Wednesday, March 14, 2007

To Go Or Not To Go....That is the question.

There's quite a conversation taking place over at
Glenn's blog. Glenn's post is dealing with a book titled, "They like Jesus but not the Church".

In the comment section, I stated I don't like the name of that book. I still don't. I might feel better if it was, "They LOVE Jesus but not the Church." Oh Shannon, you're getting tripped up over a book title. Perhaps.

What I really want to bring out is a comment that was made that really got my mind going.

Jason said, "When people ask where I go on Sunday, I say oh about 10 feet to my couch where I take what is rightfully given to me by God, that is my Sabbath. A day of rest and rejuvenation with my family. I love it, and hope it never changes."

I have to admit, my first thought was, "What a lazy christian!" But, forget about that. Is there really a need to "attend" church? A church as in a gathering of people for the purpose of corporately worshiping God and edifying one another? Is this something that's been done away with and the Bible no longer holds any instruction in regards to this? Is it OK to not participate in a regular gatherings of God's people?

Scriptures like Hbr 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is]; but exhorting [one another]: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Has this scripture been mis-understood and mis-represented all these years? Has the meaning of this scripture somehow lost it's value in our post modern society? Would Jesus attend gatherings if he were living in 2007?

I'll be honest. I don't believe a person HAS to be in "church" every time the doors are open but I do believe a Jesus-Follower should be actively engaged in corporate worship often. You've heard the saying, "No man is an island to himself." That is the feeling I get when I hear someone say they don't need church or they can get as much from God sitting at home.

A key to spiritual growth is communion with other believers as we worship our God together. I wonder just how much a person grows when they aren't helping others get closer to God. When they aren't serving others, I wonder who they are serving?

Someone has said that being a Christian without being faithful to church is like:

- A student who will not go to school
- A soldier who will not join the army
- A citizen who will not vote
- A salesman without customers
- A seaman without a ship
- An author without readers
- A parent without a family
- A football player without a team
- A bee without a hive

You see, it may be possible to be a Christian without going to church but can you be a good, growing and godly Christian without participation? I don't see how. We need one another.

R. A. Torrey said it well,

"There is nothing more important in the Christian life than beginning right. If we begin right, we can go on right. And, one way we begin right is by being faithful to the house of God."

The day of Pentecost wouldn't have been the same if 119 of the people didn't participate in prayer in the upper room.

So, what do you think?

Is Church overrated and there is no Biblical mandate for such interaction with other believers?

23 comments:

Rodney Olsen said...

We live in a time where more Christians are living outside the church than ever before.

I talked to author and teacher Mike Frost about that very thing in a recent radio interview.

He says that many people are leaving the church for various reasons but he still believes that we are meant to be in community with other believers.

The interview is well worth a listen.

http://www.rodneyolsen.net/2007/03/exiles-living-missionally-in-post.html

Shannon said...

Hey Rodney,

Thanks for the link. I'll be sure to listen.

I think perhaps that is the key...community. I believe we must maintain a community of believers...a fellowship of believers. If not, we're on our own. The "Me and Jesus got our own thing going" isn't Biblical.

I think in reality...What Jason said about not going to "church" isn't surprising. I don't know his unique situation for not going to a church to worship with other people . For me, I guess because I have such a wonderful community (church)with which I worship that it's hard to see that some just don't have that. I guess I'm very very fortunate.

Colin A. Lamm said...

You are hitting spot-on some of the concerns that have been on my mind / heart lately. I too took exception to the title of this book (as well, earlier on, with the 'God, for those who hate Church' conference that is being planned out east in May).

The fact is that we need each other. Perhaps, as many have articulated, the current 'form' of Church isn't to their liking. The fact, however, remains that we are called, not simply into a 'personal relationship with Jesus (i.e. God and me), but we are called into community, as an integral member, with the other members of the body of Christ.

Jason said...

Ahhh, but to those who "follow the ten commandments" arent you "sinning" for not taking a sabbath? If anyone is interested I have a great sermon on audio backing up the idea of sabbath...if you would read my post further, I dont say corporate worship isnt important. I have corporate worship in many ways though. At camps, at pubs, at benefit shows, at coffee shops at 6AM, at basketball games, at seminars, and on and on. My point is simply, its not about Sunday. And as much as the "church" has been saying this lately, how many actually believe it?

How many preach actually taking a day of rest? To me its not that it isnt important, to me its the how and when.

Amazing so many are upset over the "title" of a book and not upset at what he states in the book. That is what we as Christians should be irate about.

When "we" stops being about denomination, church, a certain day, a certain service, a particular program, that is when community starts to happen to me.

Shannon said...

What would be your definition of the Sabbath? I would love to hear your sermon on this subject!

Jason said...

Not my sermon, but please do listen, it is really good stuff.

Rob Bell - Sabbath

www.emergingconversation.com/Sabbath.mp3

Shannon said...

I've heard Rob Bell's sermon on Sabbath....but being a huge fan of Rob, I'll listen to it again ;) Thanks

Jason said...

This is a newer take on it than when he taught on it a couple years back when he went through the 10 commandments.

Shannon said...

Yeah,

I hadn't heard this one. Just finished listening to it. Overall, I agree with Rob on the issues of the Sabbath.

I think if you'll read my post again you'll see I'm not suggesting that the "Sabbath" is mandated in Scripture as Sunday but the overarching idea of my post is why it seems so many today do not see/recognize the importance of mutually getting together in a "location" wherever that may be to worship together. In my post, I call it "church" some call it a gathering, community and so on. It's a matter of semantics I guess.

I'm just very thankful and it would appear very fortunate to have a "place" where I and others get together and worship/encourage/support/pray for/believe with/cry with, etc...every week. Sabbath or not. It is a time of refreshing and rejuvenation that takes place in my soul that I so very much need. I don't think I could feel as nourished if I were eating alone and no one to sip wine with. Both figures of speech ;)

Something Rob says in his sermon really stuck out to me. He said, (I'm paraphrasing) "The purpose of the Sabbath is to feed our souls. What is it that feeds your soul? Is it a the farmer's market, gardening, music, sports, building something?"

My hesitation here is because I don't think such temporal activities can truly nourish the only part of us that is truly eternal, our souls. I would argue that only God/eternal things can truly feed/nourish our souls. Not a baseball game. While I enjoy sports, God is not the foremost thought in my mind while watching my 7 year old field a ball that was hit down the 3rd baseline. To "really" feed/nourish our souls, we need time with God...this is why Jesus went alone early in the morning on many occasions in the gospels...he needed to be fed/nourished and refreshed. No temporal activity/fun/enjoyment can nourish the only part of us that is eternal. I think Rob has missed it on that point. It's almost cheapening what it means to spend time with God in seeking the nourishment we all want and need to casual activities that bring temporal enjoyment. I don't find where that idea fits into the narrative of scripture. Don't get me wrong...I love to have fun and relax, etc...But I could never convince myself that those things feed me spiritually.

Mondays are the days I do nothing or at least "work hard" at doing nothing. ;) Sunday is my busiest day as with many pastors so I fully agree that we all need a day of reflection...a Sabbath where God can put us back together again and rejuvenate our souls.

AS said...

My understanding is that Saturday id our "Sabbath": a day of rest and family time. Sunday id a day of celebration and growth. The two exist alongside each other and complement each other.

Shannon said...

as,

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Family time and Celebration/growth are vitally important. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

As a church cynic, I would probably be wise to keep out of this, but...
My experience with church is that they are too sterile and "safe" when compared to the life/world I live and move. Life asks unbelievable and difficult questions and churches want me to look, act and think like them...I can't, and it is too much effort to jump through their hoops. It is not worth it, IMO. Where is the Sabboth in that? I walk out thinking I am too needy, sinful and desperate to get anywhere going to church. Maybe when I get my act together (whatever that is), church may be meaningful. Until then I choose to keep loose ties with some other Christians I know and thank God when meaningful moments take place within these friendships. If any of this is offensive, it has not been my intention.

Shalom!

miche

paul said...

thanks Shannon. This is such a tangled subject it is hard to define a right/wrong - no doubt in part is down to people's expectations of church, their consuming of church but also in many cases the relevance of church, the purpose of church and what that has communicated.

Personally i try and involve myself in church to help me with my rhythm of connecting my life with God, with having a point in time when my life is opened up to God and others, to serve and to care someone other than myself.

Maybe its just the possibility that opens me up too. Then again i have known times in transition, times between church, times of detox and new connection - so sometimes that couch is the right place to be but ultimately for me i'd say not to stay...

Shannon said...

Miche,

Not offensive at all. I appreciate your visit and your honest response. I'm sorry church for you has been what it has and pray that someday more churches will realize where it is we are failing and make the hard decisions to change and begin being the agent for change in this world that God has meant for us.

Shannon said...

Paul,

Hi! Your final thought says alot on this for me.

"so sometimes that couch is the right place to be but ultimately for me i'd say not to stay..."

Man there have been times in my life where I needed the couch and took it.

But I'm with you...I can't stay...

Thanks for chiming in :)

Mike Messerli said...

This is a tough subject, isn't it? It seems that in our "me" culture the important thing to us is what we want, not what others need. I don't go to church for me...I go because the bible tells me others need me...it's not all about me, it's about us.
As a pastor I think we have let the me culture drive the topic. Being in community with other Christians is my opportunity to care for others and use my gifts in the body. If I'm not there my gift is missing from the body life of the church.
Do all Christians need to be in church? My answer would be yes, but not for me, it's for us.
I am a lead pastor of a large church where our senior pastor was recently caught in sin, and we have lost hundreds of people to this sin. It has been heartbreaking to watch. They left because church was something for them...we didn't teach them correctly...so when the tickle factor, the great teacher was gone, so were they...they came for themselves, not for others, and so now they have left (and are hurt) and our church is less than it should be (and is hurt).
What say I? Be in a community of believers because THEY need YOU, not because YOU need IT.

Shannon said...

Mike,

Thanks for that! It's a tough subject for sure. Your honesty regarding what your church has been through is appreciated. I pray God will restore the people that have been negatively affected by those events.

I find your thoughts on this encouraging. I agree with you that our involvement in a local church is vital to the spiritual health of others as well as ourselves. We do all need one another and church gives evidence that God understood that long before we did. :)

Thanks for stopping by!

btw, I like your blog...now that I know it's out there, I'll be dropping in. :)

Jason said...

But Sundays often turn into non family time and pressures to get to this program, this service, head to youth group, etc, etc. I am not saying a Sabbath has to be on a Sunday but me and my family it seems to be the best day to relax, reflect, and enjoy time with one another.

As I noted, just because I do not "belong" to a particular established thing called a church, I am part of a much bigger thing called community of Christians, where I interact daily with Christians, with sermons, with blogs, with a ministry called 38 Acres, and other ministries as well.

My soul is fed weekly from Podcasts and conversations I have with people. My whole point is yes the church on sunday may be beneficial to some, but if we really want to think outside the bubble, how do we get away from the "they like Jesus and not the church" ideas that are very prevalent today.

I heard once that if a church simply allowed a "smoking" section their numbers would increase 2X. Hmmm it's funny how something like smoking or drinking will turn into this huge debate whether its sin or not, but when the supposed goal of most churches is to reach out to others, the very thing they try to reach out to they condemn.

As I said, I am not against any one church or service, just for me, to re-think church and a life of Christ is to completely re-think it and re-do it. Am I completely right? Probably not, but I do know something is not right either with the way we "do" church in America either.

Thanks for the comments.

Shannon said...

Jason,

Thanks for that comment. I better understand where you are coming from now. Hmmm...I wonder if we need to put a "smoking section" in our church? ;) Something that crazy just might work!

RCM- Steve said...

Shannon, thanks for the topic; I totally believe in the importance of fellowship, and the mandate to not forsake the gathering of ourselves together. There's so much goodness in assembling ourselves for fellowship. But I do also believe that it is not necessary for a church to have its main services on Sunday, though this has been the tradition for centuries.

Today John Smulo had the second gathering of his new church from 4-6pm here at our facility. I love the unconventional time, especially as he is exploring missional/emerging possibilities with the new fellowship. I get the sense that people are very excited to be there, but they don't seem so rushed, stressed, preened or suited up. Just looking forward to some good community time together.

For me, right now, my church is on Thursday nights. This is a radical change from my practice & experience as a Jesus follower of the last 35 years. But I'm loving it. It has left open my weekends to many new (& old!) possibilities for outreach and looking for ways to carry the message. Is it possible this new freshness and excitement is from the Lord partly because our culture and society has changed in so many ways that the Lord is pouring out some new creativity in bringing the Gospel? I'd like to believe so.

If we are going to find ways to reach out relevantly to our current society and neighborhood, it seems that it may be important to be open to doing church differently, to some degree, than we have done it in the past. Fellowship, small or large, Sundays or Thursdays, in a coffee shop, park, or a church sanctuary, or even over the internet is vital. But I'm excited and curious to see all the new ways He is implementing ti His family to reach out effectively and successfully to the rest of the family that is still in darkness.

Blessings, Steve R.

Shannon said...

Steve,

Thanks for stopping by!

I agree that "church" doesn't have to happen on Sundays....as Sundays is not the mandated "Sabbath" in Scripture. I have come to believe that church can and should be happening everywhere all the time. I also love the creativity that I'm seeing in much of the church today. Many are clarifying the differences between foundational things and traditional things. We could do without a great deal of the traditional things we have seen over the last several decades but those foundational things, like fellowship and community and service should always be alive in our hearts!

Great comment!

Greg said...

Shannon-

Better late than never. Visiting from Rick's BB. Seems like churches need to be more about people than buildings. That is, real communities. Meeting together is not optional, but how we do that should be intentional and focused on following the crucified and risen One in the power of the Spirit, so that we might both contribute to and receive from others in a loving and safe environment.
Greg

Shannon said...

Greg,

Excellent thoughts and greatly appreciated! Thanks for stopping in! :)