Wednesday, March 29, 2006

“Christians are S’posed to go to Church…”

This weekend I tried something different in worship. Usually one of the professional “clergy” does the Call to Worship, or Invocation (2 sides of a coin that invites the people and God to come together). These generally range from some really nice ones from Scripture, to some pretty informal ones that are more like… “hey, we’re here to worship and we’re gettin’ started”.

But this weekend, I decided “what the heck, we’re a whole room full of priests (1 Peter 2:9) – why don’t we have someone from the community pray the invocation. Now, this can be a bit scary if no one steps up – but thankfully, in each service, someone did. And it was really, really good. The prayers were really beautiful, unrehearsed cries for God to come and meet with us, and for us to be changed in His presence. And, I think for the most part, God really answered those prayers.

In one of the services, a young woman prayed. Her prayer was so honest, and so beautiful, and so… sacred. It was the prayer of a priest. In her honesty, she said “God, I don’t really know why I’m here tonight.” And later… “but please come here and meet with us tonight, cuz we really need you.” But in between those statements, right after the “…I don’t know why I’m here tonight.” She said “… I just know Christians are supposed to go to church.”

“Christians are supposed to go to church.” Really? I just finished a book by Eddie Gibbs on the Emerging Church. It’s a sociological study of emerging churches around the world and what we can learn from them. In it he talks about one church that made t-shirts for their members. On the front of the shirt it said “Don’t Go To Church”. On the back it said “Be The Church”. I was thinking about this after “church” on Saturday night. I’d love for us to have shirts like that. But even more, I’d love for us to put that into practice.

Many of the people who come to the Saturday night service are younger people who really identify with a lot of the emergent church language. So, when I quote Gibbs about being the church rather than just going, they are all over that like stink on a pig (I have a cowboy friend who says that). There is a growing understanding that the church must be missional, must be Christ in the community, in the world. I’m all over that like… well you know. One of my favorite (and most convicting) Scriptures is Isaiah 58 where God talks about the kind of fast he desires. It’s not a fast from food, but rather a fast from selfishness where we take care of the poor and the hungry, the orphan and the widow. If we want to please God, that kind of living is not an option. It is a mandate for the church (James hits this in his book in the New Testament too)

However, sometimes we (dang… I’m gonna step on toes here) get excited about “being the Church” out there, and forget that “being the Church” also means when we’re gathered. In fact, while the word “Church” carries a meaning of “called out ones”, its main meaning is “the gathered ones”. So, what does it mean to “be the Church” when we’re gathered? This is already getting long, so let’s let the commenting cover some of what it might involve. But I can tell you that one of the things it ISN’T. It isn’t sitting passively, watching the paid guys do “church”. All who gather for the worship service (or work) must come ready to do the work of the service. Granted, for many parts of the service, permission and freedom must be given by the paid guys so that the people can do it, but way too often I see the same devout indifference that I grew up with in my childhood tradition.

So here’s what I really wanted to say… I think Christians are supposed to be church, not just go to church. I also think that there is action involved in being the church. So, I guess I would say that not only are we to be the church, but we’re to do church too. I wonder what would happen if everyone who came to church put their best effort into being and doing church. What does that look like? Not sure… I’ve never seen it. Shall we try it?

And, by the way, Heather… I think you were being and doing church when you led us all in that wonderful invocation on Saturday. Thanks.



Rich said...

Awesome idea.

Anonymous said...

Good post. By the way, I'm glad you switched your font back to normal size instead of that jumbo stuff you had. Anyway, you know my thoughts on the issue...I fully agree. While the phrase "going to church" is technically somewhat accurate, since you're going to be with your church, there are also major overtones in that phrase of audience, observing, watching, performing, critiquing, etc. In the large church gathering size becomes a hinderance to participation...and rightfully so. The point (in my opinion) is to be led, equipped, refueled, and then give back to God through worship, giving, etc. This largely needs to happen by those who are the leaders. In smaller gatherings, like the 18-20's ministry, participation is a word we use every week. So how can we be the church in a large gathering? Energy, response (clapping, laughing, crying, cheering, standing, kneeling, etc.), sitting towards the front...and next to each other for heaven's sake, fellowshipping before and after. Shall we try it? You bet your beehive.

Jenn said...

I love this. I just was talking to a friend today about what it would look like if we all tapped into our spiritual gifts that God has given us and actually used them the way he intended. Wow! What a sight that would be.