Monday, June 26, 2006

Why Bother With Church?

Before I start this morning, I am reminded that I can be speaking to myself! As one who was frustrated with the established church within my context…I moved out with what I felt GOD was calling me to do and planted a church…BUT…

We live in a culture which many Christians are dropping out of the community church setting and creating their own little environments (house churches). The reasons for this are numerous, but for the most part it is because they have been hurt in a variety of fashions OR it is because they have become frustrated with the institutional or established church. I do not have a problem with house churches per say (they are one of the places people met in the scriptures {Acts 5:42}) what I am addressing is some of the ‘attitude’ that is resonating from some of the believers who have found themselves in this situation.

Some believers feel that church in North America is spiraling out of control with the mega church ethos, the professional feel and the list can go on. It has got to the point where many believers spend a lot of their time critiquing other churches, while trying to build some sort of biblical community of their own…(somehow that seems to be a bit counter productive). These groups of believers however, have created the very thing that they reacted against. They have big names that they follow, have created a sense of exclusivity in that they have looked at others in the Kingdom and think themselves better or more informed, not too mention there is a hunger for recognition in that everyone wants to be published. (Ok, that is a paintbrush statement, but it works for this post!)

For those who wonder what the church is doing, and those on the outside who criticize the church for not doing better, I would recommend that they read Philip Yancey’s book Church: Why Bother? My Personal Pilgrimage. In his musings, Yancey is insightfully aware of the shortcomings of the church in all of it's humanness, yet he also declares that the church is the means God has chosen to be in the world today. As he wrote in "What's So Amazing About Grace," "I left the church because I found so little grace there. I came back because I found grace nowhere else."

In the first chapter Yancey starts with this quote from J.F. Powers' Wheat That Springeth Green that summarizes the whole conundrum of the church:
"This is a big old ship, Bill. She creaks, she rocks, she rolls, and at times she makes you want to throw up. But she gets where she's going. Always has, always will, until the end of time. With or without you."

Having grown up in a racist, fundamentalist church in the Deep South, Yancey has every reason to abandon the church. But he's found that the Christian faith can only be lived in community. "Perhaps for this reason, I have never given up on church. At a deep level I sense that church contains something I desperately need."

Yancey goes on to conclude that the church is the way God has chosen to be present on earth, as imperfect as it may be:
"Yes, the church fails in its mission and makes serious blunders precisely because the church comprises human beings who will always fall short of the glory of God. That is the risk God took. Anyone who enters the church expecting perfection does not understand the nature of that risk or the nature of humanity. Just as every romantic eventually learns that marriage is the beginning, not the end, of the struggle to make love work, every Christian must learn that church is also only a beginning."

Dan Kimball, pastor of Vintage Faith Church, posts on his blog that they just finished a teaching series where they talked about "church" being people and not a building. As part of the series, they had little blank white post cards in every bulletin and asked the question of everyone "What do you dream this church could be?" and then had them fill in the black on the card, "I Dream Of A Church....." and then whatever they might dream of.
Here are some of the responses…

- that reaches the broken world to bring a healing that can only come from Jesus Christ
- that does not get caught up in technicalities and politics but stays focused on the Lord
- that helps me understand
- that is more about helping others than about us
- that listens to the Holy Spirit and is bigger than man's efforts
- is honest and open-minded rather than self-righteous and dogmatic OR has donuts. I will be OK with either.
- who is loving and unafraid
- accepts people where they are in life and not just when they have achieved a level of "spiritualness"
- grows in the knowledge of God and His love for the world
- lifts up Jesus and redeems things like the environment, stewardship, the arts and philosophy
- that prays for one another
- that serves others, feeds the hungry, visits the sick and imprisoned
- lives a diversity of thoughts, opinions, ages, worship expressions and celebrates the differences
- is a soft place to fall; that is a daily part of my life; that doesn't feel like a wall; that is the heartbeat of Christ
- that knows me and loves me anyway
- impacts the community around them so that it can be a light for Jesus in people's lives
- that gets lost in worshiping Jesus and lingers in His presence
- that is the church throughout the week and not just on Sunday
- that is real and where people are not fake and has a passion to serve those in need
- acts like a family, reaches out to community, accepts all people
- that Jesus would be proud of
- that changes lives by drawing people to Christ
- whose whole heart is consumed with Christ and flows to others
- that is completely outward focused and selfless
- that will challenge our minds to learn God's Word and support each other in our walks with God
- that doesn't isolate and separate ourselves from "this bad world"
- that is my family and my home
- that has a love for the untouchables of our era

Those responses are so cool! So why bother with church?
Yancey summarizes evangelist Luis Palau: "The church, he said, is like manure. Pile it together and it stinks up the neighborhood; spread it out and it enriches the world."



Kyle J. Mason said...

The church is far from perfect, and I too wish for the day the church is in a much more holistic place then it is now. However, I disagree agree with a growing number of people I’ve been speaking with that say maybe we should give up on the church or start over. Where I can under their frustration, I once felt the same way, I am a person that likes a challenge and to me leaving is the easy way out. I rather be a part of the solution and try my hardest to make the church is a better reflection of Christ’s love.

For some people non traditional ways of doing church, like house churches, might be the way to go. Like the other branches of the faith I believe we can learn something from each other, as long as we never stop the conversation. I just hope that anyone who might go down this path won’t find the problems they are trying to leave behind are waiting for them on the other side.


soulworshiparts said...

I love the responses given to Kimball's invitation; "I Dream Of A Church"...
I found myself looking at my own heart and asking if I exemplify any of those traits. For I am the church; and the church I dream of, is the church I need to be...Thanks for this post.
Peace to you...

Bill Kinnon said...

Great post. Regarding your comment on "big names" and "book publishing", 'twould seem that the sin in our hearts that wants to follow an earthly king (see 1 Samuel 8) is evident in every church "movement" - whether EC, MegaC, Reformed, etc.

I spent last week at a conference lead by one of the EC stars (who I do admire) and saw the same crap in evidence there as in the Mega world I left - the "look at me", "I've got it all together", "my church is exploding", "we know all the answers" nonsense - along with some wonderfully humble people who cling to Jesus.

The church (to paraphrase Churchill) is really awful - except when compared to everything else.

Misty B said...

I have been thinking about the "I dream of a church" list for the past several days. There was so much in that list that resonated with me. I wonder if the things in that list really get to the core of what 'the church like it was in Acts' is really about...

SoulPastor said...

Good question misty b, but we will never know...until.....

kenny said...

ah church...hey that's me!!! Loved the post, appreciated it immensely. I am thankful that I have people in my life that are the church. Who see past the wounds, the crap and love me anyway. It makes me do the same.
Coming back from an International Exodus Conference and hearing story upon story of how churches...failed individuals because they just din't get it, and hearing story after story of churches who did get it and supported these indivduals and where the hands and feet of christ.
Sharing stories, living our faith out loud and loving each there is a lot to learn. Thanks...for who you are SoulPastor. Blessings.

Anonymous said...

Interesting topic. Until recently I had not given any thought to "other ways" to have "church". However someone dear & close to me called to say, "we're not going to 'church' anymore". We are the 'church' so we don't need to go to a building to have "church". I could hear the pain & frustration in their voice. I could understand why they felt so strongly about this "call of God" on their life to do "church" differently. And my heart broke for them because I personally go to a building where the imperfect people join together to worship the one true God who alone is perfect. We may not do everything right but we do the best we can with what we know & understand to do. We have a sense of community, & family there & we welcome everyone who walks in the doors to join us. The building they had been going to join with others in worship had to many things lacking in the whole community & family feel that a "house church" can provide.
I believe each one of us must find our way by spending time with our Lord in prayer, reading the Holy Bible, and Listening for the Holy Spirit to guide us. So if some need to move away from what we consider "tradional church going" as long as they are still seeking & serving God I trust they will be alright. My concern is that some may think that their way is the only way and eventually grow away from God in the process of believing that big churches waste resources because they spend so much money on buildings & not enough gets used to help people.
Thanks for having a place to read & share about this topic.

Anonymous said...

"Christian faith can only be lived in community"... so why are established churches so hell bent upon getting rid of the kids? destroying community? preventing the body mutually building each other up? preventing kids be part of a community (not a peer group)? preventing parents growing together? why do kids get taken away (for all or part) of "meeting together"... it never used to be like this before the modern-era... but now "kids ministry" is synomous with church.

I find that the ONLY way I can "be church" is at home with my family... the established church is little more than a stumbling block that rejects my kids; teaches them that they don't belong with mature adult Christians; a stumbling block that offers them nothing; takes their faith and sets them on a path of sinful rejection of God....

I want to go to church - but for my kids sake cannot.... go figure that... the church is killing itself because of its children's ministry and the way it imposes the same rules on all families... ie split up; go focus on academic appreciation of Christianity over-and-above living community and stuff your kids up with a modern-era ministry mindset that has nothing of the Father-heart of God..... I long for churhc.... and at home with my kids is the place to be; the place to love; to serve; to witness and to bring lives to Christ.... stuff sitting in pews being brainwahsed and being asked to take God's little ones to childcare.