Is the church a “hospital for sinners?” A “museum of saints?”
Is the church a place of safety and solitude, or is it an outpost from which to launch missions into sometimes hostile territory?
Every day, I have conversations with members and guests about what we’re doing as a church. Each person is shaped by strong views of what they think the church is or ought to be.
The Apostle Peter, the one on whom Jesus said he would build the church, had a bunch of powerful metaphors to describe it.
There is “living stones.” The church is a group of people, built together like stones in a wall, where the Spirit of God resides.
Peter said the church is “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation.” At the same time, he said church members are “aliens and strangers in the world.”
Together those metaphors, and there are lots more of them in the Bible, paint a wonderful, complex, and engaging picture of the church. There’s a lot there to both support and challenge our personal views. Clearly, Peter says the church is set apart in order to be a light to the culture. But, just by being the church, we’ll be treated as aliens and strangers.
The great thing about being a church in the center of the city is that we’re called to live into the fullness of Peter’s metaphors, in all their wonderful complexity.