Thursday, October 24, 2013

Does Anyone Need to Go to Church?

Why Some Do Not Need to Go To Church

1.     The church is not a place to which we go.

Many Christians will agree with this idea.  The church is made up of Christians everywhere.  Christians are the church.   All of the buildings in which they gather do not constitute the church.  However, as many keep on agreeing, they also keep on saying that they “go” to church.  Many of those who do not need to go to church anymore need a better way to describe what the church is doing when it gathers in a building and participates in a particular organization.  I know.  It is simply easier to say that “we are going to church”.  But we really are not “going to church”.

2.     Some of the reasons that Christians have gathered over the history of Christianity, are no longer completely valid.

-          In the earliest years, Christians gathered to share their remembrances of Christ with each other.  No one alive today has any historical remembrances of Christ.

-          In the earliest years, as those who had a personal, historical experience of Christ began to die, Christians gathered to preserve their testimony regarding their encounter with Jesus.  Obviously, this task is complete.

-          Christians gathered to have the scriptural writings read to them because they could not read for themselves.  They could not read for themselves because of a lack of reading ability and the lack of inexpensive, quick, easy, and readily available, printed reading material.  Today we have the scriptures translated, printed, and recorded in many different formats.  Gathering is not necessary to have access to the scriptures.

-          Christian gatherings served a social purpose – a good thing.  However, many now have their social needs met by gathering for work, gathering for meals in restaurants, for public performances, sporting events, bars, education, etc.  Maybe what some Christians need is more time in a quiet place, out of the public eye, alone with the creativity of God leading their thoughts, alone with their prayers.  Maybe we have overloaded with our gatherings.

-          Christian gatherings were a source for learning.  In Western Europe, learning was preserved by the church and was an important source of education through the early middles ages.  Many great universities in the United States were started by Christians.  Personally, I consider education as part of the cause of God.   However, today, many forms of the church are viewed as being against education or as a proponent of a narrow, pinched version of education.  Even in the realm of theology, the church seems to be a poor source of education and many times seems to be at war against its most creative theologians.

3.     Individual gatherings may not be the priority that we have made it out to be.  Read the Gospels.  The concept of the Kingdom of God is much more prominent that the concept of the church.  Today some call the Kingdom of God the “rule of God”, “the leadership of God”, or “the cause of God.”    Maybe Christians, instead of going to church, should be the church where ever they go.  Maybe Christians should do church.  Act for God’s Cause!  In every aspect of life, act for the common good.

4.      Many will agree with some or all of these ideas, but still say Christians should gather as individual, specific, visible expressions of church.  There is no problem with that.  However, as long as such gatherings remain celebrations of the narcissism of small differences, hour long excuses for small talk, gossip, and fake bread with cheap wine, wasted money on buildings that are empty most of the week, groups with leaders compromised by the pay they need to live, and organizations dominated by self-important bullies who assume power based upon their wealth and contributions, more and more people will discover that they no longer need to go to church.  Calling such gatherings as communion seems scandalous.

5.     From a larger, global, off-earth, ecumenical perspective, the one church is made up of every Christian gathered on the land and under the vault of the starry skies. Where else would a Christian expect God to rule but in their lives, the very living Church.  But it seems that God’s Cause has expanded beyond what is named "church" and thus God’s Cause transcends the church, guiding the freedom of thought in universities, cooperating and enhancing the creative healing of human bodies and minds by doctors and in hospitals, inspiring our political self-determination by the right of vote by all, to name just a few examples. So the church is of less import than many Christians would imagine. God's leadership in every human life is the goal and its creative manifestation is transforming human life and continues as humans make the best choices for the common benefit of all. May we focus on God’s Cause in our lives lest our hearts and minds are diverted in such a way that we make choices that lead to the consequence of a truly apocalyptic result, ending our lives and the earth.  Why would one want to “go” to church when she can “be” and “do” church?

6.     We do not have to separate our activities between what cultivates Christianity and what does not. God is in all; and, in everything we do, we can try to make a reflection of a Christian perspective. When we work for an employer or rent an apartment to a new tenant, every act we try to decide on the basis of common interest, these acts are our worship to God. When we take a step in a new venture in faith, God finds us in the journey. In ecstatic experiences, God finds us. When we see the beauty of nature, God finds us. We do not have to read portions of a Biblical writing or a few verses. We can read an entire book at a time. When we read Mark, God finds us.  Meals, conversations, organizing trades to create a new home, corporate meetings, donations to those in need, celebrations, teaching, driving safely, advice to a friend, helping someone we do not know in the grocery store are all our devotions and examples of church, but more importantly, examples of God’s Cause in action.  Universities, hospitals, governments, grocery stores, Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, and more are community organizations that help one connect and participate in community, those gatherings are our communion. Whenever and wherever we act for the common interest, even in the face of anger or malice, God finds us. He always finds us even when we do not “go” to church..