Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hargrove
Discontentment is a gift to the church. If you have the ability to see the things that are wrong in the church and in the world, you should thank God for that perception. Not everyone has the eyes to notice or to care. But we must also see that our discontentment is not a reason to disengage from the church but a reason to engage with it. As Gandhi said, "Be the change you want to see in
the world." Our invitation is “be the change” we want to see in the church. There are things worth protesting, but we also have to be people who "pro-testify," proclaiming the kingdom that we're for, not just the evils we're against.
Jesus offered an alternative to Caesar's empire not by mounting a rebellion but by teaching people that another way is possible. That way is illustrated well by Jesus' triumphal entry, the inaugural parade of a new kind of king for a new kind of kingdom. Church history is filled with holy dissenters, rabble-rousers, and prophets — disturbers of the peace who've helped to show us a better way. As some church historians have pointed out, every few hundred years the church gets cluttered by the materialism and militarism of the world around it. We begin to forget who we are. One bishop said, "And so every five hundred years or so the church needs a rummage sale," to get rid of the clutter and to remember the true treasures of our faith.
Church history is filled with reformations and renewals. It was in the middle of Italy's prosperity and crusades that St. Francis heard God whisper, "Repair my church, which is in ruins," and he began to repair the ruins. At one point, the pope had a vision that the church was beginning to crumble, but the corner was being held up by Francis and the little youth movement in Assisi. The call to repair the church is a call we continue to hear from God, and a movement we are invited to participate in.
We shouldn't be too surprised that the church is a mess. After all, it's made up of people. Augustine said, "The church is a whore, but she's our mother." The early Christians said that if we do not accept the church as our mother, we cannot call God our Father. We are not to leave her, but we are to work for her healing, as we would for a dysfunctional parent's healing. Our work is not "para-church" but "pro-church." The church needs our discontent, and we need the rest of the body of Christ. One pastor said it like this: "The church is sort of like Noah's ark. It's a stinky mess inside, but if you get out, you'll drown."
Common Prayer, Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hargrove, p.49-50, The Month of April reading