Weekly Reflections: Ways of being Church

By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
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“…the Son of Man did not come to be served; he came to serve and to give his life to redeem many people.” — Mark 10:45

Challenges of Our Time

We are in deep crisis politically, economically, and even culturally or spiritually. Our President is contemplating to resign due to endemic corruption in the government bureaucracy. Our economy is also getting worse as prices of basic commodities are going up uncontrolled, while thousands of our people continue to brave the dangers of distant lands in search of much needed dollars to keep their bodies and souls and families alive.

Moreover, our values and our sense of what is right and what is wrong are slowly being eroded and distorted, as innocent people are killed almost every day, and the culture of impunity as well as graft and corruption continue to reign supreme in our land. These are difficult challenges of our time.

How does the church live her life in this kind of situation? What are the ways of being church in our country today? Are these ways of being church relevant and responsive to the challenges of our time?

Need for Self-Examination

There is a need for our churches today to have a serious self-examination as to whether or not they are properly responding to the challenges of our time. Following are some of the various ways of being church in our country today:

Ritualistic Church. The life of many of our churches today is ritualistic and ceremonial. It is very much centered on fiestas, celebrations or rituals and ceremonies. Even the quest for peace that requires a lot of concrete actions is being sought for through prayer rallies and other forms of ritualistic and ceremonial activities. Of course, rituals and ceremonies are important in the life of the church, but they are simply dead if there would be no corresponding actions in actual life situations. This was what the 18th century German Philosopher Freidrich Neiztche meant when he called on the German people to come and bury God, because they have killed him by reducing him into a mere ritual and ceremony.

Charity-oriented Church. Also, many of our churches today are charity-oriented. They felt they have already fulfilled their Christian obligations if they have given themselves to charity. Giving dole outs has been used as a missionary strategy. They would think that this is the very nature of the church: to give dole outs to those in need.

No wonder beggars would place themselves strategically in front of churches, because of the hope that people going to church are charity-oriented. While it is good to give alms to beggars, it is perhaps better to ask and find answers as to why Filipinos become beggars amidst their own country’s abundant resources.

Dualistic Church. Dualism is a philosophy of dichotomizing realities. For instance, we look at the human person not as a whole but as one composed of body and spirit; and the body is less important than the spirit. This is an influence of Geek philosophy in our Christian doctrines. A dualistic church is one that emphasizes the spiritual over against the material things. This implies that the church should be involved only in spiritual or religious matters and should not be involved in social issues or in what’s happening in the outside world, as if God is only a God of spiritual things. As a result, we have split-level Christians, who pray beautifully inside the church, but act demonically outside the church.

Triumphalistic Church. Triumphalism is characterized by a messianic attitude towards the world. A messianic church claims that “outside the church there is no salvation”, as if God is found only inside the church. A triumphalistic church regards herself as the mater et magistra (mother and teacher) of the world. This means that the church alone knows and the world doesn’t know, the church alone is right and the world is wrong. Therefore, the church should teach the world. She should straighten up the ways of the world.

The problem with this way of being church is that the church tends to listen only to her own self and close her ears to the people. If the church stopped listening to people, there would come a time when she would also stop listening to God.

New Way of Being Church

The aforementioned ways of being church have been part of the problem rather than part of the solution of our nation’s crises. We need today a new way of being church. To discover a new way of being church relevant for our time, we need to go back to the mission of Jesus Christ, the Lord and Master of the church.

The Gospel of Mark pictured Jesus as the Servant Messiah. In Mark’s rendition of Jesus’ mission statement, the Lord said to his disciples, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the heathen have power over them, and the leaders have complete authority. This, however, is not the way it is among you. If one of you wants to be great, you must be the servant of the rest; and if one of you wants to be first, you must be the slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served; he came to serve and to give his life to redeem many people” (Mk.10:42-45).

A church that patterns her mission to Christ’s mission is a servant church. Her way of life is Christ’s way of servant-hood. Like Christ, her mission is to serve and to give her life for the people’s redemption. The phrase “many people” in the Gospel of Mark comes from the Greek word ‘ochlos’ which means “masses of people”. It refers to the ordinary people, the poor and oppressed, those who are like “sheep without a shepherd” (Mk.6:34), being victimized by the “wolves” of the state (Mt.10:16-17) and even of religion. To them, Jesus our Lord had shown genuine love and compassion.

To be a servant church, therefore, is to have a genuine love and compassion for the masses of people. This means to serve them. And to serve them is to listen to their cries and identify with their sufferings and hopes. A servant church is not after power, prestige and wealth. It does not ally herself with the wielders of power; rather it allies herself with the masses of people whom her Lord and Master Jesus Christ came to serve and redeem, and gave his life as “ransom”.

It is when the church becomes a servant church that she would encounter sufferings and persecutions. Perhaps, she would be demonized and her workers and members may be crucified by the powers-that-be. Truly, no servant is greater than her Master (Jn.15:20). But the Lord’s assurance is so great. “The world will make you suffer,” he said, “But be brave! I have defeated the world!” (Jn.16:33). # nordis.net

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