One of the ways that we get the Church most wrong is in the pronouns. The Church is not it. The Church is She.
We all know that the Church (or, if you like, local church) is not the building. But there are plenty of other things that the Church is not. The Church is not an organization. The Church is not an institution. The Church is not a machine. Neither is the Church a corporation, a club, a society, a party, a lobby/pressure group, or (most of all) a business. The Church is none of these, because the Church is not it. The Church is She.
The Church is an organism. The Church is a cosmic being. She is the Bride of Christ. She is the Body of Christ. She is alive, and She never dies. All Christians who have ever lived, including those who have died, still have a voice in the Church. The saints of ages past still speak because, though She is wounded, yet She lives.
Your church, my church, the local bodies of Christ to which we belong, are microorganisms. They are microcosms. Pictures of the whole. They are she, the sum of them being She, and they are alive. Your church is a living organism. Your church is not an organization.
The implications of this are manifold. Most importantly, She is loved. Christ loves His Bride. Like all brides, the love of Her Lover gives Her life. His love breathes life into Her soul. The Church smiles and laughs when She thinks of how Her Lover loves Her. The Church weeps when She thinks of how She has abandoned Her Lover, and how He has pursued Her and restored Her. She lives. She moves. She has Her being in the One who loved Her so deeply that He died to give Her birth.
We murder the Church when we dehumanize Her. We murder Her when we call Her ‘Organization’ and ‘Institution.’ These are dead things. Inanimate. They speak only the words of the men who run them. But She speaks the words of life, because She has been given them–to keep and to guard. To speak light into darkness. To speak life into death. To speak truth to power. To speak ‘No!’ and ‘Stop!’ to evil. To shout, ‘In the name of Jesus, not here, not now, not ever!’
We murder the Church when we apply to Her the principles of Corporate America. We press a dagger through Her heart when we demand of Her productivity and efficiency. We send Her to the mines, we enslave Her, when we retrofit Her with the greased wheels of successful business practices. The Church, after all, does not produce. She begets.
She is alive. He is alive. He calls to Her. Does She answer? Does She hear? Who has torn out Her ears? Who has clipped Her tongue? Why are You silent, O Beloved? Why are You still? Don’t You know that You are not It? You are She.