Talking About Church . . . Again

I tend to weary of talking about church, why I’m not a regular attendee, and what I hope to do about it. I struggle with it all quite a bit and it’s a hard topic. Somedays I feel like a sub-par Christian because I don’t attend a church. Maybe I am.

I also cringe when my friends ask because I don’t have an answer that seems “acceptable.” They’ve been asking for four years about my church status whenever we get together and I can’t help but feel like I’ve failed or something.

But then I read a post over at about the church from a book called Resident Aliens. Here’s the beginning of a quote from the book:

“What we call “church” is too often a gathering of strangers who see the church as yet another “helping institution” to gratify further their individual desires.”

And JR posted on what he calls, “Bono Christians” at brokenstainedglass. I probably wouldn’t be interested in everything he’s up to these days at Calvary Church, but he’s asking the right questions and has been struggling with many of the same issues as myself.

What I really want to explore further is my motivation for attending church, the goal of attending church (God’s and my own and whether they clash), and my own expectations.

I don’t think we can take attendance at a traditional church as a given any more, but I also don’t think we can hang out on a limb without thinking through and acting on some alternative plan.

6 thoughts on “Talking About Church . . . Again

  1. Andy Rowell

    Good post. You have articulated the issues well. Do you have a community of Christians that you do Bible study with? Couldn’t that be your community/church? Church is people, right?

    Maybe you should found or work in a church. Sometimes leaders are the most discontent when they are not leading.

  2. Bill Danusiar

    OK, stop whining! Get out and tell someone that Jesus died on the cross for you ,me, and THEM. I agree with Andy… basically step out go to a "church" and see if you can fit in. Better yet, put an ad in a local paper about a new forming bible study and start your own missionary outreach. Stop talking and start doing!
    As I read Matthew 28:19 Jesus says "GO therefore and MAKE disciples….. It says to me you have to GO before you MAKE.

  3. nate

    The problem is that Bill is reading Matthew 28:19 wrong. As anyone who has taken even a little Greek (as I know Ed has…thank you Dr. Heth) can see…what we have so oft translated as an imperative "GO" coupled with a second imperative "MAKE" is a terrible rendering of the Greek. "GO" is not an imperative in the Greek, it is a participle (see "baptizing" and "teaching"). Jesus says, "While going, make disciples, baptizing and teaching them."

    See here’s the thing…we are all going because we are all living life and life is headed to an end whether we like it or not. While we do that, while we are going, the imperative of Jesus is that we make disciples.

    Granted, it’d be a heck of a lot easier if Jesus said, "Go to church therefore and make disciples." He didn’t. You don’t have to "go before you make" – you’re already going.

    So I say, Ed, keep going. Keep living out your faith in your daily life and in the process, point people to Jesus – that’s discipleship.

    On the merits of joining a community of people who strive to embody the life and ministry of Jesus, there is much to be said (another time and another place, perhaps). But as you and I both know…most American churches aren’t about embodying Jesus…that’d be too much like taking our own discipleship seriously.

  4. Ed Post author

    Bill, there’s no doubt in my mind that I need to be out there doing and sharing the Gospel. I do that without any problem in my work place, in my relationships around town, and hope to show the love of Christ to hikers in the area by providing rides to them back to the AT. More about the AT thing later.

    So I agree about getting out there to share the Gospel. I hope I didn’t sound too "whiney". I was trying to articulate my own struggles with our church situation. I don’t feel God leading us to start anything and every church we visit doesn’t seem right. I’m trying to be obedient. Even if that means I’m whining.

    It’s not easy being on the outside of the church. I think we need to have more honest conversations about people not fitting into churches. You can’t keep shoving people into church and telling them to be content when God keeps telling them something is wrong. I’m trying not to whine about this. I’m trying to tell it like it is. I want to more towards solutions, but I don’t have any.

    My struggle in this post is:
    A. What should I be looking for in a group of Christians or a church?
    B. What’s in my own heart regarding church? Do I have the right picture of church or are my motivations wrong?
    C. Am I even asking the right questions?

    Maybe I shouldn’t be airing my dirty laundy here. It’s a messy topic and it’s probably something that I just need to work out with God. I would love to plant a church, but God needs to give Julie and I the vision for that. Perhaps I need to start by asking, "Do I need to redefine Christian community, or have I just not found the right one yet?"

  5. Ed Post author

    Alright Paul, fair enough. I almost brought that one up just to address it before it was tossed out there.

    If we read scripture systematically, which we shouldn’t since it destroys context, we could hold up this one scripture as the command to attend church. But it doesn’t say that. It says not to forsake gathering together. We haven’t. We are in connection with Christians,quite a bit, but not on a traditional basis in a traditional church.

    I guess the nature of the gathering could be debated, but I’m trying to figure out where we belong. Maybe this is too personal to hash out online. For us we fee like it’s a lot harder to not attend church out of obedience. It’s easy to attend church, not always encouraging or beneficial, but it’s easy to drive over for a few hours. But to sense something is not right, that God is calling you to something else that is beyond what you know, that’s hard.

    I don’t think we are commanded explicity to attend church. I think it’s taken for granted in scripture. But have we limited the form too much? Has church become something other than it should be? I don’t know.

    Once again, why do we attend church? Because we are commanded to? Probably not. Worship? Teaching? Encouragement? Missionary activity?

    Beats me. Thanks everyone for participating in this discussion. It’s very challenging for me as we’re wrestling with these issues.

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