To church or not to church?


What is the purpose of church?
My brother and several guys from our church have gotten into an email discussion over a blog by Shaun Groves. I’ve read several other blogs recently along the same lines as Shaun’s questioning the majority of churches’ traditional, yet contemporary, formats.

I replied to them with the following:

“I almost wonder if some of these “progressives” are less attempting to say that the traditional format we see today amongst congregations are wrong…and more so saying that they deem them ineffective. I could be wrong. Like I said, some of the bloggers on this subject are pretty extreme. I like the point from Josh/Joel that some may just be burnt or hurt from church politics. I doubt any of us could deny that we have been frustrated at some point with the way things go down (mostly wanting our congregation to have an effective, fruitful ministry.)

And I guess PART of it comes down to that we have various personalities and ways of learning and reaching out and receiving….and our society has become very “I” focused. You know where this is going… “

The first line of my blog is a heavy question. I’m pretty sure you all have a myriad of definitions, opinions and ideas. Feel free to share.

*Sigh* This has been a difficult weekend….er, um, life. I gotta be honest, it’s pretty amazing I still attend, let alone minister with an organized church congregation. Disorganized may be a better term, however. I can’t even count in my head how many different denominational, non-denominational as well as “progressive” congregations I have attended, and I’m only 29. I could pick every one of them apart and find a criticism about their efforts. It’s easy to do. It’s easier to focus and dwell upon the ick than the good. I’m learning the art of “finding the hope/good.” Not easy, I assure you.

Example: I am SO disappointed at how unprepared my church (the people within my congregation) is to handle a very sensitive yet unavoidable issue (s). (Yeah, there are several.) I want to amend here and make sure I clarify that I am not picking on the leadership.  We gotta be real and admit to ourselves: the church is made up of individuals with various backgrounds, spiritual “statuses”, personalities, and attitudes. Undoubtedly, this makes a challenge for those organizers. Think about this for a moment. The Church is probably one of the MOST diversely contained organizations in the world. It’s HUGE. Even 2 minutes apart from each other, congregations could have completely opposite priorities and views on theology. At any rate, I think this is my biggest platform regarding church: we need to care for our “members”!

I think most Pastors and Worship leaders and staff probably have that as a priority. The difficulty is “making everyone happy.” Possibly impossible task, honestly. Some prefer to ignore important issues and that makes them happy….others desire to tackle those same issues and that makes them happy. Feeding member’s “i-wants” does not accomplish caring for members. It just splits us even more.

I don’t want to compose some dissertation on this or dive into the details of this. I just pray that we as the collective church can recognize that our leaders have a difficult task. They are not perfect people. They need encouragement and guidance just like the members. Sometimes we have to step on people’s toes and do the “unheard of” to be an effective church.

What is the purpose of the church? Maybe if I rephrase that question: what is the one mission that binds us together? How do we accomplish it?

If the answer doesn’t scream out to you, let me know. There is probably not ONLY ONE good answer to that last one. (Which is why this issue becomes so heated at times, I’m sure.)

PS….I really do love the congregation I attend.   None of us are perfect, but I believe we do some things really well there and others not so much.  (As is the case for all)  I want to make sure that you don’t read this and assume I am bashing any of the congregations I have attended.   I just pray our focus doesn’t get too far off….


2 thoughts on “To church or not to church?

  1. Thanks for joining the discussion. You nailed it – the intent of my blog post anyway. I’m not writing about what’s “wrong” as much as I am what I see an less effective as what we could be doing as the Church in America.

    You complete me ; )


  2. George Reich

    My thoughts on eccelsiastical ecumenism are too vast to discuss herein but what I can say is that God is ecumenical in nature. We too quickly forget what Jesus prayed {…that they may all be one} but we are quick to remember that we are individuals and we are too enthralled in finding a worship style and a preaching style and a church that fits us right. And we just hope by some awesome divine experience that we find a God that fits us just right in the midst of all our denominational searching and splitting.

    I am by no means saying the former responses have been refusing this, but I do think that is the crux of the issue. We are too quickly individuals and not a community quickly enough. What was mentioned earlier about “recapturing that relationship” with the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve nips the whole thing in the bud.

    We are truly individuals and we are truly held accountable to our Creator by our own actions {but under his grace}, but when we forsake the horizontal community we forsake the vertical community and we forget that the commandment that Jesus gave to love our neighbors is much like the first commandment given to Moses on that Mount. God cannot be mocked and God cannot be played. Going through the motions is inevitable. At some point the new-fangled non-denominational churches of the day will find themselves paying attention to tradition and the traditional liturgical churches will see the flipside of that.

    It seems that no matter how we work it, we always come back to community…and the hope is to foster such a church that it brings us back to the pews and the altar of Eden transformed no matter how we sing our songs, or what translation of we read or even how we baptize our believers. Heaven forbid that we sprinkle when we should have dunked or gotten saved by the reading of the NRSV as opposed to the 1611 KJV or worshipped God through rock music rather than hymns accompanied by a piano and an organ. We are too quick to hold tightly to our individualism and our cling to our pride. What would the church be like if we let go of each and every prideful agenda and let the spirit of God take hold of how the church was fashioned? I imagine we’d be reaching a lot more people. This is my call to worship: An audience of One and a fellowship of all.

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