The Church is in transition. Halfway in and out of a job currently. Crashing every major networking suite and backyard BBQ in hopes of making that one connection. That one connection that leads to greater notoriety and ultimately an identity worthy of business card publication. Maybe even drive a Dodge Stratus.
Between the largest church planter’s conference in the nation, rainbow colored bread, and the Pope offering atheists what they don’t necessarily want, the Church is having an identity crisis. Who are we? What do we even do? To what are we called?
What complicates the crisis even more is the inconceivable truth that individuals come to the Church asking those same questions. Yet, simultaneously, individuals leave the Church because no answer, advice or consolation was readily available or agreeable. In the midst of transition the Church is knowingly thrust into a losing battle; so long as it seeks to be everything to all people.
In the book of Hosea, a man (named Hosea) is compelled beyond any sense of normalcy to speak the hard truth to the divided kingdom, Israel and Judah. God has a message for them and that message is displayed tangibly in the wife, children and words Hosea chooses. Hosea marries a prostitute named Gomer to indicate to Israel and Judah the way God chooses to remain faithful to Israel and Judah despite their continued unfaithfulness with other gods. Hosea is compelled to symbolically name his children as declarative statements of God’s current attitude towards the divided kingdom. Lo-ammi, ‘not my people’ and lo-ruhamah, ‘not loved.’ Hosea fully takes on the call in his life, to the extent that he marries the publicly unfaithful and names his children as walking convictions. Hosea is prophetic. His identity is wrapped up in his ability to speak the truth of justice and mercy, where it is badly needed, on behalf of God. Israel and Judah badly need it, the world in 2014 badly needs it.
But this identity comes at a cost, for it means the Church must stand for something rather than everything. Or in a postmodern context, it means the Church must stand for something rather than against everything.
The Church is caught, externally and internally, between standing for everything and standing for nothing. At some point the Church needs to lay down the passively aggressive nature of typed words and stand strong for the prophetic nature of the cross as a living proclamation of justice and mercy for the sake of new life. But until then, sweeping proclamations of inclusiveness for the sake of being liked and polled well (or hard-nosed, closed minded, legalistic interpretations of scripture) will keep us just out of reach of the real world and comfortably in an identity crisis we, apparently, aren’t opposed to have.