Catholicism views the church as a franchise. But let’s consider a different model of the church. We’ve all seen Westerns in with forts and outposts in the wilderness.
These were little beacons of civilization scattered across the vast frontier. Emigrants to the Old West would chart a trail which was punctuated by remote forts and outposts along the way. There they would rest for a few days or weeks. Restock exhausted supplies. Make repairs. Or even dig in for the winter–as they waited for spring before resuming their arduous journey.
And that’s the function of the church. A spiritual stockade in the midst of a fallen world–where weary pilgrims can take temporary refuge in the wilderness of sin. Individual forts and outpost may be abandoned or overrun with the passage of time. Lie in ruins.
Yesterday’s outlying settlement may become tomorrow’s metropolis. Or be deserted. Forgotten by time.
Yet their survival is not an end in itself, but only a means to an end. For we are transients in a transient world. Sojourners on a journey to the land beyond the sun.