Monday, December 14, 2009

Church: a community for itself, or something else?

Creative Commons:

This post is part of Peter Pollock and Bridget Chumbley's Blog Carnival.

Is the Church about itself? Or is it about everybody else in the world outside it?

Or is it about something else entirely?

Those are probably the only three choices. You have to pick one of these:

  1. Church is about the people who show up. It's a social, community-oriented structure. All the rest is details. It's just about God's people learning to work together as a team and enjoy each other's company. God's new society is made up of potlucks and Bible studies, coffee hour and field trips.

  2. Church is about God. It's one or more people worshipping. Nothing else matters. Everything should be done with absolute dignity and solemnity, and there is no room for human sentiment or opinion of any kind whatsoever.

  3. Church is about reaching the world. The whole purpose of the Church is mission. Everything else should take second-seat to the task-at-hand. The "seeker-service" should be the norm. Mature Christians who are trying to grow can go to seminars if they want to.

The criticisms against each of these models are worth reviewing. If the Church is about people, have we so removed God from the equation of the potlucks and committee meetings that there's no room for God anymore, and no difference between the Church and a rather smug country club? On the other hand, if the Church is only about God, then aren't the people irrelevant? Can't we just stay home? God is God regardless, right? And on the third hand, if the Church is strictly about the mission to the world, then there is nothing in the Church for those of us who are already there.

We have a remarkable tendency to criticize those who disagree with us on this question. I admit, I struggle with this one. Once upon a time, I confess that I left a church because I began to fear it was too much about itself to legitimately be about God anymore. I may have judged that one too quickly and too harshly.

Because maybe the whole discussion isn't even necessary. Maybe it's all three. Can you separate God from the mission of God? If God's intentions are always realized, then His intentions *are* his character. Can you separate the mission of God from the servants He's empowered with the task of carrying out that mission? Can you imagine the community attempting to actualize that mission without taking part in worship?

The Church is a community of like-minded and mutually-supportive individuals in agreement on these general principles:

  • There is a God.

  • This God desires and deserves our devotion and affection.

  • This God listens to what we have to present to Him.

  • This God calls us to be involved in His plan to revitalize and perfect Creation.

That's all three models wrapped up into one single package.

Which of the three models have you been giving the least emphasis to?
How would the expression of your Faith improve if you cranked up your implementation of that model?