Sometimes I think there are Christians who have just as skewed an understanding of the Church as those who are outsiders to faith. I know, because my understanding needed quite a bit of adjustment.
I grew up in the context of a Christian family, going to church gatherings every weekend and midweek, attending a private Christian school, yet it wasn’t until I was removed from that context and living on my own that I discovered a more accurate vision of the Church. The summers between college semesters, I traveled with missions organization events called PowerPlant, which exposed students to church planting and incarnational missions — following the model of Jesus coming to earth to reconcile people with God, and using the example of Paul’s mission of planting churches to continue connecting people and fulfilling needs in God’s networked kingdom. Listening to teachings on the Church, Scripture, and the kingdom of God week after week incurred the friction of internally processing my paradigm shift. Then during my semesters at college, I got involved in a local church plant in Minneapolis called Jacob’s Well, led by one of my best friends, Nate Ray. Frequent late night conversations, LifeGroups with college students of broad variety of church background (or none at all), a surge of exposure to insightful books and blogs and podcasts on Christian spirituality, and even college courses on Scripture and theology aided in my quest to define the Church.
What The Church Is Not
The Church is not a building. In the New Testament, the scores of times the Greek word “ekklesia” is used to describe the gathering of people pursuing life with Jesus, not once does it refer to a building or structure. The Church is not a country club. It is not an exclusive group of high- (or holy-) rollers who get together for a good time or propping themselves up. The Church is not even a group of good Christians.
What The Church Is Supposed To Be
In the words of Nate Ray, the Church is “the shared life and mission of people following Jesus.” If we fail to uphold the heart of the Church (the mission), we have divorced her from the purpose for which Jesus saved her. [You may also note that I call the Church "she" -- because that's how Scripture paints the picture; the Church is the rescued and redeemed bride of Jesus, not an inanimate "it."] Abigail Van Buren says, “The Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.” One of my pastors likes to say, “Welcome to Table Rock Fellowship; we’re messed up and in need of grace, too.”
The Church According to Macklemore
One of the things I like about Macklemore is that he’s a thinking man’s rapper. He gives us insight into the perspectives of a generation of artists, but with more eloquence and philosophical thoughtfulness than the average hip-hopper. He expresses life truths and cultural worldviews with ease and authenticity. Consider his thoughts on “Church (featuring Geologic)“:
I was in my head and I was bustin’ with Pac
Takin’ off my wifebeater and getting drunk in the park
But after that part, I found God, it wasn’t Jesus
Some psilocybin and the ink released him
I began to hold communion every time my music came out the speakers, I used it
And it fueled my movement I believed in, voice of reason, just me and my Adidas
And I could achieve it, I put my hand over my heart, pledge allegiance
I solemnly swear by the faith that raised me since Kool Herc dropped the needle
The South Bronx, that’s hip-hop’s Egypt
The word of our God is manipulated and twisted by the same system
That has infiltrated and falsely interpreted Jesus
One life, one love, one God, it’s us, treated your neighbor how you would want to be treated
The universal laws of God, don’t look too far, it’s right here, us human beings
The spirit’s right here and I don’t have to see it
Now every time I want to connect with God I put my headphones on
Shadows of Truth
- Clearly, Macklemore has great interest in spirituality. He’s not afraid to call it like he sees it, even if it means he acknowledges his struggles to find the divine.
- Mac finds spiritual connection through music and his writing. This is not at all surprising, as the creative process is one of the ways we can join God’s heart for creating, forming, making things beautiful. “I began to hold communion every time my music came out the speakers.”
- Scripture hasn’t fully informed Macklemore’s view of God (as seen in his outright denial of Jesus as God), but he does quote the Golden Rule and the value of “one life, one love, one God.”
- It’s significant that he recognizes that humans and systems have the tendency to manipulate the word of God and falsely interpret Jesus. Often people are open to the “real” Jesus, while repelled from the Church because Christians can distort what should be a holistic picture of Christ. However…
- His worldview carries tones of humanism and individualism, inferring that we are gods or godlike. Possibly referring to specifics of his past, Macklemore “found God” (himself?) through hallucinogenic mushrooms and the writing process. This is a dangerous philosophy, as the search for truth and ultimate authority evasively shifts the goal posts when a man considers himself to hold the answers of life within himself.
- Interesting note: the parallel of South Bronx as “hip-hop’s Egypt,” from which to emerge.
- Making a guest appearance on this track, Geologic expresses great distaste for his church experience, which was likely the reason for his abandonment of religious institutions in favor of a more accepting and appealing community, centered around urban music. ["I could never get past the $#*@ that was spit out the pastor's lips, and the rappers started making more sense."] This is an unfortunate reality for many, often because of misrepresentation of Jesus and failure to join Him on mission with love and grace. People will find their community of belonging, whether it’s one of faith or not. My hope and prayer for the Church is that we will not forgo opportunities to connect people with the fulfilling life of the “real” Jesus and His networked kingdom through the Gospel.
How should the Church be defined and described? What perceptions or misconceptions have you had about the Church or Jesus?
Read more on The Gospel According to Macklemore: