Week two and I’m already behind … oh so sorry. Better to post late than to give up posting all together, right?! This week I thought I’d continue my final thought from Tuesday’s post.
Interestingly enough, Beck posted a follow-up article today in which he clarifies in saying that young people aren’t necessarily against the church … they just don’t see a need for the social networks that the church used to provide. His follow-up makes my question even more intriguing to me … should church be important to us and if so, why?
One of the most important things in answering this question is to define what “the church” is. Growing up, I always learned that the church is the people – not the building. For purposes of argument, I’m defining “church” as an organized set of people that come together to worship and/or learn once or twice a week. Having that definition, is church important?
I have to be honest, I have struggled with this question a lot over the last few years. Many times the church has seemed like a social gathering – a country club – a place to belong (but only if you’re a member or regular attender.) Like Beck says in his posts, I don’t need a place to belong or a social gathering. I have my friends who I’m close with – many of them share the same values I do, but don’t go to the same church as I. The church is not the place I am going to turn when I want to “be social.” In fact, the church might be the last place I turn to when I want to “be social.” And increasingly the church is the last place I go when I want to “belong.” For many, the church has become a place of judgment – a place where we are shown how we don’t belong long before we ever feel like we truly belong. And yet I know the church is called to be so much more than just a social club or place to belong.
I find myself looking to the ancient church for hints about what the church is called to look like. It’s true that the early church was made up of broken humans too, but perhaps it’s the hands-on experiences with the flesh of Jesus that made them different. Perhaps it’s the lack of experience in business – the early church was made up of a bunch of misfits … who knew they were misfits. Whatever the reason, the early church was about more than just coming together once or twice a week. The early church lived together. They radically sold everything they owned and distributed the proceeds among each other – as each person had need. They praised God together daily. They spoke out against unjust systems. Many were persecuted and killed because the message of Jesus Christ was so radical that it threatened the way their society was organized. They lived and breathed in the Holy Spirit.
I don’t go to church to belong – I go to church to learn how to live a spirit-filled life. I don’t want church to be a social gathering. I want church to show me how to live a life that follows Jesus so closely that I become like those early Christians. Unafraid to speak out against injustice. I go to church so that I can worship a God that is so awesome and so full of love that no one escapes the arms that reach out to embrace them.
So is church important? Yes – but only if church is a place where we are nurtured and challenged and equipped and empowered to make our lives different. Only if church is teaching us how to closely follow Jesus. Only if church offers us a place to come and share experiences with one another that empower us to be unafraid of whatever the Holy Spirit sends our way. Only if church is a place where we see the living God alive and active in such a way that we can’t help but worship. And most importantly, only if church acknowledges that it is not the only place to find true community and encourages us to seek that true Christian community everywhere that we go.