a question mark in church

I haven't been attending church here in the community for a while now. That's bothered me. I've thought of it as temporary, thinking that changes had to come soon, that the community situation was not sustainable. But it has dragged on. And, more importantly, some conversations with people lead me to believe that the changes that will come will almost certainly not be what I've hoped for. The people involved will change, but the establishment of human authority and the use of (or at least threat of) coercion will continue. And that power will continue to wound some people and corrupt others. And the church will continue to grant spiritual legitimacy and assurance to the community in this rather than challenging it.

As hard as that was to actually accept, I find myself now strangely reassured by that realization. Because it's not just this place, this church, at this moment. They're not fundamentally different from others in these things. It's this way everywhere, and has been forever; Jesus saw the same thing. And he told his followers to expect it (especially in the religious communities), sending them out as sheep amidst wolves, and he didn't tell them they were going to change it. "The world," Jesus called it, because it's universal.

So I don't need to be waiting impatiently to see what will happen. Or hover in indecision because the others have not made their decision. I just need to take my place in relation to the world like Jesus demonstrated, a place on the margins, a place with the poor and weak, a place in tension with those in power, a question mark placed within the world.

I think I've been moving in the right direction here for a while, towards the margins, towards simple service and away from governance and positions of control. But I've felt conflicted about not attending the church lately. And when I think of the other options, other churches around here, I don't see them as much better in the areas that troubled me so much in this church. What to do? I don't want to reject them all, but neither do I want to affirm them wholeheartedly. Did Jesus show the way to respond to this situation, to the various religious establishments that certainly include many of God's people, but are also human organizations rebellious against God?

My most satisfying church experiences may have been when I was on the road, visiting different churches regularly. A perpetual visitor. And now that I think of it, that seems like what Jesus was, a perpetual visitor in the synagogues of his time. He didn't reject them, though he did challenge their ways (and got thrown out of at least one for telling of God's displeasure with them), but Jesus insisted that the most important thing was not where we worship but that we worship in spirit and truth. (Jn 4.19-24) He also compared that Spirit of truth to the wind that blows where it wills—not where people want it to. I'm thinking that I'd like to try to be a perpetual visitor, in several churches near here. Ready to worship with all of them, standing with God's people in all of them, but also a question mark, holding back from fully identifying with that institutional group. Because the organization is not the Spirit, and that's obvious in so many ways.

I find myself feeling much more satisfied with that as a long term response, even if I do eventually join worship here in the community again (every once in a while). It brings back thoughts on church membership from years ago: "I am a brother to all who are also part of Christ. I will recognize them, not by their official affiliation, but by their Christlike lives."