I love James Cone, and here he is at his usual uncompromising best. He asks 2 questions of the black church that could be asked of any church: What is the mission of the church - to save souls or bodies? And, is the church called to save its own life or called to lose its life for the sake of others?
Its amazing how easily a church can find itself sustaining itself. We're trying to find a church at the moment. We visit a church and we know that they have lots of jobs for you to fill and we suspect that when they see us in the pew, they see someone to fill their vacancies. it makes us wonder who they are for - is the church for the people or the people for the church?
I'm absolutely certain there is something outwardly unimpressive ('failed') about a church that decides not to use its energies to prop itself up. There is only a limited amount of energy and time out there and a church that chooses to use that to serve others or just let people rest is going to look unprofessional, limited, 'failed'. But herein lies its real success that, like Jesus, it chooses the path of unimpressive success. For me, its not the ultimate vindication of Jesus in the resurrection that makes Jesus' work a success - success is to build nothing in his lifetime, except to be prophetic in his unpolitical, uncompromising defence of the weak.