Growing up in the body of Christ was quite an experience for me. I was at the church building pretty much whenever the doors were open. Potluck dinners, Sunday morning services, special events, Sunday evening service, Wednesday night. Yet the more and more I study the Scriptures, and the more intimate I become with Jesus, the more I’m realizing that I didn’t really grow up in an active body of local Christ followers. I grew up in a set of religious things that I was told are completely Biblical. It was ingrained in to me as a child that to miss “church” on Sunday morning is wrong and Christians who don’t attend the service regularly aren’t really committed Christians. I was taught that the church is a place we go to and do the same thing every Sunday morning. I was taught that dressing up in a suit and tie is what good Christian boys wear. I was taught that church is once a week on a Sunday morning where I sit, stand, sit, stand, then listen to someone speak. Yes, this is what church was for me. This is what I was taught church was. i heard regularly that people don’t wear certain clothes, or say certain things in the “house of God”. This was my experience of church growing up.
Let me stop here and mention something. This is not me ranting and blaming my parents for some terrible upbringing. I was extremely fortunate to have parents who were committed Christians not only on Sunday mornings but throughout their entire life. I can say with confidence that my parents hearts were pure in the way they raised me as a whole and without them I would not have the solid foundation I have today. So don’t misunderstand, (especially if my mother is reading this), this is not an attack of any kind on the wonderful parents I was blessed to have.
Back to my point(s)
I grew up with many people who were well intentioned on their idea of church. But let me be honest, I’m having a very hard time finding many things that I grew up with in the Bible. Because this is a blog and my space is limited I’m only going to hit on two things that I see are clearly no where in Scripture. Yet, we for some reason, we automatically assume that these two things are actually what the church is. Also let me mention here that just because something isn’t in the Bible doesn’t mean that it is inherently wrong, however I do not think it is wise to simply swallow tradition for tradition’s sake. We must be willing to look at what exactly this thing called church is, and what it is not. The goal here is to give us a more accurate picture of what the church actually is, contrary to what many of us have been told it is.
1. The Building
If there is one major thing that we assume church is, it’s the building. This is ironic because if there is one thing that is completely clear in Scripture regarding the Church, it is that the Church is a body of Christ followers NOT a building. Yet I hear the question “where do you go to Church” all the time. I hear pastors say things like “this is the house of God” (referring to the building) all the time. Yet in Scripture we are taught that our bodies are TEMPLES of God, that God dwells inside of us. This at the time was a major shift in thinking because before Christ came, the spirit of God dwelled in physical temples. In Exodus we see that God’s presence dwelt in the Holy of Holies. When Christ came, He destroyed the idea of God’s spirit dwelling in a physical structure such as a temple. Instead now we are taught that God’s presence dwell’s in us because of the Holy Spirit. The building has nothing, absolutely NOTHING to do with church. Yet, in our culture it is ingrained in to our heads that “church” is a place we go, not something we are. Out of the 114 times the word Church is used in the New Testament it is never onc used as referring to a specific location or a building or any kind of structure. It is ALWAYS in reference to followers of Jesus. Think of it like this. 1 Christ follower we call a Christian. A group of Christ followers together doing anything is the Church. It’s not a building, it’s not a location, and as we are about to see, it is not a specific meeting time.
2. The Sunday Morning Service
Let me say something right off the bat. I’m not attacking any particular local church body. I’m not saying that if you are part of a local church body that meets once a week in a traditional format that you are in sin or wrong or anything of the sort. I am simply attempting to point out that we are not bound to these traditions that we grew up in. Let me explain.
The format of most Protestant churches is nothing new. It might be repackaged, it might look flashier in some churches, it might look more conservative in others. But every Sunday morning most church bodies come together on a Sunday morning and do something like the following
2. A musical worship time
3. Announcements and welcome
4. A sermon
6. A blessing or prayer to close.
Most church bodies mix and match those key elements in to their Sunday morning service. Usually about 5-10 people are involved while the rest of the congregation watches the procedure. Yes it’s true that the congregation is invited to partake in the musical worship and to greet each other for a few minutes, but that majority of the time the congregation is silent.
The ironic thing here as well is that if we search the New Testament we see no such format. Nowhere do we see Paul say “ok local church, here is how your Sunday morning meeting must go, make sure you have a lot of music, make sure someone preaches, and make sure that in your format most people spectate the whole thing, never change your service up, it must be static”. You just don’t see that in Scripture.
Now one again let me clarify, I’m not saying that church bodies who stick to a static format are wrong, or that God doesn’t work. I’m simply asking the question what would happen if we took the Sunday morning meeting away? Or what if we changed it? I’m not even saying that we have to. But it seems like (to me at least) that many church bodies treat the Sunday morning format as untouchable, unchanging, and if we question any elements of what we do on Sunday morning we are somehow crazy. Yet I make the argument that our Sunday morning meetings do not encourage every follower of Jesus to be active in their local bodies. In fact most people who attend a Church service are completely in spectator mode with their faith. They have been taught that a good Christian attends Sunday morning and that’s it. While more and more Church leaders are speaking against this mindset and are encouraging every believer to own their faith and to actually follow the teachings of Jesus instead of just being a spectator of the Sunday morning. It seems like they teach one thing in word and another thing in actions because no matter how you slice it, the Sunday morning service does not encourage every Christian to be involved. It instead allows many Christians to show up to something, sit, stand, sit, stand then go home all while thinking that they are a good Christian because they went through some religious motions.
What’s my bottom line? It’s simple really. We must not be afraid to question the traditional elements of our faith respectfully. Sunday school, youth group, small groups, these things are nowhere in Scripture and yet we do them. And that’s not a bad thing! The bad thing is when we do them for the sake of doing them. The bad thing is when we believe that the church service can’t be changed, that it must maintain the core elements of the tradition we grew up in because that”s just the way it’s always been done.
I might sound like a broken record to some of you. That’s fine. But to me, this is of the utmost importance. I think we all can agree that we want to see the Church explode with passionate, authentic relationship with Jesus, lead by the Holy Spirit, all participating in the Kingdom of God. Not spectators who are really big fans of Jesus and do nothing about it. The Gospel is radical, it wrecks people, it brings us to our knees then raises us up to be co-heirs with Jesus. It’s time to start waking the Church up to the this reality, that we are not spectators, we are not congregations, we are sons and daughters of the living God.
Also here is a link referring to the number of Christians that are spectators more than participants in the Church body. http://www.christianpost.com/news/authors-pastors-must-go-after-lost-sheep-to-increase-church-participation-51581/