The Church Exists for the Sake of the World

The Church exists for the sake of the world into which God enters and in which He acts and for which He expends His own life. One who is a participant in the Church, one who is incorporated into this Body, one who is baptised into this company has not only the personal freedom to expend his own life without guile or calculation or fear of death – or any more minor prudence – but also, characteristically, he is indifferent to whether or not the churches maintain an amiable reputation in society, or whether or not the churches have much wealth and a sound investment program, or whether or not the churches, or the ecclesiastical authorities, have much political influence. On the contrary, the Christian is suspicious of respectability and moderation and success and popularity. And this is so because the genius of the Christian life, both for a person and for the company of Christians, is the freedom constantly to be engaged in giving up its own life in order to give the world new life. All the questions of status and power and reputation, and all defensive, conservative and self-serving questions about preserving the institutional existence of the churches are matters of some indifference except insofar as they impede the ministry of the Body of Christ, entice men into false religion and a wrong understanding of what the Christian society is, and lure them into misleading notions of what the Christian life is all about.
--William Stringfellow, A Public and Private Faith

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