In reading A Generous Orthodoxy, Brian McLaren speaks of the seven Jesuses he has known. Wile I have met many types or notions of Christ. Of all the ones I've met, the common trait I see is a genuine love for others expressed through hones compassion.
Love is the litmus test of a servant of God. Growth in Christ likeness is difficult without the underlying motive of agape love. While at Regent in Vancouver, I encountered many different perspectives on Christ. More that that, I became friends with many of his ambassadors. Again, the common thread in our Christ-Following is a love that places the needs of others above our own.
Recently I've been considering the institutional church and my involvement with it. What I often find is a lack of honest compassion within the institutionalized form of church. Now I'm not talking about individual Christ-Followers but rather the overall tone of a congregation. The group mind if you will. Honest compassion is a sign of agape love within the life of a community and a reflection of the Jesus they follow.
While I do not wholeheartedly blame the institutional church for this, the very form of an institution tends to amplify this lack of compassion. By their very nature, institutionalized belief systems resist change and the freedom of the Spirit. They seek to preserve a truth, ethos, value set, lifestyle or what have you. Rather than denying the value of compassion and Love, other "institutionalized" values take their place.
Many of these institutional churches started as small vibrant communities that had an honest compassion and agape love for one another. It was quite easy to see their Jesus though them. Yet over time, they became institutional behemoths. As someone who feels called to "simple churches," I find the trend to be rather disturbing. I then had to ask myself, "Do we join simple churches in order to preserve a truth we are holding on to or do we join them to express the love and compassion of Christ?"
I've realized that to join any group of Christ-followers one must not do so not out of selfish personal motives. By joining a community, we are committing ourselves to love and the service of others as Christ did. Therefore, His Spirit predicates my involvement with the institutional church on the idea that God can transform the institutional church. I am there to serve.
Simply put: The church does not have to be perfect or even ideal for me to love it and give myself to it. I'm still growing in this understanding so my current opinion is not set in stone or locked in. I tend to have a light hold on most of my beliefs. To re-evaluate and constantly question seems to be the way I process life.