Thursday, March 15, 2007

Church, part 2

Amy, it's spelled S-A-M........no E! LOL

One of the main reasons I hesitate to write about touchy subjects is b/c people assume I'm an all-or-nothing type of guy. Maybe it's how I come off or how I write, which I can work on. Like the topic of church....by what I wrote I must hate the organized church. I don't. I just think that the structure we've built up has become a crutch for so many people. Not that I'm insinuating this for all or even most, but many. For those people, an hour or two one day a week justifies their Christian existence. They are involved in no missional activities during the week, no evangelism outreach, no feeding the poor, no sharing of their faith to others; need I go on? We as 21st century Christians sit in our pretty steeple-holders on Sundays and feel justified in our walks. I live a "clean" life so I'm doing what God wants. What a lazy pathetic response. (And don't get me started on what a 'clean' life is.)

I'm not picking on you Amy, but I disagree with what you said about church being where we fellowship these days. We've been meeting in a building and calling that building a church for 1700 years. Does anyone know why? By mid 300's AD, the Roman Empire had conquered or destroyed every country and power they wanted except for one. The Christians. So what did they do to control them? They made Christianity their national religion and forced all people to attend church every week. Refusal to comply meant torture, imprisonment or death. Most Christians loved the idea b/c it meant everyone was part of their religion. But what that did was take away the right to decide to follow God. It was the very thing Jesus preached about a hundred times. That continued until the 1600's when people made a mass exodus to America to get away from the persecution. My point is, we've grown accustomed to the church building being the only place where fellowship and worship and exercising a Christian life can happen.

The church isn't evil. Pastors aren't evil. Christians aren't evil. The establishment and practice of living out our faith has just become ingrained and a habit over 1700 years and that has produced what Kyle was talking about. I still hold to my belief that if Jesus walked on the Earth in 2007 he wouldn't be in our church building Saturday night or Sunday morning. Maybe once in a while, but usually not. He'd be out ministering to the lost and slumming it with the sinners. IF we're truly attempting to "be like Jesus' that's what we need to be doing too. No disrespect to those with talents they utilize in church buildings, but how much more effective would our talents be utilized among the hurting world? Just a thought.

17 Comments:

Blogger Adrienne said...

There are two things that come to mind when the subject of 'church' is brought up. One is that our relationship with, or as, the church is often very similar to the relationships of people all over.

Different people are in different places - you have the people that set every Friday night aside, get a sitter or whatever, get their nicest clothes on and go on wonderfuflly choreographed dates. They always makes sure their clothes and styles compliment one another, they make sure to say, "I love you!" loudly and clearly if anyone is listening. In their own space though, they abuse each other, or have no real relationship. They have affairs on the side, etc.

Then, there are people that absolutely could not care less what other people think of them, but they live for the spouse. Their every thought and action is to be a better to and for that someone in their life.

That's no different than many people use the church - as their outward show of what wonderful Christians they are, when in reality they have little to no real relationship with Christ.

The second thing I think, is that we are so used to schedules and routines and controlling, that we do not really know how to completely turn it over to God.

I think that most of the people in this circle are not even talking about the church your grandmother attended. The one that lasted 45 minutes, where no one dared speak during the service, hymns were sung at a certain time, but the idea of a worship team was unheard of. I think that most of us have moved on to a more "alternative" church. The church where people are encouraged to let the Spirit move. Where rock bands are admissible(at least on Saturday or Sunday night). Where the pastor tells everyone they have a part in the church, etc.

I feel the problem is becoming that many of those same churches are doinge exactly what they moved away from. You see, deeply spiritual worship must be sung between 10 and 10:45, the Spirit has to come in and move the congretation between 10:47 and 11:19. You get the picture. We just can't possibly seem to grasp that maybe God doesn't always want everything planned down to the last miniscule detail. Maybe He wants us, the church, to sit back and simply let Him move us and guide us and direct us in whatever way He feels fit now, and now and now.

This certainly isn't to say there isn't a time or place in the church, for the church and as the church. It's just that our entire lives should be lived as "church", as the bride of Christ and that convening on Sunday morning or Saturday night or Tuesday should be a culmination, a celebration, a learning time and a encouraging time of those experiences we've had for the other six days and 22 hours.

11:03 AM  
Blogger Close To Home said...

God wants us to fellowship, and it happens that these days people go to church for that. It's a major dynamic in our culture..

that what I wrote but I meant that people (not meaning everyone) or that it's right, or wrong, go to church for fellowship...BECAUSE it has been established that way years ago. it's there and it's promoted. anyways, doesn't matter...

11:32 AM  
Blogger Close To Home said...

I forgot to mention I just read an amazing book called THE DEBT. In it, there is a preacher who goes to bars to witness. It throws this mega church pastor's wife off balance..it's REALLY good just finished it last week. It's all on this topic you brought up.

11:36 AM  
Blogger Close To Home said...

Kyle (you'll probably read these comments, right??)...I must be really stupid...WE've played music with you and Mary Kay a couple times. I just caught on to that! OOPS!!!!!!!!!!!!

11:54 AM  
Blogger Brad B... said...

once again i totally agree with you Sam... nothing against church or pastors because they obviously work... but it seems to me that non believers might need preached to more than Christians on sunday mornings...

1:12 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Close To Home said...

I liked what you said, Andrew, and I don't even know you! LOL!

4:34 PM  
Blogger Kristen said...

I can see where you are coming from, and I agree that we as Christians should worship in our everyday lives, not just at church, but for me (and I stress, for me), church is very important. It is where I can go to worship with others, it's where I can learn from someone else the Word of God. It is a place where I can leave my kids with someone else and be able to pay attention to the music and the message without that distraction, and I can get some kind break from the daily routine of being a mom. It is where I can get support when I am going through something that I feel completely overwhelmed with. I NEED church. It gets me through my week, if I miss church, I feel like my whole week is off. I enjoy the "fellowship" that I can get there. I don't see my friends from church when I'm not there, I don't see very many people at all if I don't go to church. Not that I don't want to, but I don't have time to go and hang out with everyone that I want to. I have a pair of friends that don't go to church with me, and I haven't seen them since September. That sucks. I think that if I didn't get to go to church and "fellowship" and worship with other believers, then I would probably have a nervous breakdown. And I mean that!!! I don't think you understand how important a place like "church" can be to people like me. I said it already, and I'll say it again, I NEED church. I need that building where I can go to and feel like I am at peace, even if it is only for a few hours, and I need that place where I can be blessed and where I can be prayed for and with. Another note, I don't have a spouce who is a Christian. If mom and dad weren't in Columbus, and Karin, then who would I be able to talk to and fellowship with if I didn't go to church.
Anyway, I just wanted to share my thoughts, I know you aren't saying that church is bad, I just wanted you to know just how good it can be. For me, a place of healing, a place of surrender, and a place of growth, things that I can't get everyday. I love you Sam, and I don't mean to sound like I'm argueing if I do sound like that, but you should know that church really is an important place for some of us Christians. Well, maybe a lot of us Christians. Thanks for letting me ramble!
Love You, Kristen

5:28 PM  
Blogger Dave's Raves said...

Great post and I appreciate the discussion that's going on. I'd like to chime in but a get afraid that I won't be able to get out what I've got in my head but I'll try...

Sometimes, in discussions like this it seems like we are trying to determine whether church is necessary or not for one to be a Christian. I believe we can not "escape" the church if we are a Christ follower. It is something Jesus is building and nothing will stop Him from building that church.

Sometimes it seems like people think I've given up on church but I never have. It's just important to me to try to deconstruct our modern idea of church - it's not very close to original version, in my opinion.

It's interesting to me that Jesus never called his followers "Christians"; Christians didn't even first call themselves Christians; the "world" first called us Christians. Christ folowers were originally called just that Christ's followers or disciples; later the followers of the Way.
Afollower denotes movement and BEING to me; something we are actively doing and pusuing.

I fully believe Jesus din't come to start a new religion called Christianity. He camed to call people to follow. Those followers ARE his church. When I think of church in these terms it is impossible for me to think of church as something I go to.

I'm not saying we shouldn't go to meetings or worship or fellowship. If we a following Jesus we will worship together, pray together, work together - aren't there about 30 "one anothers" in the New Testament part of the Bible that indicate what our life together will be like - what we are - what we are doing?

And the first Christians did "meet" from house to house and in the temple. So there are meetings whether in houses or in buildings. So to me what Sam or Kyle or whoever started all this is trying to put out on the table concerns "why" of "going to church" not just the "whether". And also the "what" - what is church anyway?

9:35 PM  
Blogger Close To Home said...

How does the temples in the old testament play into this conversation, where people went who feared God. I have thoughts on this, since I read the OT a lot. Also, I think a "why" answer for the church is that it is a wonderful freedom of expression. We are so extremely blessed to be able to do this. Just some thoughts, and I should back out of this know since I am so darn sensitive and hate debates LOL!
~Amy

8:28 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

Amy, the temples certainly were places to go for people who feared God. They were pure and holy places that God used for His purposes. In Jesus' time, they had become dens of evil and profit for the priests. As a result the temple was the scene for two of the most shocking stories in the Bible: Jesus' anger at the money-changers and the temple veil ripped in half when Jesus died.

I agree whole-heartedly with your freedom of expression comment. I'm not questioning God's Spirit being present in a building, just the reasons people go and what it means to them. Is it true, is it pure, is it Holy, is it a hobby rather than a habit? Something we love and enjoy doing, not something we think must be done a certain way or else we'll be sick or damned.

8:56 AM  
Blogger Papa D said...

What a wondeful, timely discussion! As is my habit, I like to take a look at what Jesus did to get my cue as to what I should be doing. Jesus did not make a distintinction based on buildings, rather he used whatever tools were given to him to further the adgenda of God. He went to the synagogue EVERY week, it was his habit. He also fed the hungry, healed the sick, prayed in private, in small group settings and in public, and preached the gospel to large groups and taught the gospel to small groups.

"Church", used in the context of a building, is simply an easy term to use. We need not get to semantically challenged as to be in a debate over it. It is simply a term used because it makes sense - like Jello or Bandaid is used even though technically you are using Royal gellatin or Johnson & Johnson plastic strips. It is a generic term for where the Body of Christ meets for corporate worship.

But the critical issue is that it is vitally important in the grand scheme of things. That people gather to worship in a variety of forms is vital to the individual life of the believer and the corporate life of the Family of God. It is not an end in itself, but it should actually be a beginning. It's the place where people dream together to do BIG things for the Lord. It is the place where the vastness of God can be explored in ways that are just not possible on Tuesday night - like a 100+ voice choir, a 17 piece orchestra, and 500 people singing together "Oh, Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder .. How Great Thou art!"

And to be frank, the combined efforts and combined moneys of a congregation can accomplish more than a thousand small groups each doing their own thing their own way. Ask the Katrina victims if they think the Salvation Army should break up into small groups. Or ask the tornado victims in Florida if the Nazarene Compassionate Ministries fund works in times of distress and dismay. You will discover one of the ways God uses "churches" and, dare I mention the word, organized denominations, in God's grand scheme of things.

On the other hand, Tuesday night is essential in kingdom work as well, because its where the rubber meets the road of life. Its the entrance door into the kingdom for many who are disallusioned with life and religion in general. It is often where we work out our individual ministries and additions to the work of God in this world.

So, to put this simply, it is not "either/or", but rather "both/and", and to deny that truth is to drain the life blood out of worship. And by the way, that was the way Jesus dealt with it - "both/and" all the way.

God can and does use ALL different kinds of "churches" to do all the different kinds of service to man that scripture so clearly tells us we are designed to do. We are given gifts for "the common good". We are called out to do "good works" so that the world will see and glorify God because of us doing what we are called to do.

OK, sermon over. Now, Sam, get your lazy bones out of bed on Sunday morning and go to church! That is from your dear old Dad who drags his broken body out of bed and gets in his wheelchair, takes 2 1/2 hours getting this old broken body into gear, climbs/drags myself up a small set of stairs into his Ford truck and goes to church - and if I can do it so can you. It is laziness that allows us to make excuses like "Oh. my church is tuesday night with the guys" - no, that is your ministry. You do not worship, you talk and study - talk and study is good but we NEED worship and that's the reason for the guilt, not your Mom's voice ringing in your ears, but the voice of God telling you you need other believers in a corporate setting worshipping together in unity and harmony.

And yes, I am still preaching!

Love ya,
Dad

12:17 PM  
Blogger Kimmy said...

Well said, Papa D.

5:56 PM  
Blogger 3rd string's finest said...

Sam, I just wrote a really long comment and it somehow got deleted, so now I am inclined to write a much more condensed version of the first. I agree with you, Sam. I, as a pastors son myself, Have seen the inner workings of church since I was an infant. I like church. I think it is great. I also think that if you could possibly find a church in this day and age that isn't 3/4 politics then that would be really great. Further more, I think that, though church is good, there are ways to worship God other than corprately. I should know. I haven't been able to attend church since august and my relationship with God is stronger now than it has ever been.

Also, not to rag on your dad but, I have observed a lot of lazy people IN church. In fact thats why I would call them lazy, because they go to church and then feel satisfied. They feel that because they went and heard about God for 30 minutes that they have met their weekly quota of God. We should NEVER feel satisfied with our walk with God. A lot of people (not everybody)go to church because it is easier than what the Great Commission really requires, and that, my friend, is what I call lazy.
Love ya, Sam. Miss you a ton.

7:24 AM  
Blogger Papa D said...

"Church" is what you make it. If you go attempting to find excuses for not going next time you will find them. It is made up of people and people are flawed at best. But for pity's sake, quit helping Satan out by finding fault with the best we have. Go ahead, create the perfect church and invite people to it - and then, by its very nature, is instantaneously flawed.

My simple voice says "grow up" (like Paul said to the Ephesians, by the way). Quit trying to find a reason to stay home, and go to "church" where you will add your own distintive brand of broken, flawed, imperfect humanity to the great chorus of other broken, flawed, imperfect humans in an attempt to praise and glorify God together. Its never going to be perfect - shucks, you and I are going to be there - but when we give it our best God is pleased and I deeply desire to have him smile when he sees my feeble human effort to worship him in spirit and truth, and in the beauty of holiness.

Listen, Christans are better together than they ever are apart. We NEED each other, so my simple advise is stop whining and go - and when you get there, worship the Lord the best you can and find a way to get along with each other because we are better together than we are apart.

One standing alone is easily defeated, and two standing back to back can stay alive for quite a bit longer - but a cord of three strands is not easily broken.

And NOW the sermon is over - for today.
Dad

12:53 PM  
Blogger 3rd string's finest said...

I don't have the option of going to church. I live In the Middle East and churches tend to be kind of scarce around here. This is the first time in my life I have gone without church. When I did go I NEVER went grudgingly, and I NEVER looked for an excuse not to go. When church got taken out of my equation I struggled. Then I realized that you don't need to be in church to find Him and you certainly don't need to be in church, or any other 4 walled confinement for that matter, to give him praise."- but when we give it our best God is pleased and I deeply desire to have him smile when he sees my feeble human effort to worship him in spirit and truth, and in the beauty of holiness." You are right, friend. I agree whole heartedly with you on that point.

1:31 PM  
Blogger Adrienne said...

I'm riled up now. What I say probably won't come across at all like what I think, but you know me, I'll give it a shot anyway.

First of all, I have to say this...I have no idea whom Evan is, but, I so admire you. I think I could become infatuated with anything you had to say...it's really intriguing to think of a normal young man with fears and feelings and struggles serving our country instead of just thinking of our military as a generic bulk of people.

And, I think what you've had to say on the topic of church is extremely well-said and right on the mark.

My personal thought on this -slightly heated- debate, is that going to church is not going to get anyone sent to hell. Worshipping and fellowshipping, isn't going to keep anyone out of the gates of heaven. But! It's not going to keep them in either. If "going to church" is your salvation then you aren't doing too well.

Maybe I'm wrong, but maybe it's a bit like the army...or anything you train for. If you train and train and work with your team and get really good at what you're doing but don't bother to take it out and use it...put it to the test in a non-controlled environment, then it's all been for nothing.

5:42 PM  

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