“It’s time to reclaim the church as something to which we belong rather than just an event venue.” Those lines which appeared in an article in the Jan/Feb. (2019) issue of Christianity Today grabbed my attention. The writer told of walking to church one Sunday in his town past a little boy playing in the street. The boy asked, “Are you going to a party?” The answer was- “Yes, we are! But we call it church. Go ask your Mom if you can come with us.” The little boy went to the ‘party’ that day and within months his entire family, which was by social standards dysfunctional, became baptized participants in the Christian life of that congregation.
How do you see your church? Is it a place to go for an event or is it a place where a ‘family’ gathers to worship the Lord and share life? The New Testament uses familial language constantly when speaking of the Christians. They called one another brother and sister. They shared their possessions.
Luke says “all the believers met together constantly and shared everything they had. They sold their possessions and shared the proceeds with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people.” What was the result of this new family of faith? “And each day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:44-47, NLT)
“Church” should look more like a family gathering than a concert! The Church exists to call people into a new life, to make followers of Jesus, and to create a new society of people who love each other. That is not, sadly, the way most American churches function in 2019. I believe that the American church has made a terrible error in trying to become an event venue, putting on a religious show, using décor and ‘culturally relevant’ images to attract larger crowds.
Pastors become salesmen, evangelism becomes marketing, and Jesus Christ becomes the ‘product’ neatly packaged in ways that comfort without asking too much of those who fill the building. The article referenced above rightly says that these ‘churches end up competing with each other for attendees just like businesses compete for customers.’
When you go to the house of your sister, with all the family together, you expect that there will be goofs, cranks, noisy kids, and opinionated uncles in the house. Part of the delight of family are all those personalities and because we love them, we welcome them, even delight in their quirks! When we come together as God’s family, we too should expect something less than a smoothly orchestrated event that will not make allowance for that person who is ‘different,’ or who weeps, or laughs, or sings off-key, or says things that are socially inept. Peter offers us this vision of the church family. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:8-10, NIV)
At FDC (FaithDiscovery.com) we are attempting to encourage people to join a Life group, not because it’s ‘’fun” or because they need more things to fill up already packed schedules. We know that true Christianity is not just practiced with creeds and Communion in a sanctuary, it is lived in the middle of life – in times of birth and death, beginnings and endings, successes and failures. Life Groups help people to get past the event idea of modern church so that they will become brothers and sisters in the family of God.
Here is a word from the Word. My prayer is that the Spirit will cause us to hunger to know one another, to encourage each other beyond the handshake on Sunday morning. “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” (John 13:34, NLT) “Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2, NLT) “Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24, NLT)
Let love remove all offense.
Be generous in giving away your personal comfort.
Go to serve, not to be entertained.
And, you will please the Lord and grow into something far richer in life than just ‘going to church.’