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Taking Church Out of the Equation

To those of you whose life of faith is very much Church-oriented, I ask you to take Church out of the equation.  Now imagine your life without Sunday morning services.  Imagine your life without weekly or monthly communion or Thursday evening Bible Study.  Sunday School no longer happens prior to the Worship Service nor is there a Benediction sending you on your merry way before heading back home.  The Hospitality ministry with its Fellowship Café and weekly bulletins are no longer necessary because connecting people to the Church is irrelevant—there is no Church.

How does this make you feel?  Sad?  Lost?  Confused?  Relieved?  Hopeful?

Why?

Being vs. Doing

The organized Church was never meant to be what it has become for many today.  We were called to be the church, not go to church, not do church.  Be the church.  We’ve somehow gotten it confused.

I go back to Abraham all the time on this point.  Abraham, the rediscoverer of our faith, was a “friend of God” (James 2:23) and he didn’t have anything except his faith.  He didn’t have Sunday School lessons, a Church home, the catechism, baptism, or Scripture.  He had nothing to go by and was yet a friend of God.  Nowadays, entire churches are based around one particular translation of Scripture, pastors can’t serve without certain letters behind their names, and success in ministry is based on church membership rosters and fundraising campaigns.  In many circles, faithful Christianity and membership within the faith community is based on time spent in church activities and program participation.

Really?  This is what true followship of Christ boils down to?  Doing church?

Connecting People to What?

I was on staff at a church serving as the Connections Pastor when this dichotomy of being and doing really hit me.  I began asking myself, “To what am I really aiming to connect people?”  And unfortunately, my answer was, “Church.”  Not God.  Not Jesus.  Church.  I was connecting people to a culture more than I was connecting them to Christ.

I have met too many people that pursue church over Jesus, too many people who use church as the excuse to why they’re not journeying closer and closer to God.  Jesus came to teach us again how we were created to live, not how to be good church-goers according to Christianity’s ideals:

generosity = tithing?

servanthood = nursery duty?

loving others = promising to pray for the weekly prayer needs?

evangelism = inviting people to church?

faithfulness = regular church attendance?

Please don’t misunderstand me.  These are all good things to do—tithing, nursery duty, prayer, inviting people to church and even going to church—but there’s so much more to it than that.  Too many Christians park the standard of faith-filled living inside the church doors and forget that there’s more to life than going to church and doing church things.  Church should be a slice of the pie rather than the whole pie it has become for far too many.  Church should be a part of the Jesus equation rather than Jesus being part of the church equation.   Church is about helping us become the church—the people God intended us to be from the beginning—not progressively involved “church members.”

Objectively Take Inventory

Maybe I’ve raised a couple hairs on your neck, good.  That’s my objective.  I want to get you thinking about your life with Christ.  What is it that really defines what you do and why you do it?  How does Jesus define faith-full friendship to God?

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help get the wheels turning:

  • If there was no formal church to attend, how would I go about worshiping God?
  • If I couldn’t rely on a church to be the gathering place for like-minded believers, how would I go about finding other people with faith in Christ?
  • What are the defining characteristics of my life that speak to others my love and trust in the Lord?
  • If I didn’t have a church to give my tithes and offerings to, what would my giving look like?  How might it change?
  • How would I use my gifts and talents for the Lord’s glory without the aid of church programs and systems (i.e. preachers-where would you preach and what new methods might you employ?;  leaders-how and where would you use your skills without the church board to serve or ministry teams to coordinate?;  greeters-where and how would you now express your gifts of hospitality and encouragement?)
  • How would my interactions with my children change if I were now charged with the spiritual training of my children and not Sunday School and other children’s programs?
  • How do non-believers find God without churches and their accompanying “outreaches?”
  • How likely is it that I could lead someone to discover the awe-inspiring love of God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit simply by knowing Christ and following his teachings?

Go and Be

My prayer for you is that God, in Christ, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, becomes your true source, sugar-free, no added preservatives; plain and simple.  My hope is NOT that church is eliminated from your life, but that it’s in its rightful place.  May God’s people become more mindful of ALL things related to living in relationship with God, asking hard questions and doing whatever it takes in light of the answers that surface.  Go and BE!

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