The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Part mystery, part mess

Unity over uniformity in the church

Something in human nature has us wanting to be around other people who resemble us. We make strenuous efforts to group ourselves with people who like the same things we do. There is, of course, nothing wrong with banding together with like-minded people. It just happens to suit the formation of a political party better than it does Christ's church. It aligns more closely with a club where one pays dues than a fellowship of forgiven sinners who ponder deep realities.

Those who give it a serious piece of their lives quickly discover that the church is often 51 percent mystery and 49 percent mess. They also find out that no matter how flawed the individuals within it may be, the church still happens to be the garden of God's grace. Adherents begin to delight in this strange menagerie of people who often come from a dizzying variety of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives.

"A Christian congregation is the least specialized gathering of human beings on the planet," said Eugene Peterson, a Presbyterian pastor and author. "Where else can you find yourself bracketed by nursing infants on one side, nodding octogenarians on the other, and rubbing shoulders with so many people whom you acknowledge, however grudgingly, as brothers and sisters, and with whom you have nothing in common except your common humanity ... and God."

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November issue


From myths to ministry