IVP - Strangely Dim - An Act of Consideration: #letters2afuturechurch from Suanne

April 18, 2012

An Act of Consideration: #letters2afuturechurch from Suanne

We've decided to celebrate April Fool's Month by trying our hand at writing Scripture, in the spirit of John's letters to seven churches in the book of Revelation and the recently released Letters to a Future Church. Feel free to respond and retweet (use the hashtag #letters2afuturechurch).

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In the Introduction to Letters of a Future Church, Andy Crouch observes that 

a letter, it seems to me, requires one crucial quality that few electronic messages attain: an old-fashioned word, consideration. Writing a letter is an act of considering. Letters require pausing, contemplating, stopping whatever else we are doing and making ourselves available to consider . . .

Pausing. Contemplating. Stopping.

Not the kind of thoughtful reflection most of us multi-tasking Americans are known for, but without which matters worthy of significant consideration--like the future of the church--simply pass us by.

In case you haven't been following along, in Letters to a Future Church, editor Chris Lewis and his friends pose a simple yet significant question: If you had one thing to say to the church, what would it be? We here at Strangely Dim are tipping our hand at actually answering it.

At first, the best I could come up with was this:

Dear Church,

Writing a letter to you seems awkward. And weird. 

Sincerely,

Suanne

But when I took Andy's words into consideration, I was surprised where my musings took me.

Stick with me here for just a moment. Back up twenty years to a high school gym. I was swapping sweat with a handful of girls whose skin color was virtually nonexistent in my small rural community when I was accused of spitting out a racial slur (which I didn't say) and was temporarily ejected from the game. My coach (who happened to be my dad) came to my defense; he knew that the accusation was completely out of character with who I actually was. While the incident was ultimately resolved, I was left with the sting of being falsely accused, reminding me in a small way (a very small way) of the pain Jesus endured when he "was killed even though he hadn't harmed anyone" (Isaiah 53:9 NIRV). It's the same prick I feel when people hurl insults at the church. 

And so, my mind fresh off this consideration, my letter would start something like this:

9780830836383.jpgDear Church,

Sometimes I wonder how it must feel to be you. I understand that you, like all of us, have your limitations. But the venom with which labels get plastered on your doors--hypocritical, judgmental, homophobic, sexist, racist, irrelevant--is, I think, sadly unfair. When I consider the authority with which your own Father commissioned you and yet the criticism you endure, I grieve. For these accusations are a reflection of neither who I've understood you to be or of what the Bible itself declares you to be.

While I admit that my perspective has its own limitations, I still find myself marveling at your beauty.

I've watched firsthand as you've adopted orphans, built schools and emptied out your pockets to help those in need. I've cheered you on as you've pushed yourself twenty-six excruciating miles so children you've never met could have clean water. I have cried over your commitment to rescuing the oppressed. I have stood in awe as you've rebuilt communities destroyed by catastrophe and served as a haven for those with nowhere else to go. I have admired how you've abandoned your own comforts to live in gun-riddled neighborhoods, war-infested countries and culture-shocking villages all in the name of love. I have sighed with relief as you've rocked my sleepless babies, overflowed with gratitude as you've brought food to my door, felt your companionship as I've walked through painful loneliness, and wept with indebtedness as you've extended to me the hand of God's amazing grace.

I believe a day is coming when your goodness and grace will overshadow whatever imperfections you may bear. A day when those who know you best will stand up and declare you for who you are: a beautiful picture of redemption and hope for a broken and hurting world, the true reflection of who your Father created you to be.

Alas, there's always more to say, but for today, that will have to be enough.

With love,

Suanne




Posted by Suanne Camfield at April 18, 2012 10:53 AM Bookmark and Share

Comments

Suanne, I really appreciated this post and it challenged my thinking. I am someone who has been hurt deeply by members and leaders of the church who have turned against me, rejected me and used Scripture to beat me over the head and judge me. So I tend to have compassion on those who speak out about their "Church-incuded pain. I have not written myself about this pain in linking it to the Church, though I speak of it often in conversations I use the word "Church" to describe where this pain has come from. I think it is important to remember that individuals make up the church. Just as individuals produce a mixture of beauty and messes, so does the church. We are all a work in progress. But I am thankful for your poignant reminder of the beautiful parts of the Church and her work, service and witness throughout the ages, which I am eternally grateful for. Thank you for writing such a lovely letter.

Comment by: Stephanie Richter at April 23, 2012 11:11 AM

Stephanie, you bring up an important point that I hope I didn't nullify in my letter. I am equally grieved by the pain the church has caused countless people like you. Your statement about the church being a mixture of "beauty and messes" is powerfully true. Thanks for your vulnerability in illuminating both. It's a good reminder that some day all will be redeemed.

Comment by: Suanne at April 23, 2012 12:16 PM

Comments are closed for this entry.

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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