By Pastor Ralph J. Mineo
There are a lot of possible images of the church: Body of Christ, Bride of Christ, Household of Faith, Family of God, the Lord’s Vineyard, to name a few. One image that can sometimes be difficult (because it’s sometimes been used wrongly) is that of a fighting army. But it’s a good scriptural image. In Ephesians 6, for example, there’s the image of putting on armor for spiritual battle.
It takes all kinds of people, and personalities, and gifts to make up Christ’s church. Saints and sinners. Active and inactive. Sick and well. Happy and sad. Some have wandered off for a while. In other words, the church isn’t perfect!
One of my favorite images of the church is “A Rag-Tag Army” a parable from a 1968 book by Pastor Martin Bell.
Here are some excerpts from Pastor Bell’s parable: “God has been on the march in his general’s uniform a long time, you know. And look at God’s rag-tag little army! All God has for soldiers are you and me. Dumb little army.
“Listen! The drum beat isn’t even regular. Everyone is out of step. God keeps stopping along the way to pick up one of his tinier soldiers who decided to wander off and play with a frog, or run in a field, or whose foot got tangled in the underbrush. God will never get anywhere that way. And yet, the march goes on.
“Do you see how the marchers have broken up into little groups? Look at that group up near the front. Now, there’s a snappy outfit! At least they’re in step with each other. But they won’t get far before God will have to stop again.
“Or how about that other group over there? They’re all holding hands as they march — marching around in circles. The more people holding hands the bigger the circle. And of course, a bigger circle is deceptive because as we march along it looks like we’re going someplace, but we’re not. And so, God must stop again. See what I mean? God will never get anywhere that way!
“If God were sensible, he’d take his little army and shape them up! Whoever heard of a soldier stopping to romp in a field? It’s ridiculous! And even more absurd is a general who will stop the march of eternity to go and bring him back!
“But that’s God for you! God means to take every last one of his tiny soldiers with him. Even though our foreheads have been signed with the sign of the cross, we are only human. Most of us are afraid and lonely, or would like to cry, or run away. We can’t seem to trust God when it’s dark and we can’t see him! But God won’t go on without us. And that’s why it’s taking so long.”