Re Thinking “church”

Why Do We Gather?

The whole church-as-event experience seems to isolate us from people each other and from our mission as followers of Christ. For most of us, this is the big weekly thing. We come, get separated by age and interest groups and then re-united for the “big service.” After about an hour of so of that, everyone rushes back to their own homes until next week. But there is something more; something that is ancient, beautiful, scriptural and fun.

Jesus give us a mission. That mission defines what we do.

Our mission is to be agents of Christ in the world. We are a movement of people who act like the Son of God. We have a practice, and a destiny. We live and act like God to bring love, reconciliation, hope and healing wherever we are at all times. In his letter to the Corinthian community, Paul says that anyone follows Christ works to reconcile people to God Just the way Jesus did (2Cor 5:17-21). This is the mission of the people who follow Christ (called Saints in Scripture). Together, all of these  people who are called “The Church,” or “The Body of Christ.”

You would think that this fact would define everything that we call Christianity, but a culture has been built around this fact and things have changed. The work and fellowship of the people called “The Church” were crammed into a weekly event called “church.”

One of the saddest things about this “event” is that the “Body of Christ” doesn’t really get to interact in a healthy and productive way. We sit and watch a group on the stage or a man behind a lectern. We do not get to share our experiences, insights, and encouragement with each other. We don’t get to plan together or work together. We just share “the event” we call church. All the saints come, sit shoulder to shoulder and watch an event. Granted, we stand up, sit down and sing when required but we have no real part in it. The “church service” reduces us to spectators. We are not required to do anything but come and watch.

Frankly, in 41 years as a pew-sitting-nobody, I have never seen this work. The “church as event” idea only leaves Christians passive, inactive, guilt ridden, weak and confused. That Mission I mentioned before becomes a distant dream or the dreamy reality of distant professional missionaries.

Wanna try something new?

Our work can never be accomplished by gathering once a week to sit shoulder to shoulder watching an event. We need to gather face to face to unite in our mission. We need to network, share meals, encourage one another and take care of each other. You can keep “going to church,” but there are so many other things you get to do. Try this, and you might have a lot more to celebrate on Sunday.

Come on and get some!

  • Link up with other committed Christ followers in your neighborhood. Do not restrict this to people from your church. Unite with as many as you can find in your neighborhood.
  • Have meals together. Talk over this “mission” of ours. Pray together and get to know each other. Don’t restrict your gatherings to “mini-church-services.” Try to focus on who Jesus is and what He does. Then, work together to do the same. Think of yourselves as a “conspiracy of little jesuses. It’s fun.
  • Assess the needs in your community and plan acts of kindness and restoration. Don’t make people come to you. Go and do your good works as a gift and a statement of God’s love and concern. Be the hands and voice of the Son of God. That’s fun too.
  • Get to know your neighbors. Make friends and show them what God thinks of them. Have meals. Invite them over for a night of Wii, or movies, or anything fun. Don’t control things and don’t preach. You are the message. You will earn your opportunity to explain later. Remember, this is supposed to be fun. You want to see them again for more fun.
  • Did I mention having  fun?
  • Get involved in community activities and causes that interest you. Instead of forming a “Christian” group, join the groups that already exist and get to know people. Imagine your neighborhood transformed from a “bedroom community” to a home where your friends are and where celebrations happen.

As we care for each other, we expand our care outside our group. We begin to engage people outside of “church” and heal the world. This can never happen if we do things that isolate us from each other and from those we were destined to help.

Tell your story

I want to hear how you do with this. I suspect that some readers are already doing it. Please post your stories so participate with you.

If you like this article, please feel free to re-post it.

Oh, and in case I have not mentioned it yet; have fun!

3 Responses to “Re Thinking “church””

  • Robin Weisbrod:

    See, I have to respectfully disagree with this point of view. My experience is just the opposite. We gather, unfortunately — we are divided by age — with Sunday School joining the service after the Sermon, but then we mingle. After the service is over, unless the weather is against us (like, most of our members stay and talk. And not just for 10 minutes, for an hour or longer. We are a family. We take care of each other, BUT, we strive to take care of those who are not part of our “Church Family”. Many members, volunteer tirelessly to help the disadvantaged and never once ask for any accolades. Today, we did what we called the “Purpling of the Church” — why? This week is the beginning of Lent. Everyone was invited to help strip the altar of the brass candlesticks, cover the crosses and replace the seasonal colors. The children, with the help of members of the congregation re-hung the Stations of the Cross, with Mother Kathlyn giving a short synopsis of what each station represented. We were involved. It was appreciated and educational. We have FUN!!! And we do invite others to join us and we do reach outside of ourselves.

    Yes, there are churches that do not include, that do not want to know what is outside their doors — and they are a sad place. We are small — but we try to live into the word — oh and God knows — we aren’t saints….LOL

  • You know what? I agree with your disagreement…OK that’s weird. Here’s what I mean:

    You come from a tradition which is rich in community participation and social work in Jesus’ name for the community at large. I was totally not thinking of your tradition in this post.

    I was referring to things I have experienced for decades in the institutional evangelical churches. They tend to be large, heavily focused on internal social programs and church growth techniques (the social compartmentalization I referred to is part of this). They also a strong “top-down” authority structure with heavy control of content and dialog.

    A lot of what you mentioned is missing in this tradition. Your experience is a lot closer to what I am talking about and where we need to go. Sorry for the misunderstanding. I’m very glad you commented on this.
    A lot of the things lacking there

  • my brother I have been working with the neo house church network in Cleveland Ohio. his church just launched we are about small community gatherings of Christians where everyone is encouraged to participate in the service. I would encourage you check out the website. I think it is . Org but it maybe .net

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