The church is irrelevant. It’s clearly corrupt. The church offers nothing of value to the world. These are fairly common sentiments. Can it be that bad? What do you actually know about the church? Actually, what’s the point of the church — or, what is it? There’s a number of things the church, through its people, has offered the world:
Aid and Charity. For thousands of years churches have started, funded and run orphanages, homes for the sick and dying, food kitchens and many other forms of aid and charity for the poor and needy. Think of organisations such as St Vincent de Paul’s, Salvation Army, Brotherhood of St Laurence, World Vision. In fact, 4 of the top 5 Australian Charities are Christian organisations.
Scientific Advancement. Towering figures of modern science, Galileo, Johannes Kepler, Blaise Pascal, Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, Charles Babbage, Gregor Mendell, Louis Pasteur, Lord Kelvin, were all theists and most Christian.
Social Activists and Reformers. Christians such as William Wilberforce, Desmond Tutu, St Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther King, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Oscar Romero and Mother Teresa have literally changed the world for the better for millions of people.
Theology and Philosophy. Leading thinkers such as Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Luther, Ignatius, Barth, and Kierkegaard, have shaped the intellectual landscape of the Western world.
Education and the University System. Many of the major Universities of Europe, including Oxford and Cambridge, for instance, were founded my monks.
Art and Architecture. Think Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Bernini; and in architecture think Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic, High Renaissance.
Language and Literature. Latin, central to the church’s writings, is the most widely used alphabet system in the world. And think of the contribution to literature by Tyndale, Dante, John Bunyan, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Dostoevsky, John Milton, Solzhenitsyn and Flannery O‘Conner.
Music. A monk named Guido invented musical/staff notation. Imagine music developing without this? The hymn, oratorio, opera were nurtured within the church and artists such as Haydn, Bach, Handel were devout Christians.
Put simply, however, the greatest thing the church has given the world is: Jesus. Actually, it was Jesus who gave the church to the world so that his life, truth, love and ministry could go on. Over the next several weeks at NightChurch we will look at the Church from Jesus’ perspective, focussing on his mission, message, the way God transforms human beings and the new community he called into being.