Friday, February 15, 2008

Too much emphasis on "church"

Once again the great comments from others (this time on my last post, What people are saying about "church") have led to another blog post!

Alvin's (Walking Church) comments, as well as Aida's follow-up, were similar to what I had in mind when I commented on Aida's Jesus is building His church post, but I lost track of my thoughts and didn't say it. Basically: I think it's true that for some people, especially today's younger generation, phoniness and dung (more specifically, that found in "church") can be smelled a mile away.

My only hope is that people who sense all of that stuff will not have been so turned off by "church" that they decide "to heck with it all," but rather that they would sort through it all, by the Holy Spirit, with a true desire to be a part of a true, living, vibrant community. Along with what Alvin says on his Blogger profile, I hope they don't throw out the gospel with the bath water.

I truly do think the internet is playing a huge part in connecting people together. Well, I don't 'think' it, I know it! I'm part of it, along with all of you. Not that a "gathering together" on the internet through websites, blogs, forums, etc, is the be-all-end-all by any means - but neither is a local gathering! In fact it's to the contrary, isn't it? (Please bear with me, as during the past year or two I've been sorting out all kinds of new thoughts. Well, some of them are new thoughts and some of them are thoughts I've had for a long time but I'm finally beginning to see them become more than thoughts).

On Alan Knox's "Assembling" blog, he wrote a post called "Gathering suggests dispersal," in which he suggests, in a nutshell, that "a gathering or an assembly, by its nature, suggests a dispersal." He goes on to say, "The people of God gather because, in general, they are not assembled - they are dispersed." Read the full post to see how Alan defines "church," as well as to get his thoughts on the purpose of the gathering, and even more importantly, the dispersal. (I should have included this as a link on my last post).

In our modern church culture we seem to focus too much on the gathering, in my opinion. The "worship," the service, the sermon, the programs. "Bring people HERE, to this place - to 'our church,' and we'll get 'em saved, delivered and healed."

The gathering is important, and it's not that a traditional church service can't include any of this! Man, I've seen a LOT of great, true, genuine LIFE happen in church services. In other words, I've seen Jesus express His life in other people and I've seen Jesus express His life through me, all within the context of a "church service" and through various "church programs."

But we place so much emphasis on the structure and timing of the gathering, and on planning what happens during the gathering, and on who's in charge during the gathering, and in finding our place to "serve" within the organized church structure, and in essentially making our gathering into a performance or a show, that I think we lose sight of true worship, true service, true community, true discipleship - all of which can and does happen outside of the context of an organized church / church structure.

The building of the church (the people of God) can be done without the building and the church (system, building, programs). It can be and is done anytime Jesus is the Life and Director and Pastor of whatever He is doing in His church!

I don't mean at all to knock legitimate fellowship and community that is taking place in traditional churches. Even 'contemporary' traditional churches. :) Jesus is alive and well wherever He is alive and well! My hope, if anything, is to point out how we seem to have become so focused and dependent upon man-made programs and systems (however well-intentioned), and we've complacently called that "church," and have lost who we truly are as a widespread body with a much larger mission than gathering, and recruiting people into our gathering, and having a great "gathering experience."

I'd say we're a body that much more resembles a starfish than a spider. :)


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Sorry the bad start..I have bandaids on my fingers..they are big and clusy...giggle.

    Great chew there bros.

    I think internet community is great but limiting in someways.

    I get togerther with some dear brothers in Christ at a local eatery for breakfast. It has been church for me while I have been on the outside seeking God's lead.

    I had an interesting telephone conversation with a brother about church and gathering dynamics and he conveyed to me that church is whenever we talk or email etc. Don't expect it to be much more (if I am paraphrasing it right). Why bother getting will only be trouble anytime one gathers a group of people together.

    My response was: 'Okay next Saturday you have breakfast at home... and call me...I will have my breakfast at home...and I will conference in brother so and so. We can then conference in another brother while he is making his eggs and bacon"

    He conceeded the point. There is something extra special when the saints gather together in community. We are designed for it.

    For the past year I have not been tied to any and I have been outside of trad church for 4 or 5 years. The desire to fellowship with others in unity with Him is enormous for me.

    I am hoping that the meeting of one this sunday will be a chance to network and fellowship and see His Hand unify us as one. Pie in the sky or what.

    I think the secret is obedience to His lead...sometimes we try to project His outcome...silly if church one week is at a local eatery, so be it. If church is walking a mountain trail, o well. If it means hanging out at someone's house, fantastic.

    It is not the 'form' which is is the 'substance'. I urge the brethren to be obedient to His lead...He won't diappoint you...mind you the outcome is not always measurable by our puney scales.

    There are times too, that I think trad church has a season in people's life...right now my daughter and wife are being fed in such a format. Glory just isnt for me! I am being lead elsewhere....


  4. Alvin, I would agree that internet community is limited, in the sense that it's a legitimate way of being in community, but it's definitely not nearly as personable as face to face or hand in hand. For many people, including myself for a while, it's been the main source of community, if even for a season, as you say in regards to the traditional church.

    I definitely had a long season in the traditional church, and all the while I've longed for personable (local, face to face, non-traditional) fellowship with others who are like minded, and so I can say with assurance that I long for much more than internet community.

    That said, I fully believe that our Father has brought together some people from all over the U.S., Canada, South Africa and other places from all over the world, to help build me up and to express His life to through me, all through the internet, and for that I'm very thankful.

    As for the traditional church, or the paradoxical 'contemporary' traditional church, :), that is also the way in which my wife and kids are currently enjoying their main fellowship and community, so I fully agree with you that everyone is in a different place (and no one is 'better' than the other), and I, too, hope and pray that everyone follows the lead of the Holy Spirit.

  5. Joel, I have often thought about how I used to allow Sunday worship be my main time of worship, I looked forward to it and didn't want to miss it and would be bummed if I missed the actual worship part or if church just wasn't fulfilling to me that particular day.
    NOW, I go to church( a new grace church) and I am laid back not so expectant but eager and sigh when I sense that refreshment that comes. But, I realize now, my main source or time of worship is WELL always!!!! All the time, everyday and I don't need to wait until Sunday to be fed, encouraged or met by the Lord. It's really more about the fellowship, but even then it doesn't happen just during the 2 hours of the service, it's the fellowship that reaches out into the days, the weeks, the hours and the minutes of every single day! I love it!!!
    I honestly think the local church plays an important wonderful part in the life of a believer..but that said, I would say be led to go wherever God may tell you, I guess there just aren't enough grace churches to go around these days, so I can understand anyone's reluctance to put themselves back under that.
    May God raise up more and more local grace churches all over the planet!!!!!

  6. These are some great comments. It's interesting to see how Father has led everyone regarding meeting with a local fellowship.

    I spend Sunday mornings with a group of local believers who call themselves Presbyterians although I don't normally go to any of their other meetings. They meet in the traditional manner and do traditional things. On Sundays, sometimes I enjoy the music part although I never really enjoy the the speaking part. Some grace is always spoken with varying amounts of legalism thrown in. Sometimes a lot. Sometimes a little.

    I go regularly in order to spend time with my daughter and her family. If they weren't there, I don't think I'd stop but I sure wouldn't be there every Sunday.

    Like the rest of you, I love internet community and wouldn't want to do without it. However, I still desire local fellowship with believers who are growing in grace but so far it hasn't happened.

    Matthew, on another blog, commented that he feels uncomfortable with larger groups but enjoys the smaller more intimate home settings. Although I'm not very shy, I agree with him. I believe a smaller more intimate group where every member has an opportunity to participate and share is better for me.

    Sometimes, on Sunday morning, I would love to be able to stand up and ask the speaker a question or to just share what Father has been teaching me but, of course, that's not allowed because the speaker is the expert and I'm just supposed to accept everything he says.

    I personally believe those larger groups should be like a school where you learn the basics and then graduate and go out into the world to use what you've learned. From time to time, it might be necessary to come back to get some advanced training but I believe after a while meeting week after week for teaching is unnecessary for believers who are growing to know Father's voice.

    I'm sure others may disagree and that's okay. Everyone must follow after Father however he is leading. Anyway, those are some of my thoughts.


  7. Great comments, Lydia and Aida. What's been going on in my mind during the past year or two... and really much longer... is a processing of ideas about what "church" really is, and my mindset has truly changed a LOT! :) I think all of us have experienced local fellowship in various ways, some good and some bad, and I think we'll all continue to enjoy the assembling of the saints in various ways.

    Even among the 18 or so links that I posted the other day, there's a variety of thoughts and ideas, and if anything I think I'm basically trying to provide some food for thought for anyone out there who might feel trapped in a man-made system, and even to "challenge" the status quo, so to speak, and to not just complain but to point towards some possible answers.

    I think the main thing I want to do is to challenge the idea that we need to have organized churches that meet regularly (traditionally every Sunday morning). I know that can be misinterpreted as saying that I think it's wrong to have organized churches that meet regularly, but that's not what I'm saying.

    In its simplest form, what I'm saying is that when two or more are gathered in His name, there He is in the midst of us, because He is in each of us and each of us is in Him. We can serve one another, disciple one another, love one another, live lives of worship together, and so on and so on, apart from having some pre-determined method for doing all of it. I realize that many people really do like "structure," and I'm not coming against that whole idea... unless we lift up the structure above the true purpose of the body of Christ.

    I could go on and on... LOL... And I'm happy that as I think out loud on my blog I have some friends here to talk through this with me!

  8. Joel, I like what you're thinking and I agree. Nicki asked several questions on her Godblog and one was why she can't say she's worshipped God at Starbucks. I think that's a very good question.

    I don't feel that it's necessary to go every week to a building in order to go to church. As a matter of fact, I think it's okay for a believer to never have been in one. What's important is that we develop a real relationship with Father and I don't believe we have to be in a building to do that.

    I've tried to analyze why I still go and the bottom line is because I want to. If my daughter and her family weren't there, I wouldn't go every week but I think I would still go. For me, it's an opportunity to maintain a relationship with some people that I enjoy being around. Unfortunately, I've got to put up with all of the other stuff to do that but, at this point, I'm willing to do it.

    I personally believe that encouraging one another and ministry to one another is more easily done outside of the organized system since, unless we're in some sort of pastoral role, we're not given much opportunity to speak or to minister.

    Like you, Joel, I also appreciate this group. What Father is putting in us needs to come out. God's people have been silenced too long which I believe is the main reason why we find it so difficult to share our faith with unbelievers. We've been trained to be silent and that's a hard barrier to overcome.

    I hope I haven't come across as too negative but that's where I am right now.


  9. Hey Guys!

    I just want to say that this is some good conversation. I love how Alvin put it and this is where my heart is at exactly. He said, "It's not the 'form' which is important, but it is the 'substance'." I love that, that says a lot for me, for I have tried to focus on the substance, and usually I find the form taking apart or taking over what is important. The substance. For instance, when I get in a conversation here with my brothers and sisters, the conversations always goes to what is happening in their local congregation and always about material stuff, like why they don't have instruments in their worship service and the elders or what not. That doesn't really have to do with Father and what he is doing in their personal lives. I guess its just how deep they want to go.

    Another thing that popped out at me is what Aida said, unless we are in a pastoral role in the congregation, we aren't given much opprotunity to speak and minister. I felt like that a lot when I was sitting in service. There really wasn't a time or opprotunity to speak your mind or what Father has been showing you personally!

    There, I gave my two sense.

    In Freedom, Nicole!

  10. I find too, that we don't have to go looking for people to minister to...He brings them to one doesn't need to be a 'Pastor' or and elected church-droid. Jesus loves the marketplaces of our lives..the family's we meet; our neighbours; our bosses...etc.

    I maintain obedience is is a matter of saying Father/Jesus what next...where, how, who? I am available. How do you want to speak into this person's life..or do I just need to listen?

    I gotta secret - You people are dangerous, because He does not have many who are willing to morph into forms that He desires. Keep in mind, and I am not one to go casting demons out of doorhandles...but the accuser of the brethren, father of all lies, is not going to like you much. You will experience some of HIS suffering. We consider it all joy!

  11. I agree. Church needs to start with a bible and then people who've worked at becoming aquainted with it helping each other help those who haven't.

    In 25 words or less anyway.