Thursday, September 18, 2008

I Don't Know (Miles chose that title and I think it's perfect)

The term Church definitely means different things to different people. Some people read the Bible to mean that we are called to attend church (the building). Some may interpret Scripture to mean that Church is simply the body of Christ in communion, fellowship, and service to one another wherever that might be.

I don't know that we can find a "right" answer to which Church term is "correct." (But please give me scripture if you know of it, backing one side or the other.) I don't know that there is sound biblical evidence that I'm to attend a church building each Sunday in order to be doing this Christianity thing "right."

After reading the post from Midnight Cafe, I thought of how their family home schools. They do not have their daughter enrolled in classes at a school building with paid teachers and staff. But they do have school on a daily basis. They are doing school. Whether or not it's as organized as it is at a private or public school building, it is still school. It is learning, challenge, growth, stretching, reading, writing, interpreting, investigating, hypothesizing. If done in such a way that meets the individual needs of Mango, it serves it's purpose. Possibly even more fully than she could be served within the actual walls of an actual school.

Now I realize that this isn't necessarily the perfect analogy. But bear with me. What I'm getting at is individuality. We're all made in the image of God, but we're all unique too. Some were made to be teachers, some learners, some seekers, some thinkers, some talkers, some doers, whatever it may be. I'm starting to wonder how much of our individual make-up decides for us how we define Church. Just as some families need a structured school environment to be able to learn effectively and others thrive in a school setting right at home.

Maybe some people need church (the building) every Sunday and some do not.

Maybe some people have a personality that allows them the ability to focus on God and "do" Church on a daily basis, fellowshipping with family and friends, talking about God, teaching one another and serving each other with all the love they can muster. These people may even be blessed with an immediate family that is all fired up for the things of God, just constantly exuding His goodness, all parts of the family working together as "hands and feet." I've heard of this and seen it with my own two eyes. It is rare and beautiful and it makes sense to me that the desire for an organized church setting would be so little in the face of such spiritual abundance (Church) at home or in your immediate surroundings. This can happen with an individual too, who lives focused on the heart of God and seeking Church in all their relationships and experiences. Some people are blessed with the ability to see things spiritually without weekly reminders at a church building.

Then there are others that need Church (the building) in order to stay focused and to feel connected to the body. To find ways to serve. To be reminded on a weekly basis what life is all about. Maybe these people don't have a lot of natural spiritual support and flounder without this weekly connection to the family they have in Christ. Maybe some people need church or they totally lose sight of what they're here for, they can't focus, they struggle. They need a concrete sense of accountability and maybe even a concrete sense of boundaries, a reminder of God's love restricting some of what we do so we don't hurt ourselves or others as much as we would without these concrete reminders. And for these people, a large part of Church (the building) is the community, as Riley commented on. Some people have no other real sense of community, or have a very isolative existence, so they need weekly community gathering in order to fulfill the call to be in service to one another. I think this is the majority of people today because we do live such individual lives. Most people don't live in any kind of community setting and may even have limited friendships.

You get the idea.

The problem for many people in either of the shoes described above, is that finding real community in Church (the building) is definitely hard. It's sad. That has been said by each person giving input here. It's hard to find. And that's hard to swallow. I wonder what God thinks about that? What does He think of the Church today, the Church His people have created with good intentions (and some not-so-good). I wonder what He thinks about how difficult it is to find a "home" among "His people." For those that do need this structured routine, this place to feel safe, this place to call home, it is rarely what we're looking for. Or for those who simply love it, like Sabrina: the music, the teaching, the encouragement, it's even hard to feel comfortable when you're coming at it with this good attitude.

I guess the question is individual. What is God speaking to me personally? What do I need? What does my family need? I will be honest here and say that we need church (the building) in my particular family. We need a concrete focus. We're a household of ADD folk with little patience and easy-to-flounder personalities. That's us. If we don't have concrete set-apart time for learning and spiritual community we tend to watch too much TV and spend too much time on the internet, rather than talk about what really matters, pray together or spend time serving others in our community. Our hearts are in the right place, we just have a tendency to get distracted quite easily. I think the weekly ritual of church helps center us on what we believe and reminds us of who we want to be. Some people have all of that without having to attend a weekly meeting to find it. And I think that's okay too. I'm a bit jealous actually. I really wish I were more focused and self-disciplined if left to my own choices for learning and growing.

I don't think either choice is wrong? Is that way off base? Maybe I'll never know in this life.

Just more fuel to the conversation fire.


MidnightCafe said...

I was going to comment, but I decided on a new post instead! Thanks for being willing to talk this over. You've got so many valuable insights.

Peanut said...

I don't know either. We attend on average every second Sunday. It took about 5 years in our church before we started to feel at home. Still it doesn't feel like the church family I grew up with. We discovered that we really didn't start to get to know people until we started getting involved. My husband started a sports group and I got involved in the nursery.

I agree that some people can have a great relationship with God and live out Christianity really well without going to church. What I worry about are the people who don't have the accountability... some will gradually slide away, still calling themselves Christians, but if you talk to them, you realize that they have carved out Christianity to be whatever they want it to be, which is more New Age to me. (I speak from experience in my family)... I'm not sure how you protect yourself from that.

Sabrina said...

Thanks for writing more... who would've thought church was such a tricky\emotional\thought out topic. Im liking it though!

Heidi Ashworth said...

I just found this blog today and find this topic to be so fascinating. My two cents (for what it's worth) is that meeting on a regular basis with other people of your faith is essential because the ritual/habit/routine will motivate us. Like Heather says, it is so easy to get distracted and do other things. We need to set time apart from our daily lives, a time that is holy and only for the feeding of our spirituality. Can we do this at home, too? Yes! Of course we can--but there are distractions there. The setting apart of a day, time and place demonstrates a commitment that will enpower us. What we get out of church totally depends on what we bring to it.

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