As we look back on our life in the Church, especially during Great Lent, we eventually land upon some acceptance of the purpose of the Church why do we gather each Sunday? Why do we offer programs for our youth? Why do we both to take the Church up on her offer for such a spiritually intense Great Lenten Journey?
Having been in Church ministry for a quarter century, I have had hundreds of discussions (you may call them arguments if you wish) about why the Church does what it does. Such discussions inevitably expose two opposing purposes. Either the purpose of the Church is to keep people “in” the Church, or to save people?
I have spoken before about being saved. You can watch these below, so I won’t dwell on the directly here.
I hear over and again that the Church must become relevant to the needs of our people. I agree. I know what I mean by relevant, but I’m not sure what others mean by being relevant. For example, I have been told that people want to the Church to speak about life issues and how we can have a better life. This is where I have a dilemma. It isn’t about having a “better” life, if better is defined as more wealth, more comfort, less struggle, and more happiness. It is about preparing for a better life in heaven.
In fact, the purpose of the Church isn’t about preparing for life at all. It is about preparing for heaven. If you somehow feel the focus during Great Lent doesn’t help you, it could be that your purpose has the wrong emphasis.
Take fasting for example. MANY people think of fasting as merely the physical limitation of food, but that would be a diet. True Orthodox Christian fasting is a spiritual discipline. It isn’t about “giving something up” and punishing yourself because God wants you to suffer. Fasting is about learning how to get over your own ego. This is one reason I regularly suggest not creating your own fasting rules, since making up your own rules is nothing more than making up your own faith.
If you’re going to get anything out of your Great Lenten Journey this year, you must change the way your view the Church. Rather than looking through the “having a better life” prism, look through the “have a better heaven” prism. It is the only purpose that will make sense during Great Lent.