Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I Don't Go to Church

So, this last week we discussed the "church". Being from a family of pastor's kids we have heard a fair share of criticism regarding the church, boards, leaders, programs, pastors, and parishioners. You know the kind of stuff that burns people out on church and they leave, or stop caring about reaching out, or just give up and try and find a church that "fits" them... which is where we really meet our subject.

The words "church" doesn't even appear in the Bible until mid-way through the book of Matthew. The word used is "kuriake oikia" and the reason it isn't really used up and until this point is that had pagan roots. It referred to a building in which a deity was housed. What is so fascinating is that Jesus is using this word referring to the fact that HIS church would be built, not upon stone foundations, but a bedrock of truth (i.e. Peter's confession, "You are the Christ..."). It was to be built upon people who all held to that truth.

In other words when we talk about music in church, pastors in church, programs in church, etc. we are using the word entirely wrong. The church is the people in the those things not things taking place in a building. When we say it like that we are removing the truth from the statement- it is back to the original meaning of a god being in a building- and not a truth in a people.

We, as the church, need to embrace community on a new level if we are to bring meaning, purpose, and mission back into our midst and be relevant to our culture. I found this interesting definition on human community:

"In biological terms, a community is a group of interacting organisms sharing an environment. In human communities, intent, belief, resources, preferences, needs, risks, and a number of other conditions may be present and common, affecting the identity of the participants and their degree of cohesiveness."

Our community defines us, or will, or should, if we embrace it. For instance, all of us are deeply affected by our families. Whether they were like the Cleavers (Leave it to Beaver) or the we were an orphan or came from an abusive family. We had no choice what kind of home we would grow up in but we were forced into those environments and the ways in which we coped continue to affect us well into adulthood.

But once out on our own it seems we abdicate community (at least based on the definition given above). Oh, we have friends and places we meet but we don't have to negotiate daily relational interaction with very many people outside of co-workers and some family. We go home to a place we set up, decorated, and bought, attend things we want to, talk to people we want to when we want to about what we want and if any of it makes us too uncomfortable or we don't like the direction we can shut it down.

But community doesn't really affect or change us. Unlike the first church in Jerusalem or in Acts 2 we don't meet together daily and constantly share in life like they did- instead we come together for an hour or two on Sundays where we sit next to people we like- then I go back to my house, watch my shows, listen to my music, and maintain my calendar. I'm not saying this is wrong but just questioning whether or not this is the way it should be. What is it in me that makes me want so many things my way? For myself, I have only one answer: pride. The idea that life should be about me and if it isn't then I'm only do what is convenient for me.

I think back to some advice I once received: "If you want to better serve Christ- don't get married. If you want to be like Christ- get married." Because in living with another person, in raising children, in managing money, in taking holidays and vacations together it forces us to put at least one other person ahead of our own selfish desires.

What if there was a community revolution? What if we started gathering daily? What if we started taking massive vacations together? What is we started serving those of us who are struggling financially? What if we started living together as families and helping each other's families? How much would we learn about what Christ was saying about "kuriake oikia" and community? We would have to live out selflessness or fail.

It's something to think about in this season, in this economy, in this community. Peace.

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