I respect my pastor friends that want to preserve the local church. Most of them agree, it needs to be re imagined. That’s what I think i’m doing here – imagining.
This series of blogs is about what I’m thinking about. I think it’s good to think through things occasionally, especially in times like this.
I want to look at not just what the church did originally, but what the church should do now in light of the situation it finds itself in (for example, we have the internet – they didn’t – that changes some things).
Part 1 – The “Services” the Church provides.
Imagine your are in the 1930’s or maybe even the the 1950’s. There were a lot more small towns and a lot more small town churches where people came together as a community. There was usually a guy that had some religious training who came and addressed the congregation. At that time, it was probably much needed instruction and encouragement. Do we still need this sermon, or more specifically, do we need it to be at the building? I can watch my five favorite pastors and their most recent sermon without leaving my house on Sunday morning. In addition, I drive an hour to and from work (that didn’t happen in the 50’s) and I usually listen to a podcast, sermon or speech going to and from work. I average probably 10-12 hours of messages / sermons / documentaries before I come to church on Sunday to hear the “message”.
When Jesus told the disciples to go make more disciples (learners), the American church took that to heart. I have always said one of the functions of the church is discipleship which usually means instruction or learning. I understand that it could mean much more than that, but this also leaves me with a similar question. Why do we need to come to a specific place to be discipled? To be honest, I have experienced some tremendous growth over the past two years via the internet and groups that I’m associated with. I’ve read dozens of books by people I respect. The small group experience that seems to help us so much in this area is so often available online. At church, I have to wait for the right classes to be offered (if they are ever offered), but at home, I can pick out what I want to learn, discuss it in a online group and even watch videos on demand to help reinforce and solidify what I’ve learned. I may just be lucky, but I find a lot of wise people online. And, is it just me or are the same 20 to 30 people always in the discipleship classes? For both of these first two ideas, Jesus brought people together; but I have to imagine if he had YouTube and Facebook and Print-on-Demand, he might have done some things differently.
When I ask people about worship experiences, they usually describe a time out in nature or a time when they are alone or oddly enough when they were driving. I agree there is something about live music and corporate worship. So, I’m willing to concede that it has it’s place and it has some value. But, how many people have to be there before it’s corporate and do you have to have a “corporation” (organization) to consider it corporate worship? Sorry for the play on words. Couldn’t it be much simpler than that and not cost nearly as much. If I’m watching the Avett Brorther’s on stage, it’s a little better than listening on YouTube, but more and more I would rather worship in solitude or with a few friends. That could just be me.
Since I recently decided to take a break from church, the one thing I have missed already is the fellowship with certain people. But, I do have a Heart Connexion group that I connect with occasionally. I have several groups online that I interact with sometimes daily. We debate, discuss, console and encourage each other. It surprisingly helpful in a lot of ways. We have a new contemplative group that is very helpful to me. Occasionally, I do gatherings at the house to promote plant-based food and just get together. Laura and I fellowship daily and we have family that we talk to at various intervals. This doesn’t even include work, and all the other people I have contact with every day. I am kind of introverted, but I don’t think I’m deprived in this area. I do need to have lunch with a couple of people, but other than that…
For simplicity sake, let’s just agree that evangelism, if that’s even a real thing, really happens outside the church and it should happen more organically. Like many things, we have changed it into something it was probably never intended to be, so I’m not willing to even waste much energy on it right now. You can’t really have alter calls at home or in the coffee shop, but someone tried it on a podcast I was on the other day.
I really enjoyed communion at the last church I attended; but was it really a ceremony originally? I’m not sure about this one. I have always thought that it was more about people coming together. I love the “open table” sentiment where all are welcome, but I think that is also an attitude and a lifestyle. My friend, Steve Daugherty, stressed that when Jesus said “Do This” he was talking about the coming together as much as the eating and drinking. I don’t know for sure, but I think it could happen anywhere!
As they say, “things change.” Jesus told us as much when he told the woman that people would eventually worship in “spirit and truth.” We know the temple building wasn’t what God had in mind. His idea was that His temple was to be inside of us. I’m not questioning the presence of the church in this age, I’m just questioning the location and method. How much money could we put to better use? Maybe none / maybe a lot!
I’d love to dialogue about this – thanks for listening!
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