Eugene Peterson is so good that it is hard for me to imagine what the world would be like if he hadn’t walked across it and wrote some words down. This is a bit on the church that comes from his latest book, Practice Resurrection.
“…if the church is intended to be God’s advertisement to the world, a utopian community put on display so that people will flock to it clamoring to get in, it has obviously become a piece of failed strategy. And if the church is intended to be a disciplined company of men and women charged to get rid of corruption in government, to clean up the world’s morals, to convince people to live chastely and honestly, to teach them to treat the forests, rivers, and air with reverence, and children, the elderly, the poor and the hungy with dignity and compassion, it hasn’t happened. We’ve been at this for two thousand years now, and people are not clamoring to join us. We’ve been at this for two thousand years, and we have just been through the bloodiest and most violent century in recent hisotry, and the presen century hard at its heels seems to be hell-bent on surpassing it. Obviously, the church is not an ideal community that everyone takes one look at and asks, “How do I get in?” Clearly, the church is not making much headway in eliminating what is wrong in the world and making everything right. So what’s left?
What’s left is this: we look at what has been given to us in our Scriptures and in Jesus and try to understand why we have a church in the first place, what the church, as it is given to us, is. We are not a utopian community. We are not God’s avenging angels. I want to look at what we have, what the church is right now, and ask, Do you think that maybe this is exactly what God intended when he created the church? Maybe the church as we have it provides the very conditions and proper company congenial for growing up in Christ, for becoming mature, for arriving at the measure of the stature of Christ. Maybe God knows that he is doing, giving us church, this church.” – Eugene Peterson in Practice Resurrection