So Don Miller says he doesn’t enjoy church services and Christians get defensive instead of asking why? Truth be told in the last three years I didn’t go to church for the teaching or worship etc. but for the community. Sundays were an extension of the rest of the week and the everyday life I had with my church family was more important. As a result I fell in love with the body of Christ again. Not by singing “Blessed Be Your Name” for a millionth time.
Let me explain why.
We talk a lot about shopping for a church that you feel good in. One that fits your personality and likes but rarely do we ask about the community life. We’re more interested in whether the style of worship is to our liking or if there is “good strong theology” behind the teaching. I’ve heard many sermons that have sound theology but have bored the heck out of me. I’ve stood through worship with extremely talented musicians that hasn’t helped me seek God.
These are not always going to be good indicators of what your experience will be like.
The idea that if we finally find a church where the music is lively or whatever criteria you want to fill, only perpetuates the “me me me” idea of church. The need for church to satisfy me. I’ve yet to find a church where the worship music resembles Dillinger Escape Plan or early Cave In and I likely never will.
And you know what? I am perfectly fine with that.
When the emphasis is not on those things but in living in community it means I move away from a “me me me” version of Christianity. Community forces us at some point or another to realize it’s not just about me. Sure, there were times when I was part of my church family in Belfast and I was breaking out of this selfish idea of church and it was painful. Painful because I wanted it to please me. What I didn’t realize was that I had to put effort in. Not because of a sense of duty but because I needed to if I was to learn and love community. I needed to appreciate that I had an important part to play and that others loved me and I didn’t have to be scared.
Yet I learned this through conversations and grace directed towards me. Not from a sermon series.
This was the point at which I fell in love with church again, because as much as we want things to be perfect in our head, community is never perfect. A community of human beings is flawed by it’s very nature. It’s right there in the name.
I fell in love with church again because I actually connected for the first time with other people who also felt their life was meant for more than just themselves. In honest conversations, in receiving and giving grace, having meals in each others homes, in pints at the pub, in reading the Bible, in disagreeing well, in getting pissed off at someone, in pissing someone off, in playing football, in celebrating friends getting married or having babies.
The famous Christian cliche that church is not about the building but about the people started to ring true. I didn’t think it was just a nice idea anymore; it was actually happening. In all of its beauty, peace and ugliness and shit.
Finally, I didn’t feel the need to leave church because I had found people who loved me and who I loved. Despite all our faults. I don’t care too much now what a church’s music style is like or what programs they have running. I don’t care because I have learned to love the innate beauty of church as people.
Today, church has become so much more than just a community of people who need loved. They have become businesses and brands. They are non profits and they are organizations. If you don’t sign up then you need to ship out. We have goals and targets to reach all of which we become more invested in protecting than loving those inside and out.
Is that what the early Church believers saw as Church?
There is of course a need at some point for some structure. This is not about being against those ideas but for learning that they are simply the means for which people can grow and live in community together. I don’t want to connect to a brand as much as I want to connect with people.
I love worshipping through singing with other Christians. I love sharing communion. I love liturgy. I love all the things that churches do that remind us of Grace and Peace with God and each other.
But when they become more important than how I treat the people I share those things with then I have missed something crucial. Because more often than not I see God’s love through other people. Through family. It doesn’t have to be perfect and nor can it be. But it’s real and it’s wonderful.
Let’s preach that every Sunday and see what happens.