what it really is—in other words, not a bunch of people trying really hard to do good work for a broken world, as noble as that motive is—I’ve found it helpful to think more deeply about the first part of Eddy’s definition of Church. The part of the definition that gets at Church as a spiritual idea: “The structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle.”
This view of Church goes beyond the realm of other human organizations, where it might be thought of as irrelevant, out of date, or limited in its ability to effect change. Instead, the real Church, the spiritual idea of Church, has the awesome and almighty power of God behind it to effect real and lasting change in people’s lives and in the world.
Church turns me outward—making me more willing to offer help, prayers, and love to neighbors and strangers.
I’ve felt this many times over in my own life when a more spiritual sense of church has dissolved my frustrations with fellow members, brought healing as I’ve participated in church activities, and turned me outward—making me more willing to offer help, prayers, and love to neighbors and strangers. It’s also blessed me by showing me that each of us has the capacity to be a witness to the mighty spiritual power of good. And that each of us—yes, each of us—is called to be a witness to God’s goodness and its power.
Both individually and collectively, we need church and church needs us. It’s not that church is somehow better than other organizations; just that its reach has the potential to be so much wider—healing and saving the whole world. But that takes all of us—our love, our commitment, our willingness to catch the spiritual vision of Church and to hold on to it even when that seems tough. When we do, though, we can see and experience radical change.
That’s why my hands are in the shape of a heart for you. Whether you’re a fellow church member or future member, I’m grateful for you and for the work we get to do together for this Cause. We may not always see the effects, at least at first, but the promise inherent in church is that it does make a difference—always.