(This was meant to be posted this last week. Oops.)
I love this statement that I read today made on this post by messy Christian:
“…we’ve put our emphasis on the wrong place. It should be on people, not on a place. The place should be a tool to bring people together … funny how we’ve made “going to that place” more important somehow.”
It is really interesting that she makes this statement as part of a broader discussion on her choice to â€œtake a break from churchâ€? for a few weeks. I think messy Christian is talking about taking a break from her congregation, moreover her congregation within the confines of the building that they meet on Sunday, when she says that she is taking a break from â€œchurchâ€?. She is taking a break from all the pressures and responsibilities that are attached to being a part the whole process of making a Sunday service happen, and the confines and strictures that go with it.
If her church has become, to her, only a long list of responsibilities, deadlines and meeting of expectations then I can see why she would want to take break from that. It is curious though that she can make such an enlightened statement on what the church really is, the people, then turn around and continually use the word church to represent only the Sunday service in what has become three posts on the subject.
There is a delineation that people make between â€œThe Churchâ€? and their church. It is the difference between the theological concept of the Body of Christ here on earth, the big â€œCâ€?, and the individual community of believers or even the building that is a symbol of that community, the little â€œcâ€?. Still, I find it quite sad that people have this tendency or even feel the necessity to create the delineation to begin with.
Hereâ€™s the rub, I understand my church to be a limited expression of The Church. My definition of the word church is the body of Christ, or Godâ€™s expression of His kingdom on the earth. To me it is all the same, whether it is my local fellowship, or tribe as I like to call it, or all the believers across the whole of the earth, we are still The Church, never just a church. This is something that I cannot conceive ever taking a break from.
Paul said that we are all various parts of one body. When I imagine someone taking a break from church I see, say a pinky finger separated from the body. It is pretty universal that no one would see a severed finger as a good thing. Can you imagine it leading a life detached from the body it came from? Once separated from that body it would be separated from the life flow that is the blood and begin a rapid decay. Conceptually, separation from the church, or the body of Christ, does not work for me.
Now I realize that some argue that there are congregations out there that are not representative of The Church at all and it is better for a person to break away from that kind of church. I will not argue that point. Rather I am dealing with my understanding of the individual relationship to an imperfect congregation that is representative of The Church for that person.
Mainly, I wonder at our concept of salvation and the individualistic nature of it in modern society. Is it a modern phenomenon that we believe we can belong to Christ and exist separate from His body?
What does it say about the condition of that body when so many find it so draining and numbing?
What is the place of Christian community in the believerâ€™s life; for accountability, for discipleship, for teaching us how to be more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled?
How does God intend for us to be together in Christ? How is how we are currently together stopping that?